Guardians of the Galaxy 2 is still goofy fun, it’s just a lot shallower

Isn’t nice to have a sequel that is just called 2? No faffing around with words like revengeance or requiem. It’s just the second instalment of a series, there’s still a galaxy to guard so they’re going to do it. Twice.

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How do you follow up a wildly successful, critically acclaimed surprise hit? Guardians of the Galaxy was Marvel’s wild card, a strange mish-mash of sci-fi and superhero tropes with an ensemble cast of oddities in a comedic world. It was a film that found a significant cohesion between the comedy and action, held together by performances and an incredible soundtrack. It stood on its own, as a film set in a faraway galaxy, it was free from the tie-ins of the Marvel cinematic universe. That meant it was able to bore its own path, set its own tone that needn’t adhere to previous Marvel fare. It was colourful, light hearted and other worldly in a way that Marvel films haven’t been since Iron Man.

The film, which I still maintain is the best Marvel movie to date, was always going to be a tough act to follow and Vol 2 has displayed the issues that face sequels to highly popular movies. The first half of the original followed the traditional Marvel route, with the first half dedicated to the establishing of the team, but instead of an origin story detailing how a person became a superhero, Guardians followed a group of superheroes forming a team, it was fresh and different to other franchise starters. Vol 2 faces the problem of having to come up with a first half to its story and this is where the issues begin.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 has more of a Star Trek feel to it than a movie, its structure is more that of a TV show, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but in this case, it makes the whole first half of the film feel limp and directionless. The real threat of the film is not revealed until over an hour in and at that point the film has been spinning its wheels, making jokes and reintroducing you to characters you never forgot about.

It’s enjoyable, I will never refuse it that, the jokes are funny and the characters are as likeable as ever. Though the humour is enjoyable in the way a Big Mac is, you know what to expect and you get it, but when you think about it, it’s hard not to taste how manufactured it all is. Baby Groot is an unashamedly obvious example of this. People who saw this teaser poster may have had their suspicions that the movie would shoe horn the little devil in as much as possible and compromise the final product. The first scene of the movie is a perfect example of this, a long CGI ridden, tracking shot of Groot dancing while everyone else fights in the background, it’s funny and cute for the first few seconds but drags on for minutes and adds no new layers to the joke. The film is giving people what they want and only what they want, adding nothing new to the universe in favour of playing it ‘safe.’

In a sense the film is a pandering hodgepodge of elements that made the first film great. Take Drax for example, Drax’s character was a great strength of the first movie. His deadpan delivery of his lines and slow discovery of what irony is was a great introduction to the character. He was a brooding and serious laughing stock. This contrast was what made him so fun to watch. In the return, he is nothing but a joke machine, all his lines are comical to the point where the contrast which made the character great has entirely dissipated.

The film as a whole, is treated as such. All the contrast is gone, it is filled with crowd-pleasing moments that Mary-Sue our characters into unbelievable territory. Any and all possible moments for character development are squashed by badly overwritten dialogue that smashes you over the head with its meaning. Subtext is missing and brought to the foreground, characters make each emotion they feel plainly obvious and then feel the need to say it again. This feels like a film that was heavily dumbed down to appeal to a larger audience, from the complete lack of subtlety, the abundance of the one-note Baby Groot and to the morals of the story which amount to nothing more than “we’re a family and a family sticks together” Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 feels too much like teen fiction.

In addition to all this, the ending of the movie is a transparent attempt to force viewers to invest in a new group of characters that have no real impact on the story, just so that there is some anticipation for the latest MCU tie in, which stars these characters no one has heard about.

Recommendation

Everything that you loved about the original Guardians of the Galaxy is still there, its eighties vaporware aesthetic, its charming characters and fun action scenes. It’s just all a lot bolder and a lot more obvious, in traditional sequel fashion. And in traditional Marvel fashion the villains are either too overpowered or too underpowered to the point where you lose interest.

The film constantly compromises its misfit charm for what is a safe bet. It’s a sterilised version of what we had before and there is so much going on that moments are not given time to land. It is less removed from the trappings of the Marvel Cinematic Universe than the first but for the most part it does stand up on its own. For all intents and purposes it is a fun watch and all the actors involved easily so themselves justice, but expecting it to approach the first in terms of quality is just asking to be disappointed.

Trainspotting 2 sacrifices affecting moments for laughs a little too often

T2 has all the usual problems that all sequels do

It’s an audacious strategy to release a sequel to a twenty year old film. The sequel is a strange beast. In 2017 the possibility hangs over any moderately successful film like a black cloud, threatening to disrupt the legacy or integrity of what was once a finished piece. Yet by cobbling together the original cast, director and original author (Irvine Welsh’s Porno is a sequel to the book Trainspotting) the Trainspotting sequel was shaping up to be one of those mould breaking exceptions.

Sequels are at their most fruitful when they take place in an unreal world, Aliens, Terminator: Judgement Day and LOTR: The Two Towers stand out as the most effective sequels as they have a mythology to build upon. The issue with a Trainspotting sequel is that the film was more character driven, it was a look at the people on the lowest rungs of society rather than a look at the society itself. The issues that arose came from the problems that these characters faced due to the poor life choices, it was all very personal. Whilst Ellen Ripley faced demons and Sarah Connor had her issues, these films told higher concept stories above the personal drama. Trainspotting is a self-contained world where nothing the addicts do will affect the world outside of their own circle, it is not a film which lends itself to sequels.

The film follows up with Renton (Ewan Mcgreggor), twenty years after leaving Edinburgh, coming back home and reuniting with his old group as a clean man. Robert Carlyle’s Begbie is in prison, Sick Boy (Jonny Lee Miller) is extorting money and running a pub and Spud (Ewen Bremmer) is still living the life of a junky. Renton teams back up with Sick Boy in a scheme to turn his pub into a spa/ brothel but there are still tensions in the group regarding his betrayal of the group at the end of the first film. This leads to chase scenes (like in the first film), bar brawls (like in the first film) and the group being terrified of a murderous Begbie (like in the first film)

This is all to be expected, as I said, the sequel is a strange beast. Things must be revisited otherwise it is just another film with the same characters in. Trainspotting 2 revisits the events of the first in an interesting way, it contains almost all the same events only shuffled about and recreated in a different light. A friend described the film as a remix of the first, this rings true when you look at the structure. It’s not hard to imagine the first film plotted out on post-it notes, them being randomly jumbled into a new order and the story of the second being fleshed out around that skeleton.

The film when looked at on its own merits is wonderfully funny, colourful and vibrant. It makes the most of dramatic lighting and shadows, one scene of Spud holed up going cold turkey makes particularly good use of shadows to demonstrate torment. The neon green light that seems to follow Sick Boy around amplifies the constant expressions of disgust that plagues his face. The film is constantly placing characters within interesting frames and filming them from odd angles, close-ups and canted angles galore. It’s jarring and a bit overused but for the most part it works. However, it does seem as if the film is trying too hard at some points to replicate the effects of the world bending of the first. One scene of a coke fuelled football argument is inspired and creative but the film does not revisit the reality bending with the same passion again, making it seem as if a scene left over from the first film rather than a cohesive piece of T2.

Trainspotting 2 is an uneven film that leans a little too heavily on the goofy side. The original was a dark comedy with moments of surreal horror (you know what scene I’m referencing), the sequel is almost entirely comical, and there are no real moments that stun or creep out. This could be due to the lack of heroin use in the film, something which was a cornerstone of the first is absent from the second. On many occasions the film does well to establish drama only to have it fizzle away into nothingness, the apparent resentment between Renton and Sick Boy never really pays off after having a lot of time spent on it, Spud’s recovery is glanced over and Sick Boy’s cocaine habit is just background noise. Potentially affecting moments are sacrificed for comedy a little too often and the dynamic of the group remains unchanged for the most part. It is a little too self-indulgent in its praise and reverence for its forebear, the fact that the film ends on a recreation of a shot from the first shows how little the filmmakers believed this film would have any impact.

Recommendation

A sequel is a sequel and it cannot avoid its fate, they will almost always be lesser when they ride the wave of the original and T2 is guilty of this. Yet it performs admirably considering the wealth of factors working against it. It is, on the hole, a laugh out loud story filled with likeable characters featuring well written dialogue and constantly interesting cinematography.

Trainspotting is a modern classic. T2 is a good film, a solid sequel and an enjoyable comedy. Ultimately it inherited the humour and characters of the first, but not the punch.