Saturday, May 6, 2017

Guardians of the Galaxy: volume two movie and All-New #1 reviews (unspoilered)

Reviews: Guardians vol 2 movie and all-new Guardians of the Galaxy #1

We kicked off our 5/5/17 Guardians experience with the new comic book, All-New Guardians of the Galaxy #1. This first chapter was a good value; we just wanted more story because it was fun! The artwork’s modern cartoony style suited the out-of-the-ordinary subject matter, so hats off to Aaron Kuder. Ive Svorcina’s colors bring to mind the cinematic Guardians’ world.

Gerry Duggan’s story, “Smash and Grab,” meanwhile, hints at Earthly adventures- where they must always eventually visit- and subtle changes to most everyone. So why, as Rocket notes, is Peter Quill “the most put-together of all of us?”

In Groot’s case, there’ll be fairly serious consequences. He looks just like the cute lil’ Groot of the movies, but there’s a reason he’s still tiny. If you’ve ever planted cuttings of a plant, you’ll get it for sure- but why does this weaken what we’ll call Prime Groot?

The humor’s there all the way, along with cosmic comics grandeur. The Galactus ruse that opens the adventures of our hired scavengers is laugh-out-loud funny, as is Drax’s conversion to pacifism. This guy laughs at violence and defying death- you have to wonder why he’s playing so against type! What seems to be “a profoundly stupid death” turns into a rendezvous with Grandmaster, one of the Elders of the Universe.

An Awesome Mix Volume 1 Master Card does look pretty good. I actually opened the comic and chuckled knowingly at how the Guardians are now hawking services, like “Booking.Com”- “shilling just like Superman and Spider-Man have done for decades, from vitamins to shower curtains.”

The opening issue gets at least a B. It’s hard to build up to the kind of emotional pathos you can reach in a full movie, which is like a nice mini-series in comics terms- at least, the kind of pathos James Gunn can evoke when writing and directing.

Guardians of the Galaxy Volume Two: the movie
Now this just might be A+ territory- though I preferred the first soundtrack, which also had the advantage of being a total surprise direction. The use of “Mr. Blue Sky” in the opening scene, combined with Groot dancing to a very effective 3-D battle scene made up of suggestion as well as tableau. We read the comic and went out about an hour and a half later to sit in the theater with friends (we don’t argue enough to be family), so it was a multi-media one-two punch!

First off, Marc Kane loved Kurt Russell in the rare turn as the heavy- and you don’t get much heavier than a living planet! Two Jack Kirby-created concepts/ characters, the Celestials and Ego, the Living Planet, came together to provide almost equal hope and menace, in a very rounded character. He’s wonderful in both aspects.

Mantis is the next character worth noting. Ego’s “pet” has fascinating powers, a step away from the physically-violent abilities manifested by most of the team and their foes. She’s been moved into a different interpretation than her comic book creation, but is still a good candidate for Celestial Madonna, and not a poor use of her essence.

WE love the way they grew all the characters. They tended to be organized by pairs, but you also have reflections when they overlap: Rocket and Quill have a similar antagonism to Yondu and Quill, and then it’s folded neatly together in the moment Yondu tells Rocket: we’re the same!

Yondu bears mentioning next because he frankly just steals the show. He was awesome! He gets that terrific speech to Rocket, which unveils his layers of complexity.

Rocket himself gets a ninja-badass scene, taking on the Ravagers with planning, agility, and lots of great weapons. His team-up with Quill to pilot the ship down doesn’t work out so great, but his team-up with a character later gives us some cool glow-in-the-dark action that fits that ‘80s “laser tag” aesthetic and again establishes his warrior cred. Gamora has a cutting line about that piloting, by the way, with terrific rejoinder from Quill that shines with juvenile humor- one of the rare ‘battle of the sexes’ type conflicts. Normally, they all find plenty else to battle about. Despite that, there’s a lovely scene at the climax, where they nearly ‘got me’ in the tear ducts, including Rocket, where Quill revisits what it is that makes life worthwhile- and what it is to be human- or even the half-human Star Lord!

I finally have to mention Drax, who is much transformed after his vengeance-fueled mission to avenge his family. Here, he’s clearly having a blast! Witness his head-long dive into the belly of the beast in the opening scene- never mind how effective it proves to be. His jump out the airlock, complete in a bubble-wrap suit you want to walk up and pop with your fingers, accompanies death-defying glee, which follows him all the way to the ship’s crash.

His interaction with Mantis is so funny; it inverts expectations of your typical romantic pairing. His line: “they’re beautiful...and so are you...on the inside” is delivered at the very moment when you really, really need a laugh- to remind you how much of a comedy you were sitting through, even.

It’s a great direction, these moments of pathos and humor, sewed together so seamlessly, in my opinion, throughout a movie that mixes low humor, high science fiction concept, romance, stories about relationships of several kinds, high-octane adventure, and positively dazzling special effects, which our pal Jeremy noted fit with an overall ‘80s sort of visual sensibility in Gunn’s movie.

We also get a great story between the sisters, reared by Thanos to become killing machines. The awful price Nebula has paid for her failures to defeat Gamora gives her dimension, and all the showdowns, and no less this one, are driven by emotional needs and logical motivations.

The Sovereign, for all their cloned similarity, are perfect as nerve-wracking, condescending third-force foes, reflections of the Ravagers, who are individualistic, petty scum. Taser Face gives us a level of menace that fills Yondu’s role from the first movie, but also a healthy dose of laughs. The Sovereign also bring us one more item of future interest after the credits, another Jack Kirby creation once brought to his narrative heights by the creator of Gamora and Thanos: “Adam.”

Our brief look at Sylvester Stallone’s character, Stakar, reveals the intention to make him Starhawk from the original Guardians; he’s also aided by a Pluvian-type, who you would think is meant to be the crystalline Martinex. He’s there to provide more depth to the Ravagers as a whole, ostracizing the much-liked Yondu- and not because of his winning personality, but because Yondu agreed to kidnap a child. The story behind why he failed to deliver said child gives his story richness. I don’t find the
conclusion forced, personally. Stakar’s there to herald the movie’s emotional pay-off, which underscores my belief about Yondu’s unexpected star turn. Michael Rooker, take a bow!

Groot gets the least development, but plays the role of the simple, child-like stand-in. Basically, as much of an innocent as you’ll ever find hanging out with a demolitions-expert “trash bandit,” Groot’s primary trio of scenes involves his entertaining dance to distinguish GotG2’s action opening from anything seen in comics movies; the “red fin” search, which not only restores Yondu (eventually!) to his classic look, but gives us more fun at the expense of the rag-tag Ravagers- and finally, his day-saving turn with the hilarious “button” scene with Rocket. Marc Kane speculated ‘he may have pretended confusion just so he could distract Rocket and run off’ - maybe it was going to be hard for Rocket to let him go? No one, we find out, has any tape. That’s as unexpected, yet true to these spit-and-bailing wire characters, as any climatic scene has ever delivered. But don’t think for a moment the action climax lacks for spectacular effects! And there’s many levels on which the day must be saved, for no one is safe… and not everyone’s going to get out alive.

More, I simply will not tell you. One day, I would love to delve into this flick in a similar fashion to the great discussion of Dark Knight at Nicky Rotten’s with Daniel and Josh and Charita, but anything else requires a spoiler warning. Genuinely a movie most folks will enjoy, and some will be tempted to call a favorite from the first.

Like this? Check out my scripting over the wonderful story drawn by Joe Phillips, Hero Duty- coming this year from IDW Publishing!

Spoilers below

FREE COMICS DAY 2017 Apparently, Marvel had Defenders and Guardians linked in the mind like my post did!

So did Ego maybe kill the mothers all with cancer? Killing the mothers was an effective way to sever the bonds of the kids, for his purposes. It’s apparent that his form of “love” meant that he had to slay Mary Quill to avoid an obsessive attachment that would cause him to abandon his grand plan. The line about “ I needed to return to the planet to replenish myself with its inner light” might have been a total dodge- I immediately questioned “why didn’t you offer to bring her back with you?” Star Man would NOT approve.
So did Mantis have to help him sleep because of all Ego’s dead children? Did he kill Mantis’ entire race too?

We love how the space eyes vanished from Quill’s face when he found out about the tumor.
I’ll just tell ya: I was very emotionally effected by the sacrifice of honorary Guardian Yondu, but it wasn’t until the Ravagers showed up with the fireworks that I had to shed a tear. I admit, fireworks have always had a reaction from me, but never tears!

Best Hasslehoff cameo in existence. And! Most moving use of Hasslehoff's somewhat kitschy public image. REally.

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