We all know what Forest Gump said about a box filled with chocolates. But what he didn’t tell us is that sometimes, even after eating that disgusting coffee drop and evicting the sweet caramel from our mouths – the flavor most memorable is always “gesture.” The idea that someone out there was kind enough to share such a thoughtful treat, despite it being riddled with both pleasant confectioneries and bitter bonbons. It’s hard to hate that. And it’s hard to hate this movie too, regardless of the tacky packaging.
The anime styled friendship power-up that ended the first film was polarising for many, myself included. You had a movie which set itself up as a funky, wild, don’t-think-too-much space opera but when the finale finagled the characters to victory via a dance-off, it was hard not to turn left and check if anyone else looked as confused as you did. In my case, the person next to me was spanking their kneecaps in passionate laughter, loudly suggesting that not everyone found it as distracting as I did. Guardians Vol. 2 seems to be conscious of its previous end sequence being a massive hit or miss in the comedic department. So in its bold response, the movie does the unthinkable by lacing the whole 2+ hours with nothing but wisecracks and buffoonery! And you know what… even though it annoyed the heck out of me at times, I don’t know if I’m all the way mad at that.
The ambition of the movie is made clear from the beginning, blasting out the gates riding an intro with enough pizazz to be the outro to the third act. Although some of the CG used here was a little distracting and the stylistic approach literally danced on the precipice of cringeworthy, everything else was pretty enough to almost make me regret seeing it in 2D. Almost. (I’m really not a 3D guy.) Where the first adventure was just a medium sized cake with some vanilla and strawberry in the centre, this time we’re served a jumbo double chocolate fudge monster that’s guaranteed to inflict diabetes.
With double the characters, double the action and double the plotlines, it’s fair to conclude that there’s a lot going on here. Not always to its advantage though. At times, the messy experience creates a smokescreen making it tricky to pinpoint the main narrative of the movie. You know, like that light bulb that goes off in your head during the first 20 minutes that kindly informs you “oh, this film is about coconut flavored brownies. Got it!”. I can’t say if I had that moment with this and if I did, it was well beyond the first hour.
That being said, it’s difficult to care too much about being lost in the jungle when your travel buddies are so fun to be with. Comedy is clearly the beating heart of this series, as is the unique visual style and use of music as a very clear and intentional motif. The awkward to navigate forest suddenly transforms into a theme park made from candy floss of every variant. These are the ingredients which allow Guardians to separate itself from every other superhero flick both in and out of Marvel Studios.
Yet in almost in poetic fashion, the movie chokes on its own pleasantries at times. Many of the laugh attempts ranged from almost funny to tragically unfunny. And it’s not necessarily the gags themselves that don’t work but rather the placement of them or their duration. There was one joke that dragged on for so long and was so ineffective that it baffled me as to how it made its way into the final cut. I can confidently say without fear of retribution that I’ve never been yanked out of my immersion so many times in one sitting. I’m talking literal yo-yo status. One second I’m there, I’m spinning, I’m yo-yo-ing around and then *thwip!* I’m totally out of my seat and facepalming at the joke responsible.
The final fight was easily the worst offender. There’s no way I didn’t have the conceited face on when I saw what I saw in the midst of a very serious battle where the fate of the universe was at risk. There’s also an unsettling amount of pop culture talking points that step on the edge machine a little too much. The kind of stuff that really tarnishes moments that are supposed to be warm and sentimental. Going into it in detail would be spoilerific but you’ll know it when you see it.
With all this in mind, we must return to my Forest Gump comparison. Despite there being a memorable amount of sour moments, the end of this movie managed to pull the heart strings in a way that was a little shocking given its pedigree. The scale of everything, the number of characters introduced, the loss, the development, the growth, the meaning – there’s so much content given in one sitting that when it all comes to an end in the way it does, it’s hard to not walk away with a smile after rubbing your eye to stop a tear from falling. Trust me, there are enough gut punches here to make the hardest of humans feel soft. And this is all accomplished whilst setting up the next movie and introducing a whole new set of characters at the same time. Characters that I have a real interest in seeing more of.
In the name of chocolate comparisons and Tom Hanks, I have one more parallel that can rightfully summarise the experience for anyone who is on the fence. I’ve attended quite a few dance battles, particularly breakdance events. And when watching b-boys go at it, there’s often a recurring theme. They’ll go into their top rock before hitting the ground for some floor work, which is where you may notice a little turbulence, assuming they’re not the super talented demi-god breakers that care not for the laws of physics.
They might not have the best musicality or they might not have the core body strength to completely finish that flashy move they’ve been training to do for so long. But in the end, they manage to land a sick freeze, hold it for a few seconds before returning to their feet with a stylish stance. There’s a gentle head nod of approval that I always do when this happens. And like magic, the shakiness of the performance is usually forgotten and all I remember is the smooth ending. Makes me want to buy’em a box of chocolates.