Someone Is Wrong on the Internet: Guardians 2 Is As Good As GOTG 1 and Wonder Woman 4 comments

Certainly the oldest reason for communication was, well, to communicate. But the second oldest reason for communicating was undoubtedly to tell that first communicator they were wrong (possibly connected to the birth of the first critic).

And in that honored tradition of contradicting someone else, I’m introducing another form of debate hereabouts: Someone Is Wrong on the Internet. Why? Because I’m an egotistical human that has to be right? Because I love tilting against windmills? Because I’m a fan of the XKCD comic where I am, umm, borrowing this line from?

Sure, throw them all my way. But more than that, I’m going to argue for things that are actually pretty good, but people seem to be missing the boat on (critics, the internet-water-cooler zeitgeist, what have you). As a creator who is trying to get my foot in the door (and boy, does that door not like to open), this is another way for me to throw some encouragement to people out there who are creating. We need all the cheerleading we can get.

So here we go with “Someone Is Wrong on the Internet: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is as good as the first GotG and Wonder Woman.”

Somehow, via the Rotten Tomatoes aggregator, Guardians 2 is at 81% (71% for the so-called top critics), versus 91% for the other two. When you dig in more between the first and the second Guardians movies, reviewers are finding the second almost as fun but not as “fresh” as the first.

This is boggling to me. The second movie takes what worked in the first movie and does it even better, fixing some flaws along the way. The first movie is great fun, but it has the blandest of bland villains that hardly gets any setup or explanation: me angry alien terrorist! me no like peace treaties! smash! Whereas the villains of Guardians 2 are given such crazy things as depth, setup, and motivation, not to mention a real connection to the Guardians and their own issues.

The first movie also had problems with what I like to call “planet subtitle hopscotch” (not unlike the otherwise great Rogue One from this winter). Throw all the digs you want against George Lucas, but even with the prequels, the guy knew how to integrate a new location into the storyline seamlessly (and for it to stand out visually from the rest). There’s a bit of this problem earlier on in Guardians 2, but then it gets its act together.

And then there’s the soundtrack. I love the opening of the first movie, with Peter Quill dancing through a ruined city (and kicking space rats) to the head-bopping rhythm of “Come Get Your Love.” But the second movie easily tops that with its opening “Mr. Blue Sky” and baby Groot dancing sequence. From there, the rest of the songs work better as a unit, somehow even serving  as a fun commentary or contrast to the action at the time. That is not an easy thing to do, but the movie does it. Can you picture a better song than “My Sweet Lord” to introduce a god-planet and its potential issues? Or a song better than “Father and Son” for the movie’s final scenes?

The fairest criticism I can see of Guardians 2 is that it hits on its themes of family a little strenuously, which I can understand to a point, as there are some moments that are a little in your face with it. But even then, there are issues with this critique. Christopher Orr over at The Atlantic claimed the movie “pedantically” explains how the song “Brandy” ties in with the movie’s themes, but wow, is that ever a misread. One, not everyone may be aware of the lyrics to “Brandy” (I wasn’t really before hearing it in this movie), and two, Ego is using the lyrics to explain and justify his actions. He co-opts the song (anyone notice the song’s title is “Brandy,” not “The Sailor?”) for his own purposes! Rather than being detrimental, it’s an excellent scene, and reveals quite a bit about Ego’s character—much less pedantically than his name does!

Guardians 2 is every bit as good as its predecessor, if not better (hold me to the first part, of you don’t agree with the latter). Both have reasons they’re just shy of perfect, but they’re still quite good and a needed breath of fresh air in the crowded comic book movie/action movie sphere.

As for Wonder Woman, it’s high praise to say Guardians 2 is its equal. I’ve never really had a big connection to the character, with her sometimes feeling like a female Superman: really strong but kind of blandly good, etc. That’s partially my lack of interaction with her comics, but also a shortcoming of the classic TV show and her presentation on the DC cartoons I’ve seen. We’ve at least had some good Superman movies to give depth to Clark Kent.

Wonder Woman certainly takes care of that issue—Gal Godot is sublime as Diana. I loved her enthusiasm, I loved her “I’m going to do what I’m told not to” approach to just about everything, and I loved how genuinely, warmly kind she was. At one point in the film she smiles and asks a character what they would do without his singing (if he left), and I have to say that was one of the most beautiful, caring, and honest smiles I have ever seen. It is good for the soul to see someone smile like that and mean it that much. People talk about how hard it supposedly is to write and act good people (which I quibble with), but I would say Godot’s Diana is up there with Chris Evans’s Steve Rogers, if not beyond, and that’s saying something.

I’d also say the first 80-90% of the movie works extremely well (though I could do without the preface and epilogue—we know it relates to the rest of the DC universe without these). Sure, some things randomly happen, with Diana and Steve Trevor somehow sailing from what seems to be the eastern Mediterranean to London overnight, etc., but they’re small problems.

The real issue is with the generic, climactic confrontation at the end, which somehow just doesn’t work. It should, with how interesting the rest of the action in the movie is (particularly the WWI trench sequence), but the movie doesn’t know if it wants another big fight or to explore the themes and ideas it’s set up so well. I think they had the right casting choice for the big bad if they had focused on the latter and wrote the big bad’s actions and dialogue accordingly, but they didn’t.

What Wonder Woman needed was something similar to the ending of The Dark Knight. There’s good action in that movie’s ending, but what’s really at stake is Batman’s view of mankind versus the Joker’s, with both sides memorably and clearly delineated. Something similar could have been done with Wonder Woman, as the first 3/4 of the movie puts the right ideas on board to accomplish this, but then the movie rather haphazardly follows through on them, squashing them in around a forgettable CG fest with ponderous dialogue.

So where does that leave us? On the one hand, we’re seeing yet again how Guardians 2 is at least on par with a movie that’s been reviewed well ahead of it. I could also argue that Guardians 2 doesn’t have any major issues like Wonder Woman’s finale, which makes it objectively better as a movie, But on the other hand, I am willing to concede that Wonder Woman may be a more important movie, given how reluctant Marvel and other studios have been to focus solely on a female character/superhero. It’s asinine that this is still an issue somehow, but let’s face it, it is. We had men up in arms at a women’s only screening of Wonder Woman, like they couldn’t just go to some other showtime or there haven’t been men’s only clubs and governments for centuries.

It’s not for the first time, certainly, but Wonder Woman reminds us that female characters and female superheroes can and should carry their own weight, and for that, I’m willing for it to defeat the contention of my first Someone Is Wrong on the Internet. Somehow, it only seems right.

4 thoughts on “Someone Is Wrong on the Internet: Guardians 2 Is As Good As GOTG 1 and Wonder Woman

  • Nicholas

    I loved Wonder Woman up until that final confrontation. It was absolutely solid, and kept its big heart on its sleeve without ever seeming trite or overly sentimental. The dialogue, characters and interaction and action all worked. Then that big CGI fight happened, and it was like someone had changed the channel to Batman v Superman. It doesn’t make me dislike the film, but this could have been an undisputed classic of the genre, and instead, is just merely very good.
    GOTG 2 was incredible. You are not wrong on the Internet in saying that it does everything better than the original. Of course a further adventure with a group of characters is not going to contain the same feeling as an introduction to those characters–that criticism is so asinine! The villain was far better realized. While I loved that the Guardians find unity in that final hand-holding moment of the first, the second explores that to a much greater depth with a villain perfectly designed to contrast that–who better to show the importance of this makeshift family than ACTUAL FAMILY. I mean, do these critics do things like indite a banana because, “It’s too on the nose. I mean, it’s like your meant to just peel it and eat it. What gives?”
    My family has loved both GOTG movies, and it seemed like 2 was favored overall. Can’t wait for the third one. And a second Wonder Woman movie (also Loup-family approved), which can, like GOTG 2, iron out the small flaws of the first.

    • Neal Post author

      What I’m really struck by with Wonder Woman’s ending is how close it is to doing what it needs to. I was a bit over hasty in posting this and edited and revised some things after questions Jessica had. The difference in philosophy is there and even talked about, but it’s so haphazard. That Dark Knight analogy (or even the fifth Harry Potter film, when Voldemort possesses Harry) really helped explain it for me, when I thought of it. You KNOW what the Joker and Batman represent, and the movie let’s you focus on those philosophies without throwing a bunch of other stuff in your way.

      I’m not 100% on what I would have done different, but I thought the big bad’s use of the Lasso to show Diana past events was really interesting, and actually would have been a great way for him to show how evil humanity is (and to let the movie pause again to focus on the stakes, rather than throwing two CG bodies at each other again). So Diana could see Dr. Poison or whatever her name is, dancing with glee as men are dying thanks to her poison, a stronger visual reminder of the village that was gassed, maybe even the Scotsman when he was actually sniping someone (or something along those lines). We just don’t feel it as strongly as we should, even when Diana gets the chance to kill the doctor. I’m not saying we aren’t aware of what’s at stake there, it’s just not done as well as it should, and it’s even more noticeable when the rest of the movie is so well put together.

      As for Guardians, I don’t know if you looked much at the review in the Atlantic, but Christopher Orr actually said “one of the drawbacks of the sequel is that it has a plot at all.” He at least acknowledges it’s a “strange complaint,” but I wanted to look at him over the top of my glasses and raise my eyebrows. He preferred the looseness of the first and its assortment of random episodes. I’d argue that they worked for a movie about “getting the band together,” but even then, they had issues, as I noted in my blog. That looseness really would not have worked for an established group like you have in the second movie. You need to dig deeper, and the second movie does that quite well. I swear, if they had done what he said, he’d probably be complaining that it tried to recycle the first movie too much, or something. Critics.

      But yes, here’s to more Guardians and Wonder Woman, improving on what they have done already!

      • Nicholas

        Your comparison to the end of the Order of the Phoenix is quite interesting, and very apt. I’ll be completely honest and admit (again) that the possession scene makes me weep like a big baby every time I watch it. The intense juxtaposition of Harry and Voldemort makes the difference between them so striking. It’s–and I’ll fight anyone who disagrees with me, and is therefore WRONG on the Internet–the most powerful moment, and high point of that entire series of films. There is a huge opportunity at the end of Wonder Woman to do something similar, better highlighting the threat to Diana’s purity. I admit, I got a chill the moment the movie reveals that, yes, Ares is indeed real–just like that moment at the end of Order of the Phoenix where a gobsmacked Fudge spits out “He’s back!?” At that moment, the movie could have really dug into Diana’s temptation to just say “screw humanity,” as opposed to fighting for them. It could have done this in a more metaphysical way, too, just like Potter did (if you watched Fringe, one of the last episodes of the series has a similar scene). Instead, that’s sort of given lip service, as two collections of pixels throw pixels at one another. The great thing about the end of that Harry Potter film is that it has its magnificent duel, the physical battle (just like Diana’s fight with the general, after which she discovers, to her dismay, that the war is still on), then moves into the spiritual battle, which is shockingly far more intense. Wonder Woman could have tried to swing for the fences and done something similar to OOTF, but all of the DC movies have had a giant, fiery battle to end with, and unfortunately the film chose that exact moment to stop bucking the trends.
        Christopher Orr is very, very WRONG on the Internet.

  • Neal Post author

    Yes, Fringe does this as well, if I’m thinking of the episode you are: using the enemy’s methods against them?That’s such a good show. We watched it through on Netflix two or so years ago and loved it. I think I’d be up for watching it through again, as it really is so good. I think all the comparisons we are coming up with do what Wonder Woman doesn’t do strongly enough, which is to show the choices strongly enough on the screen. I know they could only go so grim, but that gassed village really was handled with kid’s gloves for Diana, when it needed a Schindler’s List “red coat” moment at the very least, or something along those lines. So close, yet so far.

    I think I’d agree with you on that moment in the Potter films, as it always hits me right where it needs to (it definitely hits close home to me personally as well, much as Edmund’s choices in Lion, Witch, and Wardrobe do). I haven’t seen the sixth and 2 seventh movies as much as the first five, but I think it’s a for sure agreement.

    The emotional high point in the the books for me, though, is undoubtedly when Harry goes to meet Voldemort in the forest, and he knows he’s going to die. That whole sequence hits me really hard, up around where LOTR’s final chapter at the Grey Havens does.

    Yeah, Christopher Orr is a bit all over in his reviews, and this is definitely one of the ones I disagree with quite a bit. You kind of have to find a reviewer that matches your view of things to get the most help from them, to my mind, but for someone that reviews for such a big publication, I am left scratching my head sometimes. They don’t seem to be noted much on the internet, but the conglomeration of reviewers at Ebert’s site comes closest to Roger Ebert himself for me (and even then, some of his reviews, like for Thor, made me wonder if he saw the same movie). I sometimes click with Colin Covert at the Star Tribune, but he can be a little over the top and salesy at times with his phrasing (like he wants to be in a blurb, but I don’t think he’s aiming for that).

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