This movie has balls.
The soundtrack to the Guardians of the Galaxy movies are probably the reason I’ll end up buying a Vinyl player.
Guardians of the Galaxy was definitely one of the better movies of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Phase 2 series of films. It was unique, it was funny, the characters were instantly likable and even if the plot served more to add context to the MCU’s overarching story and it suffered from the MCU’s patented boring villain, it was still engaging enough to be memorable.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 delivers on the comedy. It’s the same characters that we’ve come to know and love doing what they do best: save the galaxy while having to deal with each other. This time around, there’s a bigger emphasis on them actually working together as a team. With this comes the realization that this time around, the focus is on the relationships between the characters than them saving the galaxy.
Peter Quill finally meets his father, Gamora and her sister Nebula have to deal with each other after their plot line was left up in the air in the last movie, Rocket and Groot wind up with Yondu after a series of events, even Drax has moments with Mantis. Every character has a clearly defined arc and development to the point where I realized that this was what I was supposed to be focusing on, not the overarching plot.
Sure, there’s a galactic threat that needs to be stopped by the Guardians but at the same time, you’re not watching it for that. In fact, for the most part, I wasn’t waiting to see what happened next, I was sitting there waiting for the turn of events that kicks off the climax. There’s no sense of rising action, for the most part; of the stakes getting higher and higher.
Having said that, I liked this movie more than the first one because of it’s emphasis on the character’s emotions and their relationships. In the first movie, they had to learn how to work as a team to finish the mission. In this movie, they actually have to learn how to live as a family together. There is actual growth going on and it’s a pleasure to actually see them grow closer through all the trials and tribulations. Though certain story beats are predictable, some are not and actually took me off guard. The more we learn about the characters, the more we realize that those moments shouldn’t have surprised you because they were absolutely in character.
It’s a rarity in the MCU where the sequel is just as good and better than the first one. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is just as charming, just as heartfelt and just as funny as its predecessor. It’s focus on the characters emotions and their relationships is a wonderful way to spice up the series and to make sure it doesn’t grow stale. As it stands, it is currently one of the best movies of Phase 3, if not the best.
Star Trek: Beyond, directed by Justin Lin (Fast Five), is the third movie in the rebooted Star Trek movie series. In it, the crew of the Enterprise (with Chris Pine as Kirk, Zachary Quinto as Spock, Karl Urban as Bones, Zoe Saldana as Uhura, John Cho as Sulu, Simon Pegg as Scottie, and Anton Yelchin as Chekov (R.I.P)) is shot down on a remote planet and must survive together in order to combat a new alien threat.
Surprisingly, that’s not all the movie’s about. Kirk has become disillusioned after three years in deep space and wonders if he should continue being the captain of the Enterprise. Spock has received news that Ambassador Spock as died (R.I.P. Leonard Nimoy) and wonders at his own future at Star Fleet. The common theme is that the crew is beginning to wonder about their own future. Not only does this help round out the characters (by actually letting them be characters with their own wants and dreams), but I couldn’t help but feel that this feeling might be directed at the franchise as a whole.
I’ve always felt the Star Trek Reboot series (or maybe its the Alternate Star Trek series?) has always suffered from identity issues. Star Trek Into Darkness has always felt like a Star Wars movie and not a Star Trek movie. I can understand that when adapting a long-running TV show to a movie, things can get lost in the process. Star Trek is definitely more cerebral, with a more moralizing approach to the story and characters. This works fine for a TV show when you have the time to do that, but for a movie, time is limited. That said, I feel like Star Trek: Beyond is the first movie in the franchise that actually feels like a Star Trek movie.
The focus is entirely on the crew of the enterprise, making this the first movie in the series that features an ensemble cast. Whereas in previous movies where the main focus has been on Kirk and Spock, this time every character has a chance to shine and is integral to the story. You get to see how different members of the crew interact with each other when in previous iterations, they’ve never really shared much screen time. It’s a refreshing take and one that works for the best.
All of this wouldn’t even be possible without the direction of Justin Lin, who I had originally had doubts about. With a track record that mainly seemed to comprise mainly of the Fast and the Furious franchise (I’ve only seen the first one so I’m not going to make any comment on if they’re any good or not), it didn’t seem like he would be able to tackle franchise that is more…subtle than a movie about cars. Fortunately, I was wrong and was pleased to see that Justin Lin didn’t just copy J.J. Abrams. The imagery is simply astounding and definitely one of highlights of the movie.
All of this leads back to what I said before about questioning the future. It always seemed to me that Star Trek has had an identity crisis. Star Trek Into Darkness was basically just a rehash of Wrath of Kahn with 9/11 undertones. And now, Star Trek: Beyond asks where do we go from here? What else is there? Showing that they have fully stepped away from the previous generations of films and created a story that can stand on its own as one of the best basically says, we are now moving forward and leaving the past behind them. This is the main reason why I feel like this film is the first one that feels like how a Star Trek movie should be. Maybe I was looking too deeply into it but I can’t deny what I saw and felt while watching it. And what I saw was a great ride from start to finish.