Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Review

After the critical and box office success of 2014’s ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’, it was a no-brainer that Disney/Marvel would continue the story of Star-Lord, Gamora, Drax, Rocket and Groot. The first film was filled with great sci-fi action, hilarious banter and stunning visuals. The film helped bring this obscure team to the forefront of super hero films and had everyone falling in love with Baby Groot at the end of the post-credit scene.

Flash forward to ‘Volume 2’, a film touting the return of the main hero team along with characters like Yondu, Nebula, newcomer Mantis and the inclusion of Kurt Russell’s Ego. Beginning with all previously released marketing material like trailers, TV spots, and merchandise; this new film looked to capitalize on the light-hearted tone of the first movie by upping the laughs and cuteness of Baby Groot. With all of the build-up out of the way, let’s get into this review.

The crux of the plot revolves around the family concept, and boy, is it really hammered home. The audience is finally introduced to Peter’s father, Ego, who is revealed as a Celestial whom is millions of years old. Ego has been searching for Peter and finally finds him, as the Guardians crash onto his planet after Rocket rips off the Soverign. Things seem too good to be true as Peter an Ego are bonding, only to have Ego’s true intentions revealed in the second half of the film.

Along with the main plot, each of the other characters are highlighted in a familial sense. Gamora and Nebula’s relationship sees a lot of development, Rocket and Yondu become fast friends, Drax has some chemistry with Mantis, and Baby Groot does Baby Groot things. Without getting too much into plot points, I’m going to talk about my likes and dislikes.

Likes

This film is visually stunning. I feel like last year’s ‘Doctor Strange’ really raised the bar in terms of effects and ‘Guardians’ maintained the quality. The cosmic side of the MCU is further fleshed out with new planets, creatures, and races like the Celestials, the Watchers, the Sovereign, and the introduction of Ego the Living Planet. I was very curious going into this movie as to how they would portray Ego, as the character is literally a planet in the comics. I liked how they kept the character true to the comic version (though Ego is not Peter’s father in the comics) while integrating a human form to relate to Peter’s humanity.

The action scenes that we did get were pretty cool, chiefly the scene where Yondu lays waste to the Ravager mutiny. Yondu and Rocket were my favorite pairing, as the two are very similar in personality. I did find myself laughing a lot throughout the film, but I’ll talk more about the humor when I get to my dislikes. I enjoyed the reveal of Ego giving Peter’s mother the brain tumor that killed her, as it was a pivotal plot point in the story and helped to integrate events from the first film.

There were also some really cool easter eggs that I picked up on: the incorporation of the quantum realm (also from ‘Ant-Man & ‘Doctor Strange’), the hint of different dimensions, the Stan Lee/Watchers reveal, seeing Howard The Duck again, dialogue about Thanos and the possible future interactions between he and the Guardians, the glimpse at the original comic version of the Guardians team, and the Adam Warlock reveal. James Gunn does such a wonderful job at peppering in these easter eggs for fans of the source material that the common fan may not pick up on.

Dislikes

In recent weeks, my group of friend and I have heavily debated the overuse of humor in both the MCU and comic book movies in general. I had been on the side of accepting the humorous tone Kevin Feige and the film directors have embedded in these films, as they add levity and fun for fans of all ages. After all, the goal is to make as much money as possible, so there has to be elements for fans of all ages to enjoy to maximize profit. However, after this film, I think I have changed my stance on the subject.

This film relied on humor way too much to the point that it took away from the storyline, which was pretty weak. There were very few scenes that didn’t have forced jokes and one-liners thrown in for the sake of appeasing younger fans and it became a detriment to the overall film. For example: Drax the Destroyer didn’t destroy anything. His character was a glorified comic relief part that became stale halfway through the movie. Knowing that his quest for vengeance and revenge at the murder of his family at the hands of Thanos and seeing his physique as a large, hulking man only to be relegated to dumb comedy really hinders the essence of his character. Having Groot in this film was pretty much a waste, as he really served no purpose whatsoever. His tiny form is purely for the sake of selling toys and merchandise and he could have not appeared in the movie at all and it wouldn’t have really mattered. The overall lack of action from the main team was disappointing, as we barely see Star-Lord in action.

The humor in these films is becoming a concerning issue for me, as I don’t want to see intense scenes and plot points ruined by ill-timed jokes, especially as we’re only a year away from ‘Infinity War’. It’s hard to take these characters seriously and leads me to believe they won’t stand a chance against a threat like Thanos. With stakes being raised and the destruction of the universe a real possibility, are we going to see Star-Lord try to dance battle the Mad Titan? Enough is enough.

Closing Thoughts

I didn’t hate this film, but I didn’t love it either. There were a lot of really cool, fun things in this movie that kept me enveloped, but the other issues stated above lowered my overall impression. It’s hard for a sequel to live up to the original film when it’s so well-received, and this certainly is the case here. The cosmic side of the MCU has such incredible potential and can literally take us fans anywhere in the universe. I hope the creative team at Marvel can right the ship and give us high-quality films with more even tones. RIP Yondu.

My rating: 6.5/10

Alien: Covenant Review

2012’s ‘Prometheus’ ushered in a new era of the ‘Alien’ franchise, as the “prequel” saw original director Ridley Scott return to helm the project. Fans weren’t quite sure what to make of the film, as the clarity on it being a true prequel to ‘Alien’ was a bit cloudy. The ending of that film certainly confirmed that it was, as we saw the birth of a new xenomorph. The sequel to ‘Prometheus’ went through many changes, as it was slated to be titled ‘Paradise’ only to finally be officially titled ‘Alien: Covenant’, officially integrating it onto the ‘Alien’ filmography.

Before getting into this review, I want to take a minute to say that I was a giant fan of the first few ‘Alien’ films and ‘Prometheus’. I know a large portion of moviegoers disliked ‘Prometheus’, but I thought it was quite masterful, especially watching the director’s cut of the film. I appreciated the overall theme of the search for humanity’s origins and the integration of religious themes embedded into the film. ‘Alien: Covenant’ has been on my most anticipated films list since it was announced. With all of the buildup out of the way, let’s get into ‘Alien: Covenant’.

Set 10 years after the events of ‘Prometheus’, ‘Alien: Covenant’ follows the story of the Covenant crew on their search for a hospitable planet for colonization. During their space flight, the ship encounters a massive solar flare that kills members of the crew and colonists that are in cryo-sleep, including the ship’s captain, played by James Franco. Second in command , Oram (Billy Crudup) becomes the new captain and the crew receives a distorted transmission that sounds human-like. Covenant pilot, Tennessee (Danny McBride) deciphers the message as it is a woman singing John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads”. The location of the transmission is found on a planet not too far from the Covenant’s location, and the crew vote on investigating, as their original target is still very far.

As the ship lands on the new planet, the crew hits the ground and begins exploring. Members of the crew inhale a substance that causes them to die horrifically, eventually spawning new versions of xenomorphs. The newborn creature kills a few people before they are saved by a shrouded figure, revealed to be the android David from ‘Prometheus’. David takes them to the Engineer city that he has been living in for the past 10 years. The crew also have their own android, Walter, whom is a copy of David with updated software and parameters.

David goes on to tell them how Elizabeth Shaw perished upon landing on the planet and tries to gain the trust of the crew. David has been experimenting on the xenomorph genealogy, and ultimately tries to kill everyone. If you remember ‘Prometheus’, David has a god complex. The xenomorph enters the Engineer city and begins killing more crew members, as David’s plan is discovered by Daniels (Katherine Waterston). Upon arriving to the planet originally, David had released the Engineer-created pathogen into the atmosphere above toe city, killing the planet’s inhabitants. Dr. Shaw is revealed to also have been killed by David, as he experimented on her.

I’m going to save the ending and not reveal what happens, but will instead give my likes and dislikes on the film.

Likes

As I was a fan of ‘Prometheus’, I also loved this movie. It perfectly blurred the line between being a sequel to that film and a true ‘Alien’ film, moreso that ‘Prometheus’ did. The callbacks to ‘Prometheus’ were everywhere. We got to see the Engineers on their homeworld, the Prometheus ship, the pathogen containers and canisters, and even heard the musical theme from the movie. We also got to see a true xenomorph, though slightly different, and got to see the classic eggs, face hugger, and the evil android situation.

The tone of the movie was consistent throughout, keeping the audience on edge while exploring this new world, while maintaining the foreboding feeling of impending horror. The xenomorph kills and mutilations are gory and terrifying, feeling reminiscent of the original films. I loved learning about what David had been up to all this time and understanding his character more. We got to see a flashback scene of he and a young Weyland (Guy Pearce) that further connects the film to ‘Prometheus’ and helps the audience to understand his motivations. David, knowing he’s a creation of Weyland, strives to be something more. We see his experimentations and manipulations in ‘Prometheus’ and it continues here, as his goal is to be God. One final note: I’m so happy with Danny McBride’s performance as Tennessee. If you’ve seen his previous work, he’s primarily a funny-man in his TV and film roles. I’ve been on record as saying that I believe that there’s another side to him that we haven’t seen yet and that certainly shines through here. He’s not very comical in this film at all and we get to see him as more of a dramatic actor and I believe he did a wonderful job.

Dislikes

One of the issues I had was the lack of character development. I didn’t feel very connected to most of these character aside from Tennessee, David, Walter and Daniels (to a lesser extent). All of the promotional material touted Daniels as the next Ripley and while her role grew larger by the end of the film, she wasn’t the major heroine that I expected.

As ‘Prometheus’ ended and Shaw and David were traveling to the Engineer home world, I was very much looking forward to seeing it and their society. I wanted to know why they seeded Earth and decided to destroy humanity with the pathogen they created. Unfortunately, David has already killed all of the Engineers and we aren’t given any of these answers. I think the amalgamation of the ‘Alien’ movies and the ‘Prometheus’ sequel had something to do with this, as it tried to incorporate elements from both franchises but fell just short of being perfect.

Final Thoughts

My positives outweigh my negatives and I really did enjoy this film very much. This is a movie, like ‘Prometheus’, that will take repeated viewings for me to really delve into the small details and easter eggs that pop up throughout the movie. It’s primed for a sequel, as Ridley Scott has announced plans for a new trilogy, and I’m very much looking forward to seeing where humanity travels throughout the cosmos and the horrors they will assuredly face.

My rating: 8/10