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Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Trailer Breakdown

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Somewhere around 3 years ago, Marvel Studios introduced the world to the Guardians of the Galaxy, a plucky band of space rogues who wormed their way into everyone’s hearts with their winning combination of humorous banter and space weirdness.  

Now, Marvel prepares for the Guardians next out, coming spring 2017, with a brand new trailer.  However, a lot can change in 3 years, and the world of 2017 is going to be very different for the Guardians. 

The original film was such a cultural shame it’s shaped a lot of the competition to come out since, both concerning renewed interest in space operas, also shepherded along by the return of Star Wars, and a greater attempt to co-opt the Guardians’ eclectic style, as evidenced by Suicide Squad.  

Given that and Marvel’s less unassailable standing in the current landscape, does the Guardians trailer promise the triumphant return of the kings of the MCU, or were our heroes never quite as fun as we initially thought?

Before diving into this very shallow but still fun first trailer, I should point out that I don’t really love Guardians of the Galaxy 1 anymore.  I liked it a lot at the time, as did all of America pretty much, but as I said; 3 years is a long time and time has not been kind to the film.  It’s certainly got its moment, both humorous and sincere, but overall it’s mostly just long stretches of banter that are fun in the moment without really lasting in the memory. 

Scenes like Starlord dancing his way through the alien ruins, the prison break, Rocket’s breakdown in the bar, or the ending dance contest stand-up really well while stuff like the battles on Knowhere and Xandar pass quickly into the deleted memories bin. 

It also doesn’t help that so much of the film ended up devoted to stuff that hasn’t really gone anywhere in the grand scheme of things.  Pretty much the only element of the movie’s plot that’s going to be worth it in Infinity War seems to be the Power Gem itself while cool universe elements like the Nova Corp, the Collector, or even Ronan (who had potential despite being an empty vessel for antagonism) ended up perfunctory. 

It’s even the film where we get the most exposure to Thanos, the big bad of this whole universe, without actually feeling any form of menace or impact from his presence in the film.  So yeah, it’s still a substantial part of the MCU, but it just doesn’t hang together as tightly as it did in the time it was the new hotness on the block. 

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 looks to be…more of the same if we're honest.  That’s not a bad thing given that James Gunn still writes better banter than even Joss Whedon can pull off, it’s just a little disappointing to see the series opt for running in place rather than moving forward.  If there is one element that seems to have changed it’s the universe background details I mentioned earlier. 

Judging by the trailer and interviews given by Gunn about the content of the film, don’t expect to see Thanos or any of the Infinity Stones stuff pop up in this flick.  The biggest thing we’re going to be seeing from Marvel’s cosmic mythos in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is going to be Ego, the Living Planet and he didn’t make an appearance in this trailer.

Really, the trailer has gone well out of its way to try and avoid any discussion of the plot with a much greater emphasis on tone and return to form.  There’s a sense of familiarity and earned acceptance to the things that’s actually pretty admirable.  Even if we’re just getting more of the same you can tell Gunn and company are a lot less worried about selling us on things like space raccoons or baby ents or the like.  

There’s more breathing room to just jump right back into the delightfully goofy immaturity and irreverence.  There’s also a sense of meta-irony to things that I definitely enjoy, this idea that the series is defined by Starlord’s own inability to move forward as a person, so the film’s fine not going anywhere. 

That’s not entirely true I guess, there’s obviously been some change with the ancillary characters, even if Gamora looks to be getting the short shrift for the second film in a row.  Drax seems to actually have something to do this movie, which is a real plus and Batista looks pretty fun and comfortable in this increased role.  

Baby Groot is also a pretty interesting concept as it means Groot, as a character, has actively regressed from how we saw him before, which is a bold direction to take at the least.  It’s obvious Marvel and Disney are hoping to move a mathematically incalculable amount of Baby Groot merch with this film, but it also seems like there’s actually something to his character beyond just “what if the most popular character was also adorable.”

Rocket and Starlord come off the most familiar here, still irreverent, still, in a state of arrested development and glibness towards a universe, they feel dismisses them.  It’s a reliable shtick even if the last thing the MCU needs is more jokey man-children and I’m starting to wonder if Star-Lord can indeed hold the center of a movie that’s not also introducing him to us for the first time. 

Like Guardians of the Galaxy 1 had the greater task of introducing us to all this weirdness but that was also a blessing as so much of the bantering was broken up so the audience could drink in the strangeness of the situation.  Now, we’re basically going to get nonstop japery from the word go, and I wonder if these characters are up to maintaining that kind of an approach. 

I do like the looks of new Guardian Mantis, an empathic bug Asian bug lady, and martial artist.  Like most of the team, Mantis was never all that paramount in the comics, but she does end up a pretty major expository tool as her empathic abilities usually translate into an ability to “feel” the Universe and so be aware of major threats.  

We’re also going to be getting more Yondu and Nebula in this film, so I hope they make an appearance in our next trailer as they seem like they could be a more withering adult presence to the team without coming off as a wet blanket like Gamora. 

This breakdown is coming off a lot more negative than I intended it to but I also can’t find that much room to relent.  I liked the comedy, especially the baby Groot opening skit, it’s just hard to shake the sense I’ve seen this show before.  Maybe if there was a second Marvel space franchise to take a more interesting or explorative approach to the cosmic mythos that could keep things feeling fresher but I guess we’re just not there yet. 

I guess my big thing is that as much as I liked the comedy of Guardians of the Galaxy I liked the sense I was seeing something new and genuine even more.  Now, after 3 years of “I am Groot” and “doesn’t do metaphors” it all ends up feeling a little stale and there’s not enough new and out there in the trailer to make it feel like more than just a Marvel merchandising push that’s been dolled up with some “quirky” jazz hands.  

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