A note for those who haven’t watched and want to: I am not going to spoil the plot. But, I am going to describe the film’s general atmospheres which may or may not be detailed. If that’s enough of a spoiler for you, please click away.
I was conflicted about watching GOTG 2 because, you know, it’s a sequel. Disappointment was what I expected and disappointment was what I got.
First of all, the off-colour humour. Personally, I CAN enjoy it. I’ve even have told far more obscene (and frankly abusive) jokes to my friends. They are also a very useful outlet to vent my anger and frustration. But, unlike the screenwriter (or the producer who probably pressured him), I know the time and place to express them.
The first volume was as comedic as this one. But, the difference is its humour was very clean; violence is the most blatantly adult aspect of the film. Not to mention that Guardians of the Galaxy is marketed solely as action, adventure and sci-fi franchise, NOT risque comedies. As a result, the lewdness is a very unpleasant, in-your-face surprise. The disappointment doesn’t stop there.
Sentimentality. I love it when entertainment works include emotions that humanise the characters. But, I hate it when their portrayals are too skin-deep and sugary, pandering to shallow individuals who can’t see pass the pretence. For me, this practice encourage insincerity and actually invalidates genuine human emotions. Depth and intricacy are needed to add realism and soundness to the emotions. But, despite the distastefulness, it’s not all disappointment with this film.
Apart from the crude ones, there are also cleaner and more refined jokes we encountered in the previous one. Their wholesome nature gives them a much more universal appeal and relatively uncontroversial in any genres of films. The inclusion of the lewd one, however, is both unnecessary and detrimental, both in aesthetic and practical sense. Without the franchise’s trademark humour, I would hate this installment a lot more. But, admittedly, it can also be more superior in other aspects.
Menace. In pop culture, this film included, it usually starts with the introduction of something too good to be true. If something seems that way, it must be perceived as a red flag. There are also a few hints of the alleged ominousness, noticeable to both the audience and the characters. We know something’s off and yet, we don’t know what that is. In the story’s culmination, the truth is revealed…and boy, menacing it is.
The revelation is deeply unnerving for me. Admittedly, not everyone shares my idea of threat to the psyche; what disturbs me in the arts and entertainment may be nothing for you. But, whether you agree with me or not, it is undeniably an unforeseen dimension that conveys darkly ethereal spirit. This element makes a pop film like this more appealing to me.
An infatuation with the sinister force seems odd or even grotesque. But, personally, I find the attraction justifiable. In the arts and entertainment, its is meant to remind us of its existence in our life. When it comes to the notoriously-vivid arthouse films, the audience is ‘forced’ to experience the vile ‘face to face’. Savour the foul taste, no sugar allowed. A bit different case with pop films.
In many cases, they are nothing but sugar overloads. Every inch of the film reel is caramelised by corporate demands. But, once in a while, hints of pungency sip through the sweetness. Overall, the taste is still sweet. But, the subtle foulness cannot be ignored entirely. In the end, you have to admit there are other layers to the taste.
Depth, created by the stack of layers. Without any ‘undesirable’ ones, pop films would be only surface-deep. There’s nothing to offer other than what can be seen with the naked eyes. The pungency gives us a reason to explore beyond what they can see. In light-hearted comedies, it can be a surprise.
The abundance of humour prevent us from expecting the polar opposite. So, its presence (when noticed) juxtaposes with the merry atmosphere we have immersed ourselves into. It is a deep, hidden well of nasty-flavoured yet drinkable fluid, surrounded by vast sugary fields. If you haven’t discovered it, you really don’t know anything about your surrounding environment. In some films, including GOTG 2, the well is not that hard to find.
In this film, the sinister force is visually expressed, making it physically visible to the audience. Admittedly, the imagery is really not that scary. But, for me, it is more than enough to represent darkness. Just looking at it, we know that we are dealing with a malicious being. Not only the well is present, its content overflow to the surface, forcing everyone to face it. The film’s depth does not stop at the ‘taste’. It also extends to the human psyche.
Yes, I did complain about the gooey sentimentality. But, actual psychological depth is still abundant here and it comes in several forms. The soundtrack, for example. Like the previous installment, this one features pop oldies.
I do prefer them over the newer ones. But, having them as soundtracks in contemporary films activates my warm inner self. It makes me nostalgic of the colourful past that I didn’t experience myself; I haven’t figured out how and why this oddity comes into being. Anyway, this is not all about me.
The featured songs also happen to be the main character’s personal favourites. Along with his walkman, they are the only entities that emotionally link him with his childhood on earth. There’s more to this infamously rebellious man-child. But, his past is neither surprising nor mysterious. Overall, not a complex individual. The other characters, however, are relatively so when compared to him.
Crude, lawless, evil. You may think those traits are innate to the characters, that they absolutely define them. When you think you know them well, they unfold previously-unknown facets of themselves; we become surprised and start seeing them in different (albeit slightly) lights. In the end, we find it hard to synopsise them as individuals, knowing how deceptive their facades are. Again, not that different from the previous installment. But, again, there is one aspect of both films in which the successor aces out its predecessors: death.
The first film has a somewhat mature treatment of death. But, being a pop film it is, the portrayal is almost completely trivial. In the second film, the trivialisation also occur…to some minor characters. When it comes to the other ones, their death is glaringly horrifying and inhumane; they are murdered simply because their murderers think, ‘why not?’. In that short yet graphic moment, the film had its joy wiped out.
Those murdered characters aren’t really characters. Their names aren’t mentioned and they’ve got nothing to offer for the plot’s development. We are not emotionally attached to them. But, they are human enough to make ourselves affected by their death. If the attachment is there, we would be made teary-eyed…and that happens when one of the important characters die.
It’s incredible how a film with bouts of mawkishness can also possess emotional profundity. That one character’s death is not laced with sappy dialogues and background music. In fact, the subsequent funeral scene is not that reliant on dialogues. The atmosphere is expressed more through the characters’ body languages, camera angles and, unsurprisingly, an oldie pop song as the background music.
Neither the melody nor the lyrics manifest any embodiment of heartache. But, the latter wonderfully allude to the bonding between one of the main characters and the departed one. The song exudes familial warmth. For some, its inclusion can seem odd for this particular moment. But, I think this works really well.
A simple yet deep song about family, unassuming bodily languages, not a single flowery word being uttered. This moment conveys heartfelt grief…along with tinges of nostalgic joy and hope for the incoming future. There is no self-conceited emotionality, there is only wholesome and warm tenderness.
Tenderness. The film’s best feature and one reason why it still manages to win me over.