Will Sorg – Entertainment Writer
One of the greatest challenges modern science fiction has had to face is the deluge of mediocrity that plagues the genre. There are hundreds of sci-fi films that offer nothing beyond sterile visuals and flat characters, plopped into whatever formulaic situation the filmmakers came up with seemingly on a weekend, which is why it is so genuinely wonderful to see a sci-fi movie that truly understands the genre and what makes it exciting and entertaining. James Gunn’s second entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is a phenomenal movie that breathes so much life into not only the genre, but the cinematic universe the film is set in.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe is a deeply strange concept if you look at it from the perspective of conventional filmmaking. There are hardly any other franchises in movie history that plan out their films like television, push out movies and shows at such a fast pace, and build a gigantic loyal fanbase that so consistently shows up for each new piece of content. It often lends itself to formulaic storytelling and in many ways its requirements of interconnected stories causes MCU directors’ styles to feel overshadowed by the Marvel template.
James Gunn is one of the exceptions to that dilution of style. Here in “Guardians 2” we are able to see the director and his team really show off their creativity. From a ridiculous opening centered around Baby Groot to the near endless barrage of colorful settings, Gunn takes the audacity of comic book superheroes and applies them perfectly to the fun, adventurous tone of classic science fiction, but where the film truly shines is its storytelling.
The story itself is nothing new. It follows well-trodden themes like found family, conflict within friendships and the importance of support and care from other people. It just so happens that these themes are explored through some of the most charming characters to ever populate a blockbuster. If general audiences from 30 years ago were told that a blue guy with a southern accent and a CGI racoon would be two of the most entertaining characters from a billion dollar franchise they would probably assume society had collapsed and gone insane in the future. Perhaps this is just my own personal preference, but I am serious when I say that Yondu is probably one of my favorite characters from the MCU. Gunn, along with actor Michael Rooker were able to bring so much life and energy to the character. He steals each and every scene he is in and his dynamic with Rocket Racoon throughout the film is a delight. What is impressive is that Yondu and Bradley Cooper’s kleptomaniac Rocket aren’t even the main plotline.
The successful implementation of multiple character driven plots that all converge on each other is a testament to Gunn’s masterful work as a screenwriter. He knows how to put all the pieces together and when he does it ends up being a glorious sci-fi romp filled with eye-catching action and more character development than half of the MCU put together. It’s funny, it’s heartfelt, and Kurt Russel plays Chris Pratt’s otherworldly father. What’s not to love?