Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 hits the action-comedy sweet spot

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Columnist This past weekend, for the first time in at least a month, I went to the movie theater. The film in question was Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, which was released on Thursday. The follow-up to 2014’s first entry into the series was hotly anticipated, so naturally I was inclined to see it for investigative purposes. What made the first film so unique and quirky was largely amped up the second time around. As an adventure movie with a cast of characters who like to crack jokes and hurl insults, Vol. 2 could pass as a comedy. The same can be said for the other niche aspects of the film series that have become ubiquitous in many forms of media since the introduction of the series. Pop culture references and heavy doses of nostalgia abound. Same with gross-out scenes and bright, complex environments. The movie really turns up all the things that worked about the first, mostly to the detriment of the overall plot. Yet somehow, Vol. 2 still works. Guardians’ of the Galaxy’s overall influence is much more palpable in other films as well. In the theater, one of the films previewed was the also-Marvel-sequel for Thor, which was packed with neon colors, wisecracking, and a Led Zeppelin soundtrack. Ditto for Justice League and Spiderman. What I mean to say is that it appears that the Guardians series has set the tone for future waves of blockbusters and sci-fi movies. For a film rife with throwbacks, we live in the era of reboots and sequels. The third Star Wars movie in as many years comes out in December. Blade Runner is getting a sequel, and the same can be said for other franchises like Alien. But now, the content of these movies consists of throwbacks as well. Musically, visually, and in tone. We don’t exactly live in the 2010s, at least as far as our media goes. We live in the 1980’s part III: The. That’s not to say that it’s a bad thing, necessarily. Most of these new movies are enjoyable, if watered-down. Recently, I also watched the first two Matrix movies for the first time. They are an exact time capsule of the late 90s/early 2000s. Because those movies were so influential and important for their time, other movies fell into place to fit the mold, which is why everyone was dressed in all-black, fighting computers and wearing sleek sunglasses. Similar hits of the time (at least on a scale of blockbusters) had the same sort of aesthetic, in addition to paving the way for the CGI-heavy flicks we are treated to at the box office now. All this is to say that periods of time (on film) can be encapsulated by a handful of directorial decisions. Just as The Matrix blazed trails 20 years ago, Guardians does today. In the times of rapid computerization, Y2K, and internet proliferation, the Matrix reflects its era quite effectively. The same is true of Guardians. In today’s era of digital nostalgia and constant meme humor, inside jokes are the key to audiences. Mainstream movies continue to try to be lighthearted, and as comedy blockbusters seem to have fallen by the wayside (the last good one was probably Neighbors), humor has to find its way into superhero movies and animated ones. Guardians Vol. 2, splits the difference, halfway between Deadpool and Finding Dory.

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