Movie review: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2

Movie reviews

Hello!

The 15th MCU movie and a sequel to the 2014’s Marvel gamble – Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 – has premiered on my side of the world, so, I’m going to talk about it!

IMDb summary: Set to the backdrop of Awesome Mixtape #2, ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2’ continues the team’s adventures as they unravel the mystery of Peter Quill’s true parentage.

Before I review the actual film, here are the links to my previous Marvel reviews, starting with GOTG Vol.1Doctor Strange, Civil War, Avengers 2, Ant-Man, Captain America 1 + 2.

SPOILER WARNING

Writing

The writer and director of the first film – James Gunn – also penned the screenplay for the sequel. Overall, I very much enjoyed seeing the continuation of the Guardians story but I did feel that the first act of the film was a bit wonky. I thought that the set-up involving The Sovereign was choppy. In addition, The Sovereign were not utilized in a useful way throughout the rest of the movie (they just popped up in the third act because the film needed to have an even bigger space battle – they were basically the sequel’s Nova Corps). Plus, the fact that Aysha was interested in Peter’s heritage and, in the very next scene, Peter’s dad Ego suddenly appeared seemed as just too much of a coincidence.

The jokes and the banter at the beginning also seemed a bit forced. They were the bad kind of cheesy. However, as the picture progressed, the humor got way better and the narrative also found its footing and started to unfold quite cohesively. GOTG 2 just needed those first 30 minutes to get going and it could afford that, being a 2h+ movie.

I also really liked the character development in the film. I loved learning more about Peter, his past, and his dad. Ego was a wonderful addition to the cast and I also really enjoyed the fact that they turned him into a villain. And he actually was a good Marvel villain – menacing and threatening! I liked the fact that his and Yondu’s backstories fit together quite organically as well. I’m just worried that the filmmakers might have overpowered Ego – I can’t imagine what will Thanos be like?

A character which surprised me a lot was Yondu – I did not think much about him in the first film but the reveal of his backstory and true feelings towards Peter made him into a wonderful character. Sucks that he met his end as soon as I started to like him. The other new addition to the Guardians (well, sort of) was Nebula – I did enjoy learning more about her and thought that her and Gamora’s relationship progressed nicely. The definite newcomer – Mantis – was also a fun new inclusion. I loved the duo she and Drax made.

Lastly, I loved the thematical core of the film – the Guardians coming to terms with the fact that they care about each other and are a family. Yes, the family angle is cheesy and overdone (Fast and Furious in space) but it still works and has a universal appeal.

Directing

James Gunn, once again, directed the movie (and he also just recently announced that he will be back to helm Vol. 3). I believe that he did a great job. The visual design was just extraordinary, especially the visual realization of Ego in his various forms. I loved the landscapes of his planet as well as his appearance as a human. The visual sequence of Ego rebuilding his human body from a skeleton to being Kurt Russell was really impressive. The fact that they actually put a face on a planet was also really cool and a neat nod to the character’s representation in the comics. Another great visual sequence was Yondu’s ‘Ravager’s funeral’: it was so colorful and actually emotional. An extremely funny visual was the space travel facial distortion – it was such an unexpected but really brilliant gag.

The ‘money shot’ – the round shot of all the Guardians standing together was also just glorious. The camera work, in general, was very vibrant and elaborate – and it made the action look amazing. The opening shot was really great too – the focus on the Baby Groot with the action happening in the background was a really inventive and funny way to kickstart the film. Generally, Baby Groot was a complete scene-stealer. Huge props to the CGI department for realizing an animated (basically) character and adding so much personality (much more than the adult Groot had) to his movements and facial expressions. I also loved the fact that his size was an asset to the team and that Baby Groot was part of a final solution, not just the cuteness relief (a cute version of comic relief). Lastly, I loved the two visual gags and how they were both part of the story and fun references to the real life – I, of course, am talking about the cameos by David Hasselhoff and Pac-Man.

Music

The film’s soundtrack was also really good – equal to the soundtrack of its predecessor. Tyler Bates was responsible for the music but I think Gunn also had a hand in picking the songs. I also appreciated the fact that the music was half-diegetic and a part of the story.

Acting/Favorite Character Moments

  • Chris Pratt (Passengers, Jurassic World, The Magnificent Seven, The Lego Movie) as Peter Quill / Star-Lord. Pratt was really good in the role – he has that infinite charm of a leading man and I can’t wait for him to appear on screen with other MCU leading men, like Robert Downey Jr. I also though that Pratt’s and Kurt Russell’s/Ego’s (The Hateful Eight) chemistry was believable. I bought them as father and son for a while and that scene with the ball was really touching and a nice callback to Peter missing out on this type of activity during childhood because of a lack of father figure.
  • Zoe Saldana (Star Trek Beyond) was also good as Gamora, my favorite shot with her was when she picked up that oversized gun. Her and Karen Gillan’s/Nebula’s (The Big Short, The Circle (premiering this weekend in the US as well)) chemistry was good and the banter – really enjoyable.
  • Dave Bautista as Drax the Destroyer. Bautista’s acting abilities have improved since the first film and his unapologetic and unironic comic relief was amazing. His budding relationship with Pom Klementieff’s Mantis was also lovely. Their scene on the steps was really moving. Klementieff was a nice addition to the cast and her performance was appropriate for the character.
  • Michael Rooker as Yondu Udonta. The scene-stealer of the film. I loved the sequence where he used the arrow to escape from the Ravagers. It was just spectacular. I would have loved to see more of Rooker’s performance in subsequent films, but, oh well.
  • Vin Diesel (Fast&Furious) as the voice of Baby Groot  I have no idea why Diesel returned to voice Groot when Baby Groot sounds nothing like Vin Diesel. Well, at least they can put his name on the adverts and posters and that will get them a lot of money in China. 
  • Bradley Cooper (War Dogs, Joy) as the voice of Rocket. Cooper’s voice somehow fits Rocket’s appearance and behavior. I loved how the actor depicted the character’s dry sense of humor.
  • Elizabeth Debicki (The Man from U.N.C.L.E.) as Aysha. While Debicki did look cool with all that gold make-up on, I don’t think she took the role seriously enough. Her acting seemed a bit cheesy but I am excited to see where her character’s story goes next, cause my favorite moment with her, performance-wise, was her delivery of a few lines during the mid-credits scene. In that scene, she sounded way more ominous and authenticate than she did in before.
  • Sean Gunn as Kraglin. I really liked the fact that we got to see more of Sean Gunn’s on-screen character during the sequel. If you didn’t know, he also does the motion capture for Rocket.

5 CREDITS SCENES

As James Gunn promised, the film had 5 scenes during the credits (that has to be some kind of record). 2 scenes played before the credits, 2 in the middle and 1 after. They were very well dispersed and the credits themselves did not feel long at all. The scenes were mostly related to the predeceasing film but they also set up some minor but long awaited stuff.

  1. The first pre-credits scene depicted Sean Gunn’s character Kraglin learning to work with Yondu’s arrow and failing at it. It was both funny and developed the story further.
  2. The second pre-credits scene showed Sylvester Stallone’s (Creed) character reforming the Ravagers out of the characters who were the original Guardians of the Galaxy in the comics. Their inclusion during the credits probably means that they will have a role to play in MCU or at least in GOTG Vol.3. It was also nice to see another scene with Stallone as he only appeared in a handful of them during the main runtime of the movie. It was basically just a cameo and if the role would not have been played by a big name talent like Stallone, no one would talk about it.
  3. The first mid-credits scene was a conclusion to The Sovereign’s plotline and a potential set up for the arrival of the long anticipated character – Adam Warlock! I really hope he finally shows up in the next film!
  4. The second mid-credits scene was probably my favorite out of all of them: it showed the teenager Groot acting as a typical teenager, while Peter attempted to be the Dad. Groot is kinda the child of the Guardians. What a dysfunctional yet lovable family.
  5. The last scene which came at the end of the credits was another Stan Lee cameo. He had a cameo in the main part of the film but it was also nice to see him again. I read online that they film a lot more scenes with Lee than they actually use, so it was quite neat that they found a place to use some more of that material.

Rate: 4.5/5

Trailer: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2

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Movie review: Kong: Skull Island

Movie reviews

Good day!

Kong: Skull Island was not a film that I was excited for until I saw its first trailer. That 2-minute preview really got me hyped and raised my expectations. Let’s see if Kong can deliver!

IMDb summary: A team of explorers and soldiers travel to an uncharted island in the Pacific, unaware that they are crossing into the domain of monsters, including the mythic Kong.

Kong: Skull island is the second installment in Legendary’s MonsterVerse franchise, which begun in 2014, with the reboot of Godzilla. Legendary’s MonsterVerse should not be confused with the Universal Monsters series, which also technically begun in 2014 with Dracula Untold and is continuing later this year with The Mummy reboot (although now, that Dracula movie has been dropped from the canon). While I’m all for cinematic universes, I find these two a bit ridiculous. First, they are too similar and are definitely going to blend in the public’s consciousness. Secondly, these properties are good enough on their own – not everything has to be mixed. And yet, I was recently informed that King Kong and Godzilla have already fought against each other in a Japanese film from the 1960s made by Toho. So, is this new shared universe just another Hollywood remake of a foreign property? I, personally, found 2014’s Godzilla to be an okay movie but hopefully, Kong can get me fully on board with this franchise.

Writing

Kong: Skull Island was written by Dan Gilroy (wrote The Bourne Legacy and wrote and directed the spectacular indie film Nightcrawler) and Max Borenstein (wrote the new Godzilla). To my mind, the writing for the film was okay: not great but not bad either. As usual, since the monsters were expensive to animate, the viewer got to spend a lot of time with the human characters and yet, the character development was scarce. All of the characters had one major feature that defined them and the said defining trait was sometimes interesting and promising and very cliche in the other instances. The representation of the tribal people of the island was a bit stereotypical and from a definite Western POV (and that’s is a huge no-no for me as an anthropology student).

Story-wise, the movie had a fairly quick and interesting set-up. I liked that the film had a wide variety of characters – the military, the scientists and two leads (Hiddleston and Larson) but, as I have already mentioned, I wish they would have done more with them. The twists and turns in the plot were also fine for the most part, but the narrative did have a few too convenient moments (like the vomiting of the dog tags). The Monster vs. Monster or ‘Let them fight’ idea that begun in Godzilla was also continued here. Kong: Skull Island actually included a surprising variety of monsters: from Kong himself to the big buffalo-like looking animal to the huge spider (felt a bit squeamish watching that scene) to the tentacle monster to the giant ant and, lastly, to the actual skull crawlers.

The film’s setting in the 70s served the purpose of providing some commentary on the issue of war. It was a promising concept and they should have done more with it than they did (the portrayal of the colonel as stubborn and plainly cruel was a bit laughable or at least it played that way). The other overarching topic was man vs. nature – an obvious choice for the monster/survival movies. That whole idea about dropping bombs was really stupid but I also have a feeling that it might have been temporally accurate. The whole ‘What is it? Let’s kill it!’ topic of the movie was also kinda idiotic but also very realistic.

The film had good comedic relief. Some of the jokes landed, some didn’t. One line, in particular, stuck with me. It wasn’t supposed to be funny but it just sounded so ironic in today’s context. I’m, of course, talking about the line ‘there won’t be a more screwed up time in Washington’. Well, how about now?

Directing

The picture was helmed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts and this was only his 3rd feature film. His directorial debut was the indie coming of age drama Kings of Summer, which I really enjoyed – I remember it was recommended to me by a friend, who absolutely loved the movie. Bearing in mind that this was only the 3rd picture for the director and the first one of such a massive scale, I think he did an incredible job. While the opening plane crash CGI looked horrible, all of the following CGI of the monsters and the fights was magnificent. I loved the shot of King Kong in a fiery background as well as all the other wide, sweeping shots of the nature of the island. The northern lights also looked neat. The shots from within the helicopter during the first major action sequence were great too. I also thought that Vogt-Roberts had more visuals of Kong than Edwards did of Godzilla. Or maybe they were just dispersed throughout the film more than they were in Godzilla. The old school photo/video visuals were also a nice touch. Lastly, the fact that the first (the sun) and the last (the eye) shots of the picture were similar was also an excellent way to frame the whole thing.

The post-credits scene

Yes, you read that correctly. The post-credits scenes aren’t unique just to comic book movies. I was the only person in my screening who sat through the 10 minutes of the credits but I wasn’t disappointed that I did. The tease for the future was quite cool and made me wonder whether the actors who appeared in the teaser, will reprise their roles in the future sequels of this shared universe.

Acting

Tom Hiddleston as James Conrad. Hiddleston was good in the role even if the role itself wasn’t that great. I mean, his character was just unexplainably good at everything. The most over the top part of his arc was that scene with a sword in a gas cloud – it looked cool but didn’t make much sense and kinda came out of nowhere. I just finished watching Hiddleston in The Night Manger for which he won a Golden Globe. While his acceptance speech wasn’t the greatest, his performance was spectacular, so I’d highly recommend this mini-series. Going forward, he will reprise the role of Loki – arguably, the best villain of MCU – in Thor: Ragnarok.

Brie Larson as Mason Weave. I liked the fact that Larson’s character was a photo-journalist and that they didn’t call much attention to her gender (only in one scene, which should have been cut). Larson herself was good in the role and I’m happy that she is getting more work post her Oscar win (Room). Having said that, the majority of the acting she had to do was basically just reacting to the imaginative things around her. Nevertheless, she did have that one scene of special connection with Kong. What is up with female characters and giant monkeys? Katelyn Snow and Grodd also had a special connection on The Flash.

Samuel L. Jackson as Colonel Packard. Jackson was just recently in another jungle-based movie – The Legend of Tarzan – and I think I liked him more in that one. Here, his performance seemed a bit too much for me. But, I cannot argue that he does know how to play/appear as a menacing villain-ish character.

John C. Reilly as Hank Marlow. Reilly was supposed to be the comic-relief character, based on the trailers and, while he certainly joked around, he was also the exposition machine. Plus, the Jason Mitchell and Shea Whigham duo provided some additional comic relief which was funnier than Reilly’s.

The scientists of the film were played by John Goodman (Trumbo, Patriot’s Day), Jing Tian (The Great Wall), and Corey Hawkins. They served the purposes of their roles well and added some diversity to the cast (the last two). Toby Kebbell (Warcraft, Fan4stic, Ben-Hur) played Jack Chapman and had the emotional character arc of the movie. While I get what the film was aiming for, I didn’t really feel much for Kebbell’s character.

In short, Kong: Skull Island was an entertaining adventure monster movie. The visuals looked amazing and made up for the sorta lackluster script.

Rate: 3.5/5

Trailer: Kong: Skull Island trailer

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Movie Review: Ant-Man

Movie reviews

Hello!

Welcome to another movie review, written by me specially for you. This time, it’s the review of Ant-Man – a film about the superhero with the weirdest name and also, a closing chapter of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s 2nd phase. I hope you’ll like it! Enjoy!

To begin with, you probably know that I am a huge Marvel fan, (my previous reviews of the Marvel films: Captain America, Guardians of the Galaxy, Avengers; thoughts on Phase 3), so I was extremely excited about the film. In short, for all of my fellow MCU fans, I would describe Ant-Man as a mash-up of the first Iron Man and Guardians of the Galaxy. For all of my mainstream readers, I would like to introduce this as a new and really cool version of Honey,I shrunk the kids with some superhero action and surprising amount of seriousness thrown into the mix. Either way, no matter how do I describe this film, it is irrelevant, because Marvel did it again – they made a solid film that pleases the hearts of the fans (mine included) and is enjoyable for the general public (my dad knew nothing about it and liked it a lot).

IMDb summary: Armed with a super-suit with the astonishing ability to shrink in scale but increase in strength, con-man Scott Lang must embrace his inner hero and help his mentor, Dr. Hank Pym, plan and pull off a heist that will save the world.

Spoiler Warning – I advise you to watch the film first and then come back to the review. I will repeat the spoiler warning before talking about huge plot points.

The name

The name of the film suggests that it’s a movie for kids. However, Ant-Man surprises all of us because he is a sophisticated character. I believe that the name might target the film to a different audience that it’s actually meant for. I know one thing for sure: nobody will see this film in my country because the translated name sounds not only childish but stupid. 

The controversy

Our world is ruled by social media, so it’s not a surprise that Hollywood secret don’t stay under locks for long. Probably all movie fans and just general internet users know that Edgar Wright spent a lot of time working on the script of the film and he was set to direct it. However, due to creative differences, he left the project and Peyton Reed stepped in as a director. I don’t want to speak negatively about Wright, but I believe that he should have fought for the project or found ways to reach a compromise if he was really passionate about it. His original screenplay is still used in the film with some minor tweaks and he receives the story and screenplay credits, which is nice. Speaking about directing, I don’t know if Wright would have done a better job, because I really liked what Reed did as well. I always try to allow the work to speak for itself, so, before going to see this film, I didn’t want to let these controversies form my judgement. And you shouldn’t give any influential power to gossip as well.

MCU

This is the first film in a long time, which introduces a new character to the MCU in its own stand-alone film. I believe it was 2011 when we got the last stand-alone film of the MCU – the first Captain America. Granted, Guardians of the Galaxy were also new characters in a separate film, but they were still treated as a team and we didn’t have time to get to know all the them well. Ant-Man is a start of a stand-alone trilogy (probably), which can work on its own but is a great addition to the MCU as well.

The first scene of the film not only explains why the Avengers couldn’t be called for help, but also allows Ant-Man to fit in perfectly with the overall arc of MCU. SPOILERS. It was really nice to see John Slattery back as Howard Stark and Hayley Atwell as Peggy Carter. Furthermore, the feud between Howard Stark and Hank Pym sets everything in motion flawlessly. Plus, I liked that they found ways to include Hydra and Shield into the plot.

Visuals

The visuals of the movie are stunning. Ant-Man’s powers are really well realized. And the way they used the ants in action scenes was wonderful. I didn’t even know that there were so many different species of ants and that they could do such things.

The first 30 minutes are a bit slow, but the 2nd half of the film has non-stop action, so the work of animators and editors can definitely be seen there in all of its glory. Moreover, while the movie has a weird and funny premise, the shrinking scenes looked were grounded and realistic. You could actually believe that something like that could be happening in, for example, your neighbors house. The CGI work is really really impeccable. I cannot praise it enough.

My favorite scenes were SPOILERS the ones in the subatomic level. That whole ‘outside of reality’ type of a world was extremely cool and pleasing for the eyes.

Montage

As with all superhero films, this one had a training montage as well. This was, however, probably one of the best training montages I have ever seen. It was funny and serious, it felt like the training was useful for the character and that he really had time to grow as a hero. Also, that montage was quite long, so the training didn’t feel rushed, which happens a lot in other films.

The Cameo of an Avenger (SPOILERS)

We knew that somebody from the Avengers team was going to shown up in the film. I wasn’t really surprised that it was Falcon because he isn’t an A-list Avenger (although, he might be one day, if he is the one who picks up the shield). Moreover, the appearance of Falcon (Anthony Mackie) set up the after credits scene were nicely. I think it is safe to assume that if Ant-Man shows up in Civil War, he will be on Cap’s team. Moreover, we cannot forget that Hank Pym hates The Starks, so he wouldn’t allow Scott to pick Tony’s side. Lastly, we had a chance to see the new Avengers base some more, because we only spent a few minutes there during the Age of Ultron

Also, keep your eyes peeled for Stan Lee cameo because it’s very short. Siri, of all things, has a very funny cameo/reference as well.

Characters and Acting

Paul Rudd as Scott Lang / Ant-Man was really great. I wasn’t familiar with Rudd’s work, because he mainly starred in comedies before becoming the next Marvel Superhero, and I rarely watch comedy movies – I am very picky about them. Anyway, I was extremely impressed with his performance in this film: he sold the action scenes, his comedy was great and I believed his connection with his daughter,

Evangeline Lilly as Hope van Dyne was also really great. I really liked Lily in the Hobbit films when practically nobody liked her there, but I hope that with this film, the people will finally realize what a great actress she is. I will talk more about her in the end (credits).

Also, the way they handled the inevitable falling in love moment between the two leads was amazing. I laughed a lot.

Michael Douglas as Hank Pym was perfection at its finest. It was interesting and refreshing to see a Marvel movie focusing a lot on a more mature and more sophisticated character as well as seeing Marvel Studios casting a seasoned and well accomplished actor in the role. They usually prefer “growing” their own actors.

Corey Stoll as Darren Cross / Yellowjacket was a cool villain. Personally, I believe that Marvel villains are getting better with each film. Yellowjacket was smart, he had a personal connection to our heroes, he had a cool costume and was ruthless with a dash of craziness. What more could you want form a villain? 
Michael Peña as Luis was the comedy gold of this film. His scenes and explanations were amazing, especially the matching lip movements and the words. I want to recreate his style of talking with my friends just to confuse them. Also, their whole heist was really funny and had wonderful jokes. ” Back it up, back it up, we are backing up!!”.
Bobby Cannavale as Paxton (Scott’s ex-wife’s new boyfriend who is also a policeman) – was the only character which I felt was irrelevant in the beginning. He was just there to anger Scott and the audience. Granted, he became more useful in the end, but I still believe we would have been perfectly fine without him. 

Themes

The film main theme is family dynamics. They explored father-daughter (Hank and Hope; Scoot with his daughter) and father-son (Hank and Scott, Hank and Darren) relationships. Furthermore, ideas like ‘jealousy in the family’, ‘secrets which can break a family apart’ and ‘becoming the person that others think you are’ were touched upon as well.

End Credit Scenes (SPOILERS)

This movie has 2 end credits scenes: one middle credits scene and one after credits scene. Both of them are interesting and they actually mean something. Finally, Marvel movie uses the end credits scenes to set something up as they used to do before, as opposed to Guardians’ end credits scene, which was just a funny Easter Egg.

Anyway, the middle credits deal with Hope becoming the Wasp and taking up her mother’s mantel. I believe that they should have added this scene to the main part of the film, because it is really important for Hope’s character development. Throughout the whole movie, it is hinted that she will become the Wasp and everybody in the audience is hoping for it. Mainstream audiences might not wait for the end credits scene and, therefore, they cannot get any closure, so for them it seems that Hope’s character doesn’t get an ending to her story.

The after credits scene is Marvel at it’s finest. We get to see Steve Rogers and Sam Wilson and DUN DUN DUN Bucky Barnes. Yes, the Winter Soldier has been caught! So, now we won’t have to spend any time looking for him in Cap 3 and we can get straight to the the Civil War story. Moreover, this scene solidifies the fact that Ant-Man will side with Captain America.

All in all, I had a great time with Ant-Man. My dad really liked the film as well and he is not a die-hard Marvel fan, just a general movie goer. He has seen a few Marvel films, so he had a general knowledge of what he was getting himself into, but he still couldn’t understand all the references and he enjoyed the film nonetheless. I highly suggest you go see this movie for the great action, interesting and unique characters, a refreshing small scale story, funny jokes and Easter Eggs. If you are still not convinced, go see it just because it’s Marvel and Marvel never misses! Close off Phase 2 with Ant-Man an start the preparation for Phase 3.

Rate 5/5 (obviously)

Trailer: Ant-Man trailer