(Originally posted 8th May 2017)
Parenthood can be a tricky business. Give your kids everything you can and they end up spoilt. Try to teach them how to be self-sufficient and they resent you for it. It's a constant flux of negotiations, compromise and second-guessing yourself. If you'd like to see these ideas explored in a clumsy and heavy-handed fashion then may I recommend to you Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.
The second instalment in this latest extension of the Marvel universe uses a very old story that has been done many times, but this time it's in space! Our hero searches for his real father in hope of finding solace with his own identity only to discover that the man who raised him was his true father, even if his skin is a different colour. It's a beautiful message, badly told.
But let's take a step back. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 1 established a rather old fashioned sci-fi world where all aliens are humanoids with slightly different ears or noses. This was subliminally taking us all back to the Star Trek that we love and it was very charming without feeling particularly out of date. This was because it kept it fresh with a humorous and off-the-cuff feel that lent the action a lighter tone. Unfortunately, Vol. 2 brings us much the same, and as we saw with Iron Man 2, what was once fresh and exciting can get real stale real fast.
The problem here is the difference between a film bringing together people with the right chemistry; writers, performers, director, combining to produce a creative piece of work, and a studio trying to recreate that chemistry. Even with the same ingredients, it doesn't have the same spark. And that goes right down to production design, with a newly introduced race of gold people using arcade style video game controls to pilot remote ships. It's a nice idea, but ruined by the deliberately referential look of the thing.
That's not to say it doesn't work, necessarily, just that it feels a bit more forced. Take for a very good example the opening scene. It's just a big action scene to get us through the credits and set up the heroes as a team again. But we don't need to see that because we're post-modern and we want to watch the little stick man dancing to a song from the seventies! That's certainly not grating after four or five minutes. And that sums up the problems with this film; desperate to recapture lightning in a bottle. You liked the eighties references in the first one right? Here's David Hasselhoff! Wow! You liked the big stupid guy, right? I bet he's going to say something inappropriate without understanding the consequences! LOL! You all remember Pacman, yeah? Pacman Pacman Pacman!
Eh, it's not really that bad, it's just trying to do more of the same without realising that that's not enough to get me through two more hours. And they obviously used up all the good songs in the first film.
And to be fair, all the fatherhood stuff is a good new theme that they build the whole film around. Not just the main plot but smaller characters also get their own little paternal conflict sidelines. In fact, the combination of Yondu and Rocket Racoon discovering their common nature was probably the most effective emotional impact in the whole thing, tragically rushed as a sub-plot.
But the main star here is Peter Quill, who is suddenly confronted with the man/god who banged his mum and gave her space cancer. For the most part, the idea is worked effectively with Peter being suitably cautious about the father who abandoned him. And the idea of him being an immortal being with power beyond imagination is also an interesting sci-fi concept. It is, however, handled with a lack of finesse and the ultimate conclusion certainly seems out of proportion.
I think that the motivations of Godly Kurt Russell are never fully understood and I was never in the right position to hate him enough to see the justification in him being killed. This is a creature that has lived for millions and millions of years and has gained a greater perspective than Quill could possibly have and yet he chooses to destroy him, pretty much because he didn't hug his mother enough after sex.
Or is that the point? Man must destroy his creator to truly be free. We need to shake off the shackles of our fathers and plough our own furrow. Freud is quietly wanking in his grave. But then we come back to the stepfather and he manages to redeem a whole life of shitty behaviour with one final act of self-sacrifice. I want to give these guys some credit but it just feels like a car full of daddy issues with no one at the wheel.
And by the way, pointing out that the main two characters have a will-they-won't-they relationship doesn't make it any less hackneyed. You might be post-modern but you're still boring.
More of the same and a bit confused.
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