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.