By Shelby Fielding (Lubbock, Texas)

 

Franchises are a staple in the landscape of filmmaking. With great franchises like Indiana Jones, Star Wars, and Rocky dominating the box offices with not only audiences approvals but critical approvals as well. And, now in 2017, the franchise of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has taken a dominating grasp upon the genre of blockbusters. With a total box office growth of over $11.3 billion dollars, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has become the highest grossing franchise in the history of filmmaking. Not to mention an average Rotten Tomatoes score of 82% with its fifteen incredibly successful films, and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2 follows suit with an opening weekend of $145 million as well as an 81% rating on Rotten Tomatoes to exemplify its early success. Focusing on Peter Quill’s parentage and the expansion of these characters with an Awesome Mixtape #2 set as the backdrop, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2 provides an entertaining narrative that resonates in a familiar fashion. As if James Gunn focused on the same plot points of the first while expanding on the characters in a way that I perceived as an infliction of emotion that lacked resonation.

Opening with an identical sequence of a funny musical number with Baby Groot, portrayed by Vin Diesel, dancing and lip singing to the 1977 classic “Mr. Blue Sky” by the Electric Light Orchestra. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2 is already reminiscent of that of its predecessor with the introduction of a similar tone, although multiple franchises adopt this stylistic introductory sequence. In which each opening sequence is mimicking to that of its past films with Star Wars using the opening crawl in each movie, minus Rogue One: A Star Wars Story of course. Each successful franchise contains a formula of sorts, and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2 is no different with its formulaic style of storytelling. The initial hour of the film appeared new, with that intense focus on the exploration of the cosmic universe that encompasses this cinematic landscape. With an intriguing concentration on the characters interactions and a continuation of these characters inner journeys, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2’s inaugurating hour is organically fixating on expanding these characters through frequent interactions.

The direction is remarkable once again, as James Gunn continues to focus on medium shots and allow the dialogue and characters to fill the screen with their charismatic presences. The visual effects are enticing as well with an exceptional fixation upon producing these imaginative locations and characters to life with breathtaking visuals, and superb computer-generated imagery. The performances begin to expand as well, with Chris Pratt’s portrayal becoming more grounded and relatable with his struggles and inner conflicts coming to fruition. The chemistry that Pratt and Zoe Saldana share is tremendous with an almost authentic glimpse of a relationship that is compiled in a tone compassion. Bradley Cooper, the voice of Rocket, and Michael Rooker, who portrays Yondu, invoke another sense of chemistry. This relationship is clouded in comical charisma instead of romanticism.

These characters share the screen with interactive performances that allow these to two to feel like a natural tandem of whimsical proportions. However, this focus on character development begins to wear thin with a narrative that starts to lose tension with its predictable plot developments. Serving as a relative replica of Joss Whedon’s Avengers: Age of Ultron with an intended focus on character expansion without an engaging and compiling narrative to interact with the journeys of these compelling characters. The story focuses upon Quill’s unexplained lineage, and it begins to divert into a stereotypical plot with predictable twists and turns that begin to display themselves as unintentionally dull. The successful formulaic aspects of the Marvel franchise start to wear thin with an overwhelming sense of fatigue and familiarity starting to reveal itself in this past couple of films. The film also begins to feel reliable upon its humorous dialogue as well as it’s imaginative visuals instead of the narrative. With an intentional reinforcement of jokes that almost start to become repetitive in the final act with a rewording of past jokes that Gunn attempts to drive home.

This problematic flaw begins to correlate with an overwhelming focus on these visuals, with multiple establishing shots on these worlds and creative environments. However, where this film falls apart in a way that causes me to become restless throughout it’s one hundred and thirty-six minute run time is the staggering amount of characters introduced. With the introduction of the Enclave and their successful experiment known as Paragon or Ayesha as she’s named in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2. Then we’re introduced to Ego the living planet and Mantis; then we meet Stakar Ogord, better known as StarHawk, who began the first Guardian of the Galaxy in the comics back in Earth-691. These characters are thrown into this lackadaisical narrative that presents themselves in a hurried fashion that began to distract and convolute the emotional story submitted by James Gunn. An astonishing amount of underdeveloped characters, a ridiculous reliance upon the fantastic visuals, and the unoriginality of its narrative’s developments begin to obstruct Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2 from becoming an enthralling follow-up to the refreshing story of Guardians of the Galaxy.

While compiled with stupendously witty dialogue, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2 fails to resonate completely and continues to demonstrate the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s franchise fatigue of familiarity even though it’s intentional expansion on the characters is duly noted. Falling in the same slot of Scott Derrickson’s Doctor Strange that assembles itself with multiple complications that duplicate the narratives of the past. With Dr. Stephen Strange portraying a reminiscent character of Tony Stark, and now with the Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2 feeling similar to Avengers: Age of Ultron. As well as that of the first Guardians of the Galaxy, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2 continues to provide a fear of unoriginality over the Marvel Cinematic Universe going forward. With each new film feeling as if it’s a duplicate of its predecessor or an imitation of the previous characters, the Marvel Cinematic Universe seems as if it may be on the decline due to a lack of risk taking. Hopefully, we see something similar to Captain America: Civil War in which we begin to witness a grittier and more realistic tone for these marvelous heroes heading into what should be an emotionally impactful story in Avengers: Infinity War.

Rating: 3/5

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