Thursday, June 1, 2017


Welcome to another installment of SIDE BY SIDE, where we dissect the differences and similarities between two films, be it a remake/reboot with its original, a sequel with its original, or two similar movies. This week we’ll be taking a look at a the biggest hit so far this summer and its predecessor…..GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY and GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2.

The two Guardians of the Galaxy films were directed by James Gunn and represent fascinating explorations into some of the weirdest corners of the Marvel Universe. These films represent, in many ways, the culmination of nerd culture’s ascension into the mainstream as many things that would be unimaginable just ten years ago are played loudly and proudly and are enjoyed by thousands and thousands of people. I will do this review by discussing both films and offering some wrap up comparison’s at the end.

The first Guardians of the Galaxy was released in the summer of 2014 and starred Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Michael Rooker, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Karen Gillen, John C. Reilly, Glen Close, and Lee Pace. No one really knew what to expect from this film. It took some of the most obscure Marvel comics characters and put them center stage and was written and directed by a guy who had done nothing remotely on the scale of this film. It wound up being a massive hit, and rightly so. This is my third favorite Marvel Cinematic Universe film and, frankly, one of my favorite comic books generally.

This film does almost everything right. It is a gorgeous film to look at. It is relentlessly funny and clever. It has one of the best soundtracks in movie history. It introduces a plethora of characters and makes them all very real and relatable. From a human, to an alien, to a raccoon, and even a tree, this film makes you connect with characters in ways a lesser film never could.

I really think all the strengths of this came from James Gunn’s passion behind the project. He truly brought a vision to this film that bubbled to the surface in a spectacular way. Yes, this film still has the Feige-regime influence, but it truly feels auteur in all the right ways within that. It is so enjoyable to see how this film lands and it is why it is one of the best.

I have almost no complaints with Guardians of the Galaxy. I do think the Thanos material was a little bit superfluous but it never took away from my experience. I also think that the “moment” in the final confrontation with the villain in this film was incredibly ridiculous and did bother me.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is, naturally, the sequel to Guardians of the Galaxy and the fifteenth film in the Marvel canon. This film has us meet up with the beloved Guardians team several months after the events of the original as they settle into their roles on the team and take on odd jobs for money. In addition to the returning cast from the original, this film introduced Pom Klementieff as Mantis and Kurt Russel as Ego the Living Planet.

I really enjoyed this film. I was very drawn to all the improvements that seemed to be made in this film. Gunn’s choice to make this more of a character story than a proto-action film was bold and really effective. This film also has many moments that really enhanced my understanding of these characters and this world and made me appreciate the cosmic side of the universe even more than I already did. That said, this movie is far from perfect and didn’t live up to the legacy that the original film left.

What this movie did really well was understand its characters and advance each of their stories in meaningful ways. The thematic elements that underlie much of this film were brilliantly constructed and play on the emotions of the audience in spectacular fashion. I really thought the family dynamic that they show off in this film was clever and the actors brought it across the board. The film is also the most gorgeous movie Marvel has ever made. The new camera was definitely noticeable, but the color correction and visual effects also stood out. Honestly, this is one of the most beautiful looking science fiction films in recent memory. There is one specific close up of Rocket Raccoon that literally caused my jaw to drop.

The movie isn’t perfect, however. The biggest issue it had was overdoing it with the humor. There were several jokes that were used to punctuate moments in the film that just fell flat. They really doubled down on the humor they had with Drax in the first film which had some positive results but also led to a lot of moments that were really undesirable. I also felt that the “villainous” Sovereign were kind of a bad plot device. They really didn’t offer much and never had a compelling moment in the story. They set up some things for the future but really didn’t need to be here otherwise.

Overall, I think what James Gunn and the team at Marvel have done with both these films is incredibly impressive. The absolutely brilliant focus on character in both stories and making the weird elements of comics a ride filled with fun for everyone is extremely impressive. These are definitely two of the stronger films in the Marvel canon, and two of the strongest comic book films in general that are worthy of being checked out as soon as you can if you haven’t!

Ryan’s Scores:
Guardians of the Galaxy: 9/10
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2: 8/10

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