Thursday, May 11, 2017

More Like Guardians of the Green Screen, or Thoughts on Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

The cinematic equivalent of dubstep, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017) is oversaturated in every sense of the word, including its overwhelming popularity and box office success.  The movie opens with a young digital Kurt Russell in 1980, but actual fans of Kurt Russell know him and how he actually looked in Escape From New York (1981) and The Thing (1982), two classic sci-fi films that will remain provocative and relevant long after Marvel/Disney has milked this franchise and its inevitable reboot into oblivion.
With cartoon physics in a photo-realistic world, the action scenes lose any real emotional impact or even relevance; you’re watching a Cirque du Soleil performance with blasters and a retro-nostalgic soundtrack.  Even the death scene (no spoilers here) has no real meaning in a world of cyborg body parts and magic rings of power.  Characters can easily be restored in the sequel and the audience will go along with it because these guys are funny and we are desperate to be entertained.  The quiet scenes of reconciliation and conversations about family are emotionally manipulative; carried along by the endorphin rush of the graphics and the action the filmmakers trick us into caring, but it’s a cheap trick, and not a very good one.
Chris Pratt is one of the most amiable actors of this generation.  I had no idea Dave Bautista could be so funny.  Baby Groot, or this summer’s BB-88/Artoo/Gollum steals every scene he’s in.  The cast, writing and effects are first rate and state of the art.  In many ways this is the best movie Hollywood can make, and also, concurrently, the worst.
My primary complaint with the modern sci-fi action film is this disturbing trend of blending videogames and movies, to the point that neither is distinguishable from the other.  This isn't a problem for a gamer, they enjoy the immersive quality and the illusion of control they have over the narrative.  But movies are an art form, like a novel or a painting, and while videogames may aspire to art they remain, at their core, a disposable amusement.
I really think Hollywood need to dial back on the CGI and start constructing real sets again.  I watch these movies and I find myself wondering if audiences in 1938 experienced the same magic and awe watching the transition from sepia to color in The Wizard of Oz.  You will argue that a modern audience is more sophisticated but are we really?  I think we simply have more distractions in our daily lives, and it takes this level of spectacle to hold our attention.  But the problem is if every movie has this level of detail, it makes no movie stand out.  They all blend into more digital background noise, sound and fury, except now it’s also in 3D.

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