Back in 2014, the world was shocked to find itself entertained by a hard sci-fi comic book movie with a main cast that featured a talking raccoon and a giant tree. Three years later, audiences eagerly anticipated the sequel to that film and here we are, talking about Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. But does the second film live up to the expectations set by the first?
Guardians Vol. 2 opens on the team, composed of Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax (Dave Bautista), Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) and Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel), facing off against a pink, undulating, multi-tentacled creature at the behest of a race of beings called the Sovereign. It’s a fun scene that helps set the tone of the film and reminds audiences that they’re in for a good time.
The casting of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is definitely one of the films’ strong points. In addition to our core line-up, we are introduced to a few new characters. The first is Ego, played masterfully by Kurt Russell. We learn that Ego is Star-Lord’s father (not a spoiler) and wants to reconnect with his son (possibly a spoiler, if you couldn’t have deduced that yourself). Russell has such a great on-screen presence that he’s a joy to watch as Ego. He exudes charm in such a way that you believe him to be Star-Lord’s father; there’s no denying these two are cut from the same cloth.
The idea of “Family” is a main theme in this movie. They touched on this a bit at the end of the first film, where the cast begin to see themselves as a makeshift family. This time, with Star-Lord meeting his father, they elevate the theme. But we also see it with Gamora and Nebula (played by Karen Gillan), a pair of sisters who were always at each others’ throats. In Vol. 2, they spend more time together and begin to understand each other better. Also, Baby Groot exemplifies the theme of “Family.” Literally a toddler, Groot has an attachment to each of the Guardians, and in turn they treat him as if they were his adoptive parent. It’s very sweet in the way it’s handled.
We also meet Mantis, Ego’s handmaiden. As a full-fledged Guardian in the Dan Abnett/Andy Lanning comic book series, it’s no surprise to learn that Mantis would eventually join the team. Played by Pom Klementieff, Mantis was fun to watch on screen. Her ability to feel the emotions of other by touching them made for a few humorous moments, and though she served a purpose to the plot, I feel like her character was introduced to provide little more than that. That said, I’m happy to see her as part of the team and look forward to seeing more of her.
One character I didn’t quite get was Sylvester Stallone’s Stakar Ogord. Introduced early in the film, Ogord was used as a foil to Yondu (Michael Rooker), and shame him for his past transgressions. Ogord doesn’t make another appearance until the very end, at which point he’s given his very own post-credits scene that points to the character doing something more meaningful. Which makes sense considering they cast goddamn Sylvester Stallone in the role. Whatever it is that writer/director James Gunn has planned for him, I can’t even fathom. To me, his inclusion in the film felt shoehorned and overblown and I could have done without it.
With the exception of Star-Lord, who learns about his heritage, we don’t get a lot of development in the main cast. Some of their backstories are expanded on but it mostly feels like a retread of what we already learned about them in the first film. Instead, the secondary cast gets to step into the spotlight, as Gunn dives into the histories of both Nebula and Yondu. We get a peek into why Nebula resents Gamora so much. Concerning Yondu, we get to delve into his relationship with Star-Lord, which was touched upon a little in the first movie but Gunn really goes in depth here. It makes for a touching story but if you spend enough time thinking about it, it becomes downright unsettling
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is dripping with sentimentality. Mostly it’s handled well; it doesn’t get overly dramatic, like Rocket’s reaction to Groot’s “death” at the end of the first film. However, given the emotions that are boiling over, Star-Lord reconciling with his father, Star-Lord’s confrontation with Gamora about their unspoken thing, and even Drax and his reminiscing about his wife and daughter, we see how despite all of their flaws, the Guardians remain human (a term used loosely given that 80% of them are aliens).
The first Guardians was impressively funny, probably the most humor-filled film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Rightfully, Vol. 2 manages to keep that vibe going, and they even upped the humor quotient this go around. I’m not trying to say they squeezed more jokes into the script, which, to be fair, they seem to have done. The tone of the humor was intensified, almost to the point of being cartoonish. A scene in which Yondu, Kraglin (played by the director’s brother, Sean Gunn), and Rocket make a jump to hyperspace really displays the ways James Gunn was willing to push the envelope. It works within the confines of this film, one which is willing to play around with the laws of physics, but it just seemed over the top and unnecessary. I think we’re willing to give Gunn the leeway to do things like this because his track record is relatively clean, but I hope he doesn’t press his luck too much.
One of the ways Gunn improved in the sequel is in the pacing. The first Guardians needed to build its world so some of the scenes felt longer than they should have, mostly because of the wordy exposition used to get the point across. Vol. 2, however, has pretty much established its rules, so the only wordiness is to expand character arcs. There were still quite a few wordy monologues but at least they didn’t feel as expository.
In regards to the composition of Vol. 2, Gunn uses the same formula as he did in the first one, which is the only main downside. We open with a scene from the past, cut to quirky musical intro credits, move into character intros, exposition, exposition, dramatic turn, final battle. There’s nothing wrong with working from the formula (that is, after all, how it became a “formula”), and at least Gunn manages to make this film feel different from its predecessor. If this becomes the norm, however, it could really bring down the series.
As part of the most offbeat series in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 could have gone in a number of directions but I’m pleased with where James Gunn chose to take it. Humanizing the cast was a great way to keep audiences connected with the characters. It was also great to see a few of the more underutilized characters from the first film get the chance to shine (while Baby Groot is the clear fan-favorite, Drax had a few pretty amazing moments). All in all, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 never lost sight of what everyone loved about its predecessor. While not perfect, it’s a fun movie that helps to elevate Marvel’s record in regard to sequels. I’m ready for the third one.
The BBC announced today live around 2pm EST that the sonic screwdriver will be passed from Matt Smith to BAFTA and Oscar award winning Scots actor Peter Capaldi. Capaldi, 55, is perhaps best known for his role as foul mouthed Malcolm Tucker on the comedy series The Thick of It. The Scottish-Italian actor (hence the last name) is poised to take on the mantle this Christmas following Eleven’s “death” during the special.
Capaldi is not too far removed from The Doctor; he was featured in 2009’s Torchwood: Children of Earth as John Frobisher and played the Pompeian marble merchant (historically a banker) Lucius Caecilius Iucundus who ran into the Tenth Doctor and Donna Noble in the 2008 Series 4 Episode 2 of Doctor Who “The Fires of Pompeii” which also notably featured a young pre-Amy Pond Karen Gillan as a priestess sentry.
And here’s Karen for old time’s sake:
Capaldi marks an interesting change for the character, or rather a return to form after three younger (and younger and younger) incarnations by being a more mature actor and is rather a jump up from the barely 30 years old Matt Smith who was bestowed the title of Doctor at the very young age of 26. Matt won skeptical fans over quickly with his portrayal of Eleven’s quirky Peter Pan boyishness, exuberance, actual real-life gawky clumsiness and quirky demeanor. On the flip side Matt further won people over with his serious acting chops with Eleven’s inclinations towards temper tantrums and an unmitigated anger, world weariness and sadness that were at times the scariest and the saddest the Doctor has ever been (Or as fellow staff writer Jen would say Matt is the “Goddess of tears” for Eleven’s frequently wet face).
Fans have already taken warmly to the choice of Capaldi citing visually he echos other past Doctors and the older more mature actor brings the series back to a status quo that somewhat mirrors William Hartnell and the Doctor’s first companion, Susan which is pretty appropriate for the 50th Anniversary year. What this means for the twelfth Doctor’s personality is or how he’ll treat Clara, the first companion to continue on through a regeneration since Rose Tyler onwards in Series 8 has yet to be unseen or told but Eleven’s bubbling anger issues and mood swings may be a clue. We’ll have to see come Christmas following Nov.’s 50th Anniversary special which pairs Matt Smith and Jenna-Louise Coleman with David Tennant and Billie Piper.
Do you think they picked the right actor? I’m excited. What do you think?
Until next time!
Staff Writer/The Doctor
Is it really Saturday again?!
The Ponds may be gone as companions but their involvement in the Who mythos isn’t quite over (and might not be over at all). The in-universe book Summer Falls as seen in the Series 7 part 2 opener The Bells of Saint John has, following the success of the Melody Malone The Angel’s Kiss: A Melody Malone Mystery prequel to Angels Take Manhattan has earlier this week been released by the BBC as an ebook. Discussed between Clara and her ward Artie in the episode, Clara treated it like a classic children’s novel and delivered the metatextual line when asking Artie about which chapter he was on; “Eleven’s the best. You’ll cry your eyes out… the good kind of crying.” Most eagle eyed fans noticed this book was written by none other than Amelia Williams aka the much missed Amy Pond.
It seems playing into Amy’s meta-nature about stories, fairytales and her past inclinations towards literature our time displaced companion did what many thought she would do as a career for herself; she became a children’s literature author. Summer Falls, written in 1954, is the first example of Amy’s writing seen in universe aside from her also time-loop inducing message to the Doctor in the afterward to River’s novel , perhaps one of a few to come (let’s hope?!).
Unlike The Angel’s Kiss which serves a purely narrative prequel, Summer Falls is its own stand alone fictional adventure as if written by Amy. It follows a girl named Kate trying to solve a mystery in the seaside village of Watchcombe. The book is extremely British, and extremely aware and pulls from Amy’s time with the Doctor, basing characters on her family and friends (The Doctor and River in particular have their own iterations in her novel and my good friend and partner in crime Jen posits Kate as possibly an analogy to Clara.)
The book also indulges with a wink and a nod to the well informed Doctor Who fan, having plenty of tiny snippets of witty references that even Amy wouldn’t know but are without a doubt clearly there for the fans. So it serves quite a number of functions and does it all rather well if just a bit under-edited. The short and rather quick read is a well written adventure in its own right but it also seems to give possible thematic if not overt hints and visual clues for this current second half of the season and the 50th anniversary. The villain and other elements match the current threat of the The Great Intelligence and readers have already speculated if these allusions are purely for us viewers and readers as breadcrumbs for the fans to enhance this season’s progress or does Amy know something the Doctor does not and is trying to help without setting anyone’s fate by outright saying it? Or is that hoping for too much. We’ll have to see.
Would you like to have a whole ongoing series of “Amy Pond” penned books?
I think it would be a great idea. Let me know what you think!
You can purchase Summer Falls on Amazon and Itunes for your e-readers.
Staff Writer/The Doctor
So, fellow Who watchers, the mysterious Clara/Oswin/Oswald (like a sandwich in any particular order) is going to have her first actual episode in exactly two weeks launching the bombastic second half to Doctor Who’s Series 7. She’s yet another “impossible” Moffat girl who notably has somehow hacked into hive mind entities twice for the Doctor before dying. And yet she keeps coming back like a snarky Lazarus, perfect for Lent! Intriguing? Yes. Many people are excited. Others intrigued. There have been noticeable parallels to River Song some think are intentional. Rabid fan theories are abound that she’s their daughter (squickyyy you don’t kiss dad, though you shouldn’t kiss your mother-in-law either). Others like myself theorize she is related to the Great Intelligence and the “lost” memories of the in real life destroyed Second series footage, all adventures the Doctor seems to have forgotten himself (perhaps a side effect of literally erasing himself from the Universe as well). Whatever the case; she is Clara. She seems cute and intriguing, she’s gonna either help the Doctor get over his loss of the Ponds or her true nature is revealed to lead him to the fields of Trenzalore and kills him horribly and he regenerates into Twelve and silence falls (because let’s face it the Silence are not scared of Eleven, they are scared of the Fall of The Eleventh and thus the coming of Twelve, Twelve is going to be a doozy) and whatever let’s see what happens right? Everything peachy?
At least for my regular partner in crime at Team Rocket, Jen (your fellow ihogeek scribe Jenisaur), Clara has a terrible, horrible, awful fault that makes everything well, awful: She is not Amy Pond. She is not Amy. Thus she must die.
Now, this averse reaction; hackles raised, new companions condemned to expletives and eye rolling, calling out for former companions. Possible death threats (okay literal death threats) are all symptoms of a horrible condition; new companion traumaitis and our dear friend Jen is prone to this condition.
Jen in particular theorizes that had it not been for a huge outbreak of new companion traumaitis among fans after the loss of Rose and the appointment of Martha, Martha herself would probably be much more popular had she arrived following different circumstances. This terrible condition is contagious, and at times extremely chronic. I say chronic because in the case study of Jen, I can firsthand attest that Jen after the loss of Donna, Rose AND David did the same thing to Karen Gillan’s Amy Pond and Matt Smith that she is now doing to Clara. I recall specifically showing her the first published image of Matt and Karen on set for The Time of Angels, before the costume department stuck Amy in a Little Red Riding Hood red sweatshirt and instead had her decked in very Wendy Darling robin-egg blue.
The expletives, the condemnation. I remember it well. She called Matt a hipster baby and as Amy Pond herself would demand, said his bowtie was ridiculous and must go. I defended his bowtie since I dressed and still sort of dress like that myself. I thought Karen was pretty. Jen, Jen wouldn’t have it. It was basically “WHO ARE THESE GIRAFFE HIPSTER BITCHES AND WHY ISN’T SHE ROSE OH GOD DONNA OH NO TEN NO NO NO WHY IS HE NINE YEARS OLD GET OUT MOON FACED GINGER BITCH AND BOWTIE BOY BYE ” except in much less nicer terms as I am no doubt paraphrasing and being much more kind. Safe to say she didn’t watch Series 5 for a whole year.
But then well, she watched it. And it wasn’t until Amy’s Choice that Amy won her over when it became clear she wasn’t another Rose and new companion traumaitis dissipated. And now she is clawing for Amy to come back. Quote:
I hate Clara probably more than I hated Amy when she first showed up in her stupid fucking blue sweatshirt and tights like she was god’s gift to hipsters.which she is but that’s not the goddamn point. I hate clara so much I wish she would choke on her souffle.
Does your loved one suffer from new companion traumaitis? Please readers, share either your or loved ones nct stories of struggle and survival with us if you or a loved one has been affected by nct in the past or are struggling through it now.
May you all have a wonderful week, and above all, stay strong.
Staff Writer/The Doctor
I’m reporting today from inside a fort of snotty, makeup soaked tissues. For weeks now, we’ve been told that the Ponds’ last episode of Doctor Who was going to be a heartbreaking, sob-inducing, hour full of cries. And dear lord, did Moffat and the rest deliver. Not since “Doomsday” has an episode at once thrilled and upset me simultaneously to such a degree that I’m reduced to shattered pieces, and I’m still having trouble fitting them back together.
I knew I was going to have trouble writing this review objectively, and after watching the episode again I don’t even feel like throwing in my usual asides and nit-picky jokes–I just want to bask in the glory of “The Angels Take Manhattan”, and watch it again and again until I absorb the skills necessary to incite the same types of feelings in others with my own writing. Yes, “Angels” had its flaws, both in storyline and character development. But here, at the end of all things (at least all things Pond related), those flaws are vastly outweighed by the positives, and that’s what I’m going to focus on until I can digest it a little better.
We begin in New York City, where the Ponds and the Doctor have landed and are hanging out for a bit. The Angels have taken over Manhattan, which they have always apparently owned, and are using an old building as an energy farm, zapping people back to 1938 and trapping them there over and over again until they finally die on the same day they’ve been zapped back. Rory gets sent back, meets River, they get abducted by a crime boss who’s got a weeping Angel locked in a closet, and the Doctor and Amy meet up with them before losing Rory once more. And then the ugly crying begins.
The writing this week was subtle and nuanced, definitely more than we’ve seen this season and maybe more than we’ve seen in all of New!Who. Amy’s reading glasses, constant references to endings and the subversion of expectations with River’s broken wrist (when Amy first reads that the Doctor is destined to break something, you expect it as a throw-away joke and then–THEN–hope is delivered and abandoned faster that…you…could…blink…) are all brilliant tidbits that shouldn’t be overlooked.
As importantly, the acting was on. Point. Major major props go out to Matt, who delivered arguably the best performance of his tenure as Doctor. I’m not sure the day will ever come when his final, tortured “Come along, Pond” won’t at least bring a lump to my throat.
The relationship between River and the Doctor was exquisite; this was the first time we have ever seen them fight like a married couple instead of sparring toe-to-toe while they flirt with a vengeance. This week their fight had a larger meaning to the plot and a lasting consequence. Alex Kingston, too, was a breath of fresh air, not only because we haven’t seen River in so long but also because it was nice to see how their relationship has grown and continues to change.
I was going to write a ton more about the themes of getting older, and the parallels to Peter Pan; talk about how “The Question” was asked once again and ask why the Doctor had to go back and write on the vase if River could just send a message through the vortex manipulator, and sum it all up with a “really? we had to get not one, not two, but THREE more Rory deaths in?”. But I’m sticking to the positive, as I promised, and this week I’m going a little off script.
Instead, I want to take a moment to appreciate all the things the Doctor Whoteam have done for us–and really what every creative team has done for the shows, movies, and books over which we chose to obsess. From the moment Amy and Rory were on the rooftop until that final “This is how it ends”, I was too invested in the show to jot notes. For the second time in three days, I was a blubbering mess, and I’m not the kind that cries easily at all. This was the Pond’s final farewell, and it was beautiful. I could whine about it not being a two-parter and bring up all the stuff I wish we had gotten to see, or I can appreciate the episode for what it DID which is to say that it brought the story of Amy, Rory, and the Doctor to an end, and it’s fair to say it was a pretty big (if predictable) bang.
Thank you all for reading and commenting on my episode recaps. I’ll be back, along with The Doctor (AND OSWIN! **CUE THE SQUEEING**) at Christmastime. Until then, leave your comments below on the Ponds’ departure from Doctor Who.
As per usual, this recap will be nothing if not riddled with spoilers.
I have three words for “The Power of Three”: HIP HIP HOORAY!
FINALLY we start to delve into the relationship between the Doctor and the Ponds, plus we get more Brian! It was nearly impossible to tell that the same man wrote this and “Dinosaurs in Space” as there was nary an innuendo in sight (just a trouser-less Rory); in fact the only thing this and “Dinosaurs” have in common is…Brian, and even he was surprisingly different.
The science-wiency parts of “The Power of Three” had a few holes.
Why didn’t the Doctor realize sooner what was going on if the Shakri was a bedtime story he grew up with? Why were there people with cube faces collecting humans? Why was the Doctor shocked into cardiac arrest, but not Amy, Kate or Glasses? And how did the cubes learn the Mexican hat dance?
On a much more positive note, this is the first time we’ve started to see the Ponds moving on. They’re choosing a life without the Doctor; they’re growing up on their own. In fact, during Amy’s now obligatory meeting where she and the Doctor discuss their fate, I was ready to throw in the towel. If that had been the end of “Doctor Who” forever, I would have been entirely okay with it.
In short, the writing this week was over the top superb. It ACTUALLY gave me all the feels–something I’ve been waiting for since the Who crew returned a month ago. I’m going to need next week’s episode to make me feel that way from start to finish, or else there’s going to be some serious disappointment going on.
While Brian was back, he definitely was not the star of the show–that award actually goes to the…stars…of the…show (strange, I know). “The Power of Three” indeed. At different moments, the Doctor’s life with the Ponds was funny, heartwarming, and depressingly short-lived. There was a perfect balance between boring human-y stuff and the exciting sciencey parts–even when the time travel was used as a joke. But even Amy and Rory’s anniversary gift turned into an important plot point once Brian spoke with the Doctor about their absence.
One line note: The Doctor’s disdainful rejection of twitter is mostly hilarious because, of the three main actors, Matt Smith is the only one who doesn’t have an account and has publicly refused to get one.
I can’t help but feel as though this should have been the FIRST episode of the season, and then the other three could make the Ponds come to a decision about how long they can really stand to stay with the Doctor before giving him up entirely. The other episodes, compared to “Three”, seem gimmicky and extremely light on plot development. Held up against the conclusion events of other companions, it seems the Ponds have been slighted, which makes me sad.
Next week, if I can see my keyboard through the tears, I’ll recap “The Angels in Manhattan”, the final episode where RIVER FINALLY MAKES A RETURN, just in time for us to never see her parents again. Geronimo.