I sat at the end of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2, watching the credits scroll by and waiting for the bonus scenes. I glanced at my friend and he had the same puzzled expression that I did. He asked, “What did you think?” I replied, “I’m going to have to process this.”

And process it I have. My friend and I discussed our mixed feelings about the movie all the way to our homes. I realized that something was really bothering me about the movie and I made two crucial thoughts on that ride.

First, I had the distinct impression that the producers/writers/director had surveyed all of the most popular Marvel movies to date, cataloged all the most successful scenes, and developed a formula for what they thought would be the perfect Marvel movie. Then they proceeded to make GotGv2 using that formula.

Second, with the issue of escalation an all too real problem in Hollywood, especially with on-going franchises, I had a sneaking suspicion that I just watched Marvel “jump the shark.”

If you’re not familiar with that term, let me explain. It comes from a 1977 episode of Happy Days, where Fonzie proves his bravery by water skiing and ramps over a shark…all while wearing his trademark leather jacket. The term has come to refer to an instance in any TV show or recurring franchise when the show presents something utterly absurd for the sake of novelty and ratings. It’s what ultimately happens through escalation, where there’s constant pressure to “raise the stakes” in story telling. And the writers are beginning to run out of ideas.

Speaking of pressure to raise the stakes, that’s also typical of any sequel. Producers feel pressured to top the first one, bring back all of the audience’s favorite gags, but also try to force in a better sense of artistry than they did before. Often sequels crash and burn because of it. This movie could have just been a typical sequel.

So did Guardians of the Galaxy 2 jump the shark? Let me give you some of my observations:

  1. Too many layers. Every character has some kind of emotional conflict/back story and subtext that they are trying to resolve. EVERY. CHARACTER. It was just too much to keep up with. Which leads into the next point…
  2. None of those layers were executed well. Sure, if they’d stuck to one or two there would have been screen time enough for proper development. But this movie has seven or eight. Let that sink in a moment. The audience is expected to emotionally connect on the subtext of seven or eight character journeys.
  3. The formula. Remember I mentioned it felt formulaic? That’s because it did. Go cherry pick the best bits of your favorite Marvel movies and there’s probably an equivalent somewhere in this one.
  4. While we’re at it, let me repeat my other previously mentioned thoughts: pressure to raise the stakes and typical sequel problems.
  5. Weak overall plot. The whole adventure felt very forced. From the absurd opening antagonists that wouldn’t go away for the whole movie, to the primary antagonist that felt like he just showed up and said, “Hey! Let me be the bad guy!” All the different character layers, escalated stakes, forced antagonists, and horrid excuse for an inciting incident, made the plot disjointed and confusing.
  6. babygrootBaby Groot. I think the producers knew about everything I’ve already said. They knew the script had major problems. So they tried to disguise it with Baby Groot. Because who could hate a movie with Baby Groot? Don’t fall for it. It’s a sleight-of-hand gag.
  7. But Baby Groot wasn’t the only funny thing. Everything was funny. It was almost like watching a Saturday Night Live sketch. Every shtick and cliche they could find to play for a laugh, they did. Thirty seconds of screen time could hardly pass without some attempt at a joke.

But the moment that made me think they “jumped the shark” can be summed up in one word. Pacman. If you’ve seen the movie, you know what I’m talking about. That moment was just one absurdity too much.

Bottom line, this movie felt like a money-making scam. Throw some special effects and a cute Baby Groot at the audience, play up every possible joke you can, and they’ll pay to come by the score…so why waste money on good writing?

I really wanted to like this movie. Instead, I feel like I just witnessed the beginning of the end for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I say that, because I have a horrible feeling that Thor: Ragnarok is going to be exactly the same as this.

I’m still hoping that SpidermanHomecoming will redeem Marvel for me this summer. Fingers-crossed…


(Now you may commence bashing me.)

4 Responses

  1. Good thoughts here, Oliver, and I can’t say I disagree. I am going to proceed here with a comment containing SPOILERS, so if you don’t want to have the core of the movie disclosed to you, don’t read on.

    SPOILERS BELOW, you have been warned.

    I am a comic book movie fan, but I don’t read comics. Yes, I’m one of those. What I began scratching my head about was primarily the messaging behind the main plot between Peter and Ego. Now, I don’t know if the relationship as it was portrayed in the film was drawn from the Marvel source material in the comics or a Disney/Marvel construct in 21st century writing. Maybe the source doesn’t matter. But I truly felt the movie was pushing the whole “redefinition of family” notion that crops up fairly often in Disney’s offerings. There was also a degree of teardown of father figures. I am finding this constant refrain in movies really tiresome, to say the least. Not to mention, the character Peter eventually ends up defining as “Dad” is one who had a long history of what would be characterized as abusive behavior. Granted, I’m not one to discount the redemptive quality of a sacrificial act, like this particular character chose, but if people get their panties in a wad over the fact that Belle chooses the Beast after he “abuses” her most of the story, those same people should probably pitch a fit about Starlord’s assignment of “Dad” to a character with an abusive history.

    But then, everyone in GotG abuse each other, so there’s that.

    I’ve discovered I am very easily distracted by the eye candy of adventure/sci-fi/fantasy movies, but then when I sit and process, I start to find the places where the writing doesn’t hold up.

    And, once again, the Marvel Cinematic Universe fails to deliver a satisfying villain. I mean, what villain with half a brain leaves the cohorts of his target unsupervised to simply blunder into the evidence of his dastardly plans? Or allows the one character who knows all the Important Bad Things to form an alliance with the Band of Cohorts? Even if phenomenal cosmic power leads to blinding confidence, it makes for unsatisfying conflict resolution. Dumb villains prevent the audience from ever really feeling the odds are against the heroes.

    This comment is growing to epic length, so I’ll stop there before I begin to sound like I hated this movie. I really didn’t, while I was inside the spectacle.

    1. I didn’t even begin to do the deeper level analyzing of meaning and themes! I stopped once I saw all the issues at the surface level. Good thoughts here! I agree! It’s nice to know some people were actually watching the same movie I was.

  2. I just watched it last night, and to be honest, it was fun, flashy, and I enjoyed the throwbacks the most. The Pacman moment made me very happy in the moment, but then, I wasn’t expecting anything serious from the movie. I sort of went into it thinking it would be silly, and that it was. I’m also not a Marvel comics expert, and know nothing about Guardians, so maybe I shouldn’t even be commenting. *shrugs*
    I do completely agree with you on points 1,3, and especially 7. That last one bothered me the most throughout the movie. If there’s a thing as too much banter, they achieved it in this film.
    All I can say is I had far more emotion invested in The Last Jedi trailer than I did for the entirety of Guardians 2. If Disney were to pull what they did here with TLJ in December, I’d definitely be unhappy.

    1. Fun and flashy. That about sums it up. But fun and flashy does not equal a well written story, and a well written story can also be fun and flashy. I think they worked backwards when writing the script. Instead of starting with a solid script foundation and then building the GotG sensibility we all love, they started with the shtick of it all and then simply gave them something to do while making jokes. As for TLJ, I don’t think Abrams would let that happen.

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