Tagged: Bradley Cooper

Box Office Democracy: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is an amazingly charming movie.  The characters they’ve constructed over these two movies are each a delight.  There’s an infectious camaraderie that makes it feel like it must be the best movie set to work on the there ever was.  The infectious joy and prodigious joke density easily carries a slightly disjointed script through the murky bits.  I don’t need everything to make sense or even be particularly important as long as I’m having fun and the rest of the theater is having fun.  There aren’t many movies more infectiously fun than Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.

There are two separate stories being told in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. In one Star-Lord meets his father, Ego the Living Planet (Kurt Russell), and goes to his home planet (or his self? There’s nothing in the MLA rules about this) along with Gamora and Drax.  Why do Gamora and Drax come with him?  It would appear to balance the crew between the two stories because both of them barely interact with this story from the time they land on the planet until the third act.  In the other story, Rocket Racoon and Groot are captured by Ravagers and are going to be turned in for some sort of bounty involving stolen batteries.  This storyline is mostly about making baby Groot jokes and having people mistake Rocket for another kind of rodent.  It eventually hooks back up with the rest of the crew— not because it needs to, but more because they’re done.  These plots are not grand adventures in storytelling but rather a frame for character moments and jokes and they’re just fine for that, but I think they deserve to be called out for being a bit sparse.

The Guardians are such wonderfully distinct characters though.  Drax’s laugh is the glue that holds the first half of the movie together.  It isn’t what I thought would happen to the Drax character on the big screen, but he’s basically all comedy at this point with little action in sight.  Bradley Cooper is never going to get any recognition for this, but he’s doing fabulous work as Rocket.  He imbues a lot of humanity in to a character it would be so easy to not take seriously.  Rocket has a tearjerker of a line near the end that could easily fall flat.  The best scene in the whole film is between Gamora and Nebula talking about their familial relationship.  I never thought it would be believable to transition Nebula to the side of the Guardians after all the bad blood in the last movie and they accomplish it in three lines.  It’s the best scene between two women in any Marvel movie and I understand I’m not setting a particularly high bar.  It’s high now.

James Gunn has made a great looking movie.  There are so many shots with so much going on and they’re especially fun to take in in 3D.  There’s this concerted effort to have stuff going on in the background of shots and it’s a great way to sneak stuff in.  It looks an awful lot like a 1970s cosmic comic book.  I wouldn’t say Kirby-esque, I think we’re too liberal with Kirby-esque, it doesn’t look like Jack Kirby drew it but it looks an awful lot like Walter Simonson and that’s no slight.  The sequence that caps off the Rocket Racoon plot is the best of the whole film, it’s a great bit of elaborate camera work and fun violence.  The climax of the main plot is a little less impressive if only because there are a lot of supposed to be dramatic moments of people facing down grey goo.  Grey goo is not that scary.

Go see Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.  It’s a great time.  Get a big popcorn and a smaller drink (it’s a very long movie) and just enjoy being in an air conditioned room with other people having a good time.  My wife remarked that the emphasis on family and reforming some former adversaries makes this Guardians feel like a step toward transitioning to a sort of Fast & Furious in space thing. I agree, and there’s nothing I would rather see from Marvel than something that leans so in to that kind of joy and absurdity.  I hope they can do it.

Box Office Democracy: Guardians of the Galaxy

I have spent months telling everyone who would listen that I thought Guardians of the Galaxy would be the first flop of the Marvel Studios era.  While Iron Man and Thor were hardly household names before their recent turns they were the practically Superman wearing a Mickey Mouse costume compared with Star-Lord and Groot.

There’s also the inherent tendency for cosmic stories to end up feeling pretty nonsensical, maybe not more nonsensical than the Asgard stuff but audiences didn’t connect with Green Lantern and that seemed to be the closest comparable movie.  I thought this would be an emperor-has-no-clothes moment and would unravel the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe.

I’m happy to report I was a complete moron and while many of those ill portents might have been true James Gunn and his cast made such a thoroughly enjoyable movie that they don’t matter.

Guardians of the Galaxy is easily the funniest Marvel movie but it also derives its comedy in such a different way than most super hero movies.  Every super hero movie I can think of either has one character that’s responsible for generating 90% of the laugh lines (your Tony Starks or your Lokis) or by sort of having moments of acknowledging the absurdity of the premise (this was way overdone in the later Schumaker Batman films).  Guardians lets all five members of the team be funny and it helps so much.  It helps the plot (and I’ll get to why the plot needs a little bit of help) but it also lets the actors shine in these characters.

I knew coming in to expect great things from Chris Pratt but I was not expecting Bradley Cooper to turn in the best performance of his career playing a mutant raccoon.  I don’t even just mean he’s funnier in this movie than anything else, although he is, but he disappears in that character and I never thought I was hearing Bradley Cooper.  Vin Diesel steals entire scenes despite only ever saying three words.  This ensemble might not be better than Downey, Evans, Johansson et al. in the Avengers franchise but they fit their roles as good if not better than the big team and it’s stunning to watch.

I mentioned earlier that the plot needs a little bit of help and that’s not entirely fair.  As someone who has been reading comic books literally as long as I can remember I had no problem following what was going on.  The three people I went with who did not have that background had no idea what had just happened.  They enjoyed themselves immensely, and that should be the real measure of a movie, but they could not tell me who the non-Guardian characters were, what their motivations were, or what an “Infinity Gem” did.  They push through a lot of stuff without time for anything to sink in or without providing a lot of exposition and just relied on the general charisma of the rest of the film to carry the plot a little bit.  It worked flawlessly and is the biggest difference from Green Lantern, which explained everything in laborious detail, and had no joy anywhere to be found.

I still think there are flaws in the MCU road map (honestly, who is clamoring for a Doctor Strange movie?) but I can’t doubt them any longer.  I will anxiously await every movie they put out until they prove they can’t do it.  I went in to this movie thinking I wouldn’t like it at all and walked out with only a minor quibble about the use of slow motion.  Make mine movies Marvel.