Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2: Jokes galore, the feels, and Baby Groot in a Marvel film that won’t age well

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 trailer

Star-Lord and the gang are back for another adventure in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. This installment even gives Michael Rooker as Yondu a chance to shine, but the question remains: Is it any good?

Answer: It’s complicated.

One of the pleasant surprises of 2014 was seeing how Marvel Studios director James Gunn took a little known property (outside comic fandom) and turned it into a worldwide success with the right mix of irreverent humor, legitimate “feels,” and action. One of the slightly unpleasant surprises in 2017 is the way Mr. Gunn seemingly decided to just take everything that worked in the original and dial it up about five notches at the expense of the story.

Before we move on, here is the plot in a nutshell:

  • Star-Lord’s (Chris Pratt) father, Ego (Kurt Russell), saves the Guardians as they flee a race known as the Sovereign.
  • Star-Lord, Gamora (Zoe Saldana), and Drax (Dave Bautista) must figure out who Ego is and what he represents.
  • Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) and Baby Groot are left behind with their ship and captive Nebula (Karen Gillan). They struggle to survive after being captured by Yondu and the “Ravagers.”

The good thing about Vol. 2 is that it explores all sorts of family dynamics and does so with a ton of heart. The bad thing about Vol. 2 is that every serious moment seems to be punctuated with a joke — and not all of them are that funny. Many of the jokes hinge on the audience caring about 80s pop-culture, and at some point it all threatens to derail the film.

Or maybe not. Maybe I’m out of touch. The audience I saw Vol. 2 with seemed to eat up every moment and laugh at every joke, even the Pacman moment better left in Adam Sander’s 2015 Pixels script.

There’s much more to say, but I would rather not include spoilers in the body of this review (feel free to spoil away in the comments section). The most succinct way of putting it is this: I enjoyed much of Vol. 2, but it isn’t a Marvel Studios film I plan to watch again and doubt that it will age well.

Agree? Disagree? Let me know in the comments section below. Have at it, hard-core Guardians fans…

Check out my review over at Conservative Book Club.

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James Gunn stands on moral pedestal, lectures world on Zendaya-MJ story; fans praise giant red herrings

Guardians of Galaxy director James Gunn needs to be called out for his astonishing level of chutzpah. A man who has dedicated his life to make believe — the man who has spent countless days and weeks and months of his life focused on comic book characters — decided it would be a good idea to belittle fans who dared to disagree with him on Spider-Man: Homecoming casting.

“If you’re complaining about the ethnicity of Mary Jane your life is too good,” wrote Mr. Gunn on Thursday, shortly after reports that Zendaya landed the role.

Translation: Just shut up and accept what we do or you will be mocked, ridiculed, and labeled a racist. 

James Gunn MJ tweet

Mr. Gunn could not just be content to have 2,100 share his smug tweet (with another 3,500 “liking” it). No, instead he had to climb atop a giant moral pedestal and lecture the world via Facebook on a controversy he helped create by stirring the pot.

His fans, of course, took the red herrings he dished out and lavished him with praise. Since they are so blinded by partisan politics or celebrity worship to identify a logical fallacy when it slaps them in the face(book), yours truly will dissect elements of his self-righteous rant.

“I do not believe a character is the color of his or her skin. When Michael B Jordan was cast as Johnny Storm I didn’t understand the uproar. The primary characteristic of Johnny was not, to me, that he was white, or that he had blonde hair, but that he was a fiery, funny, big-mouthed braggart of a hero. I was happy that he was going to be played by one of the finest and most charming young actors out there.”

Here we have Mr. Gunn, just like Marvel writer Dan Slott, responding to an argument that does not exist. Who is arguing that a character “is” the color of his or her skin? No one.

People who loves Peanuts went to the movie theater recently to see Charlie Brown and his beagle — not Charlie Brown and his miniature dachshund.

Moviegoers who love James Rhodes went to see Captain America: Civil War, and rightfully expected to see a black man — in this case, Don Cheadle — on the big screen as War Machine.

No one is arguing that race is the primary element that defines a person, but it is not wrong for comic book fans to expect a faithful transition of their favorite characters from platform to platform.

To lavish Mr. Gunn for addressing an argument that no one is making is absurd.

“Yesterday, a rumor broke out that the character of Mary Jane was being played by a young black woman, Zendaya, and all hell broke out on the Internet (again).”

That is because guys like you and Dan Slott look at what the dregs of the internet are saying and then insinuate that anyone who disagrees with you a.) has “too good of a life,” or b.) is a racist moron.

James Gunn kicks a hornet’s nest and then wonders why he gets stung.

For the thoughtful majority of you out there:

For me, if a character’s primary attribute – the thing that makes them iconic – is the color of their skin, or their hair color, frankly, that character is shallow and sucks. For me, what makes MJ MJ is her alpha female playfulness, and if the actress captures that, then she’ll work. And, for the record, I think Zendaya even matches what I think of as MJ’s primary physical characteristics – she’s a tall, thin model – much more so than actresses have in the past.

Again, note what Mr. Gunn does here: He responds to an absurd idea that no one is making, as if that’s what the real debate boils down to, and then says you are “thoughtful” if you agree with his rant. Ironically, fans who are not very thoughtful fail to see what he is doing while still getting excited that they agree with him.

Yes, James, it is correct that a character who is solely defined by skin color is lame. That would be a stellar point to make if the issue at hand centered around that claim. But hey, at least you get to relax in the verbal sponge baths that your Facebook and Twitter fans give you. I guess that counts for something…

“Whatever the case, if we’re going to continue to make movies based on the almost all white heroes and supporting characters from the comics of the last century, we’re going to have to get used to them being more reflective of our diverse present world. Perhaps we can be open to the idea that, although someone may not initially match how we personally conceive a character, we can be – and often are – happily surprised.”

Bravo, James! Well said. Do you know what would also make guys like me “happily surprised”?

Answer: If you and your friends did not say that fans’ “lives are too good” or that they are racist when they disagree with you.

Related:

Zendaya as Mary Jane? Ask about red hair for the next year and you’ll be called a ‘racist’

Dan Slott plays ‘Captain White Privilege’ after Zendaya-MJ casting reported

Chris Pratt 100% right on success: ‘Apply constant pressure for as long as it takes’

 

Chris Pratt Instagram

It’s not often that a Hollywood actor talks about the recipe for professional success — and nails it. Guardians of the Galaxy star Chris Pratt took to Instagram on Jan. 27 and did just that.

prattprattpratt It’s 3:20am. I got picked up for work at 6:45am yesterday. I’m not good with math, especially after being up for approximately 61 hours but I think I’ve been up for over 77 hours. I did a table read for Guardians of the Galaxy 2 this morning and then shot all day on Passengers and just now wrapped some 144 hours later. Weirdly both films, which iI’l be shooting back to back, are being shot in Atlanta at Pinewood studios. We have the best crew. Total rock stars busting their asses. And the stuff we’re shooting. My God. I can’t wait for you to see it. I go back in in about 8 hours to do more.

I am doing what I love. It doesn’t feel like work. Even though it is. I’m having fun. I’m overcome with joy and gratitude. I felt like posting this to say to anyone out there chasing your dream… Fifteen years ago I felt the same passion I feel today, but I had very little opportunity. I had to hustle hard and go hungry. I had to eat sardines and figure out how to get gas money. And I never had a plan B. I never stopped believing. Ever. Don’t give up. Apply constant pressure for as long as it takes. It will break before you do. Go get it.

Mr. Pratt is 100% right. To prove it, I will share just one example from my own life that testifies to the authenticity of his claim.

Roughly 15 years ago I not long removed from the U.S. Army and on my way to USC. I used to read The Drudge Report and think how cool it would be to one day write something that garnered one of his top headlines.

This past Tuesday I wrote a piece for work and once again experienced that unique feeling that only happens when a dream others call crazy becomes a reality.
Hillary Drudge Doug

In the 15 years between dreaming about landing a bullseye Drudge hit and actually doing so, there were three roach-filled apartments, stretches were I was literally licking Chipotle burrito bowls clean because I was so low on cash I didn’t want to waste a calorie, and a temporary “mattress” made of my own clothes on a hardwood floor in Washington, D.C.

One section of Mr. Pratt’s message in particular hit home with me: “Apply constant pressure for as long as it takes. It will break before you do.”

That comment echoes something I have told my wife for years. I have always said that with enough time and pressure, we all have the ability to bend reality to our will. 

There are many factors that affect how quickly one manifests a particular dream (which I would be happy to discuss in the comments section), but the following is a blueprint that has worked extremely well for me over the years.

  • Faith in God — and prayer.
  • A clear vision for what you seek to attain.
  • Belief in the core of your being that you will achieve your goals.
  • A commitment to honesty, integrity, hard work, and humility.

One simply cannot go wrong if he or she follows those bullet points. It is a breath of fresh air to see a well-known actor who gets it, and for that Mr. Pratt has earned a large amount of good will with this writer.

I look forward to seeing both Guardians of the Galaxy 2 and Passengers in theaters.

Marvel announces ‘I am Groot’ for Phase 3; DC scrambles for response

Groot with girl Guardians of the Galaxy

Before the weekend was out on the Guardians of the Galaxy’s successful box office debut, Marvel Studios released some news the size of an oak tree. Or, perhaps a Groot. The reasoning is also likely to enrage DC fans. Marvel’s Phase 3 will include ‘I am Groot,’ to be released in the summer of 2017, which all but guarantees that the plant from Planet X gets his day in the sun before “Justice League.”

“We are Groot!” Marvel Studios President of Production Kevin Feige said at a press conference late Saturday. “It’s a go. It’s happening. I know a lot of people are wondering how we’re going to pull this off, but I assure you that ‘I am Groot’ has an amazing creative team behind it. The screenplay is great and we’re close to sealing the deal with a director who I’m sure will knock it out of the ballpark.”

The Hollywood Reporter reached out to ‘Man of Steel’ producer Wesley Coller for a response and was told that a reply would be forthcoming. Entertainment Weekly likewise said that calls to DC’s front office were not returned.

DC’s silence, in many ways, speaks louder than words. ‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice’ is scheduled to be released May 6, 2016, which would put Marvel Studios in a position to have ‘I am Groot’ in theaters before fans ever get a chance to see an official Justice League movie. While all comic fans can rejoice at the sheer volume of superhero films being made, it’s sure to inflame the rivalry between the two industry giants.

In a recent article with the Belfast Telegraph, actor Vin Diesel said that playing Groot was a challenge for him as an actor, due to the character’s limited vocabulary. When asked about the ‘I am Groot’ movie by the Los Angeles Times, he said “I love the character. He’s challenging, but it’s worth every second. The world fell in love with Groot this weekend because he’s innocent and pure and good. I consider it an honor to be able to bring this character to life in his very own movie.”

Besides DC fans, diversity activists voiced “serious concern” with Marvel’s decision.

“I…I can not get behind this,” said Eileen Einhorn, a Gender Studies major at U.C. Berkeley. “It’s troublesome that although Vin Diesel is not white that his true nature must be hidden behind tree bark. I’m worried that Groot’s limited vocabulary sends a coded racial message about the mental acuity of minorities and, worst of all…Groot is a man. Until Black Widow gets her own movie I urge anyone who loves diversity to boycott ‘I am Groot.'”

When asked during his press conference if Rocket Raccoon would be getting his own movie, Feige just smiled and said, “Phase 4 may have some surprises to your liking. That’s all I’ll say right now. Sometimes I feel as if all of this isn’t real. Like it’s satire. The fans have been good to us. As long as they keep seeing Marvel movies, we’ll keep making them.”

Related: Guardians of the Galaxy: Marvel gets its heroic misfits right on the first try

Guardians of the Galaxy: Marvel gets its heroic misfits right on the first try

Guardians of the Galaxy

There is no denying it: Marvel Studios has churned out a hit “Guardians of the Galaxy” movie before DC could treat the world to a big screen “Justice League” adventure. Director James Gunn was asked to deliver a box office smash with a relatively unknown product (to those who don’t read comic books), and he gave the studio a $94 million opening weekend. Not too shabby. The question still remains: Is it any good? Short answer: Yes. The longer answer is that Marvel played with fire in terms of language and content that could scare off those looking for “family friendly” fare. More on that later.

For those unfamiliar with the Guardians of the Galaxy, the team consists of Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax (Dave Bautista), Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) and Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel). While the whole lot of them are technically misfits and scoundrels, the audience knows that deep down each character has a heart of gold. They’re all heroes who don’t quite know it at first because their horrific and tragic pasts shielded them from acting upon virtues like honor, integrity and self-control. Their initial thievery and selfishness brings them together, but it is their slow-burn heroism that keeps them together. Their task: The Guardians of the Galaxy must save an entire planet from an alien known as Ronan.

Guardians of the Galaxy Gamora Peter

In order to avoid spoiling certain parts of the movie, I’ll try and explain everything that I liked and disliked about the movie by discussing the scene where the team officially forms:

Peter Quill: I need your help. I look around at us…you know what I see? Losers. I mean, like, folks who have lost stuff. And we have. Man, we have — all of us. Our homes. Our families. Normal lives. And usually life takes more than it gives, but not today. Today it’s given us something. It has given us a chance.

Drax: To do what?

Peter Quill: To give a shit. For once. And not run away. I for one am not going to stand by and watch as Ronan wipes out billions of innocent lives.

Rocket Racoon: But Quill, stopping Ronan — it’s impossible. You’re asking us to die.

Peter Quill: Yes. I guess I am.

Gamora: Quill. I lived most of my life surrounded by my enemies. I will be grateful to die among my friends.

Drax: You are an honorable man, Quill. I will fight beside you. And in the end I will see my wife and daughter again.

Groot: I am Groot.

Rocket Racoon: Oh what the hell, I don’t got that long of a life span anyway. Now I’m standing. Y’all happy? We’re all standing up now…a bunch of jackasses.

Guardians of the Galaxy is funny. It has heart. It’s irreverent. It sends a message that redemption is possible and that there are things that transcend the self that are worth fighting and dying for. Overall it succeeds in all of those aspects, but one of the virtues that is lacking appears to be prudence. Writer and Director James Gunn did a commendable job, but there were times where harsh language was used that was completely unnecessary for a film marketed on many levels to kids. Was it really necessary for Peter Quill to say “You said it yourself, bitch — we’re the Guardians of the Galaxy,” at a key moment in the film? Probably not. As a 35-year-old man with no children, I can shrug it off. If I did have a little one running around, I’m inclined to believe I’d have a very different opinion.

Guardians of the Galaxy Groot

And finally, there is the climatic show-down with Ronan. Once again, Mr. Gunn’s judgment seems off. In fact, there will probably be as many moviegoers who are as embarrassed over how it was handled as there were Iron Man 3 fans upset over how The Mandarin turned out. All I will say is “‘O-O-H Child’ by The Five Stairsteps,” and that there is a time for jokes and a time to be serious. My personal opinion — again, while I enjoyed the film — is that a very large ball was dropped during the creative process on that one.

If you get a chance, you should definitely check out Guardians of the Galaxy while it’s in theaters. Just don’t give the DC fans in your life too hard of time over the movie’s success.

Related: Marvel announces ‘I am Groot’ for Phase 3; DC scrambles for response