Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (Full Review)

No film in Disney/Marvel’s massive gallery was as much of a surprise success as 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy. The film about a ragtag group of space anti-heroes transcended its lesser known source material to become a fun summer blockbuster full of exhilarating action and humor. But it’s hard to follow up a breakout hit with something better or even just as good. Iron Man 2 and Avengers: Age of Ultron showed us, that while the Marvel Cinematic Universe always keeps things entertaining, sometimes their sequels can’t quite live up to the hype.

GotG_Vol2_posterGuardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 continues the adventures of a group of intergalactic heroes for hire. Returning are Drax (Dave Bautista), a slow witted mustle man who lacks subtlety; Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper), a rude and violent talking raccoon; Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel), a naive tree monster reduced to baby form following the first film’s climax; Gamora (Zoe Saldana) skiled assassin and daughter to a space tyrant, and Peter “Star Lord” Quill, (Chris Pratt), an Earthling with a human mother and an alien father he’s never met. After the crew makes enemies out of a society of genetic purists (led by Elizabeth Debicki), the Guardians encounter Ego (Kurt Russell), an antient, powerful being claiming to be Quill’s father, and his socially awkward aprentice, named Mantis (Pom Klementieff). Michael Rooker also returns as Quill’s former mentor Yondu, and Karen Gillan reprises her role as Gamora’s sister/hated rival, Nebula.

As it turns out, Guardians Vol. 2 has many of the same problems as Iron Man 2 and Age of Ultron in that it seems more concerned with making the audience laugh and giving them shiny new CGI to gawk at than with forming a coherent narrative. As such, the plot to this film is all over the place for the majority of its seemingly lengthy runtime. There are far too many threads that are overly emphasized such as a subplot about Yondu’s connection to a former mentor (played by Sylvester Stallone) and his dismissal from the bounty hunting Ravagers. It isn’t until the admittedly exciting climax that things seem to actually come together, but the means hardly justifies the ends.

There’s still a great bit of humor throughout. Dave Bautista (who has greatly improved since his acting debut) is hilarious in every scene and most of the banter between the team is fun. But even here, things don’t feel as consistently organic as they did the first go round. Too much of the jokes are awkwardly raunchy (get ready for penis jokes… yes, penis jokes), and the cartoony slapstick is so abundant that it often undermines scenes that should probably be taken more seriously.

The film manages to add some weighty emotional moments to make the story feel grounded and a bit more necessary. A few scenes between Saldana’s Gamora and Gillan’s Nebula do a fantastic job of adding depth to both characters. In fact, most of the cast deserves credit for injecting likability into each of their characters. But with the story, much of the humor, and even the soundtrack all feeling like a step down, its hard to make a case that Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is memorable. Not every follow up is going to be The Empire Strikes Back or The Dark Knight, but I can’t help but feel like characters this fun deserve an adventure that isn’t predominantly a throw away.

FINAL GRADE: C

A = Must See/Top 10 Nominee

B = Good film. Flawed, but still very entertaining

C = Not Bad, but highly flawed/Probably better off waiting for Redbox

D = Terrible Movie with a few redeeming qualities

F = I wanted to walk out/Don’t waste time or money

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (Full Review)

The Circle (Full Review)

Just how much social media is too much? Is social media and the rapid growth of technology making the world less private? Is privacy worth trading for security? These are just some of the philosophical questions that are bound to pop up in the coming years as our world evolves. The Circle, adapted from a 2013 novel written by Dave Eggers, is a story that raises many of those questions. If only it had answers for them.

The_Circle_(2017_film)The Circle takes place in the near future where people all over the world are connected through a Facebook meets Apple meets Google media conglomerate known as ‘The Circle’ ran by tech genius Eamon Bailey (Tom Hanks) and legal figurehead Tom Stenton. When her friend Annie (Karen Gillan) gets her a customer service job at the Circle, Mae (Emma Watson) sees it as a golden opportunity to help her ill father (the late Bill Paxton) and improve her dull life. As her career within the company rises and her relationship with a close family friend (Ellar Coltrane) begins to deteriorate, she begins to question the morality of the Circle.

There is a strong theoretical core to The Circle as it does manage to raise all of the questions mentioned earlier, but overall this is a film that collapses on itself without truly understanding what it should be. After taking far too long to introduce actual conflict, the film teeters in its final act when it doesn’t quite know how to answer all of its many hypotheticals. Emma Watson’s character goes through tragedy as a result of the issues brought up, but the resolution matches neither the build up or the lesson that should’ve been learned.

We are asked by the narrative to think about what social media means to our societal privacy. We are asked to wonder how much information is too much, and yet… the film’s climax veers off into a hardly relevant commentary about corruption. As a result, The Circle ends up like an uneven equation. It raises questions then responds with an answer to one that was never asked.

The lack of resolution wouldn’t be as frustrating if there were other elements that made the film worth while. But the performances are mostly flat, save for an underutilized John Boyega as the one questioning cog within the Circle. Emma Watson gives her worst performance since childhood as she spends most of the movie poorly hiding her accent and trying to find the correct emotional footing through an uneven script. Several characters also have uneven arcs like Gillain’s Annie, who goes from peppy Circle subordinate to paranoid, jealous, pill addict without any real transition. And sure, thought provoking films don’t necessarily need to have all of the answers to the questions they raise, but The Circle comes off like a film that doesn’t even know what questions its asking.

FINAL GRADE: D

 

 

The Circle (Full Review)