Did Guardians of the Galaxy 2 jump the shark?

GOTG2**A MOSTLY SPOILER FREE REVIEW**

I sat at the end of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2, watching the credits scroll by and waiting for the bonus scenes. I glanced at my friend and he had the same puzzled expression that I did. He asked, “What did you think?” I replied, “I’m going to have to process this.”

And process it I have. My friend and I discussed our mixed feelings about the movie all the way to our homes. I realized that something was really bothering me about the movie and I made two crucial thoughts on that ride.

First, I had the distinct impression that the producers/writers/director had surveyed all of the most popular Marvel movies to date, cataloged all the most successful scenes, and developed a formula for what they thought would be the perfect Marvel movie. Then they proceeded to make GotGv2 using that formula.

Second, with the issue of escalation an all too real problem in Hollywood, especially with on-going franchises, I had a sneaking suspicion that I just watched Marvel “jump the shark.”

If you’re not familiar with that term, let me explain. It comes from a 1977 episode of Happy Days, where Fonzie proves his bravery by water skiing and ramps over a shark…all while wearing his trademark leather jacket. The term has come to refer to an instance in any TV show or recurring franchise when the show presents something utterly absurd for the sake of novelty and ratings. It’s what ultimately happens through escalation, where there’s constant pressure to “raise the stakes” in story telling. And the writers are beginning to run out of ideas.

Speaking of pressure to raise the stakes, that’s also typical of any sequel. Producers feel pressured to top the first one, bring back all of the audience’s favorite gags, but also try to force in a better sense of artistry than they did before. Often sequels crash and burn because of it. This movie could have just been a typical sequel.

So did Guardians of the Galaxy 2 jump the shark? Let me give you some of my observations:

  1. Too many layers. Every character has some kind of emotional conflict/back story and subtext that they are trying to resolve. EVERY. CHARACTER. It was just too much to keep up with. Which leads into the next point…
  2. None of those layers were executed well. Sure, if they’d stuck to one or two there would have been screen time enough for proper development. But this movie has seven or eight. Let that sink in a moment. The audience is expected to emotionally connect on the subtext of seven or eight character journeys.
  3. The formula. Remember I mentioned it felt formulaic? That’s because it did. Go cherry pick the best bits of your favorite Marvel movies and there’s probably an equivalent somewhere in this one.
  4. While we’re at it, let me repeat my other previously mentioned thoughts: pressure to raise the stakes and typical sequel problems.
  5. Weak overall plot. The whole adventure felt very forced. From the absurd opening antagonists that wouldn’t go away for the whole movie, to the primary antagonist that felt like he just showed up and said, “Hey! Let me be the bad guy!” All the different character layers, escalated stakes, forced antagonists, and horrid excuse for an inciting incident, made the plot disjointed and confusing.
  6. babygrootBaby Groot. I think the producers knew about everything I’ve already said. They knew the script had major problems. So they tried to disguise it with Baby Groot. Because who could hate a movie with Baby Groot? Don’t fall for it. It’s a sleight-of-hand gag.
  7. But Baby Groot wasn’t the only funny thing. Everything was funny. It was almost like watching a Saturday Night Live sketch. Every shtick and cliche they could find to play for a laugh, they did. Thirty seconds of screen time could hardly pass without some attempt at a joke.

But the moment that made me think they “jumped the shark” can be summed up in one word. Pacman. If you’ve seen the movie, you know what I’m talking about. That moment was just one absurdity too much.

Bottom line, this movie felt like a money-making scam. Throw some special effects and a cute Baby Groot at the audience, play up every possible joke you can, and they’ll pay to come by the score…so why waste money on good writing?

I really wanted to like this movie. Instead, I feel like I just witnessed the beginning of the end for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I say that, because I have a horrible feeling that Thor: Ragnarok is going to be exactly the same as this.

I’m still hoping that SpidermanHomecoming will redeem Marvel for me this summer. Fingers-crossed…

-odk

(Now you may commence bashing me.)