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Home Arts & Culture Summer Movie Reviews: Superhero Blockbusters Edition

by Jayme Lowe


Movie Review: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Is there anything better than a riotous band of space outlaws blasting bad guys, accompanied by a wicked soundtrack of 80’s hits? Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 was just as action-packed as the first installment, though a heavy hand with the song “Brandy” and a reliance on dumb jokes leads this reviewer to still favor the original.

This sequel did have some redeeming qualities though! Chris Pratt’s character, Peter Quill (AKA “Starlord”) delves deep into the character development pool, finding his father in the ever-delightful Kurt Russell.

Pratt did a great job of uniting his jokester persona from the original with the wiser Starlord that emerged as the movie progressed. He was no longer just the Guardian who owned their ship; he became a truer friend and leader to the rest of the Guardians. By gaining a fuller understanding of himself and who and what molded him, Peter Quill became a better man and a better hero.

Russell, however, seemed a bit out of place and unfeasible in his role, but maybe I’ve just seen Overboard too many times to take him seriously as such a complex character.

The personalities of Drax and Rocket felt like they had regressed since the first movie – Drax’s humor was much less in the vein of not understanding metaphors and idioms and more leaning toward insensitive and annoying. Rocket was belligerent and angry, struggling to demonstrate his friendship and not sabotage himself and those around him.

Among the motley cast, Baby Groot was a delight to see, though he didn’t much add to the plot. His adorable tantrums stole the show and were a welcome lightness in some of the heavier fight scenes.

One of my favorite parts of the film was the development of the relationship between Gamora and Nebula. Their extreme animosity in the first film broke through to revelations about how the characters came to be and what created their complicated lives.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 may not be as delightful as the first in its series, but its development of deeper character relationships, between both family and friends, made the movie a vehicle of new understanding of the inner workings of its leads and a great set up for their upcoming roles in Avengers: Infinity War.

With Baby Groot and another great soundtrack on its side, it’s definitely a movie to see. 6/10

Wonder Woman

Have you ever not realized how much you wanted something until you received it? That was my reaction to Wonder Woman. Having a female hero commanding the screen was an awesome experience and was one facet of a fantastic movie. Diana, our wonderful woman, has grown up on the island of the Amazons, secluded from the war-torn world of men.

When a World War I spy (played by Chris Pine, one talented and pleasing-to-look-at male lead) washes up on shore, followed by a German warship, Diana in drawn into our world and the War to End All Wars. She believes she is destined to take on the war god, Ares, and that by stopping him, all war in the mortal world will end. But is that really the solution?

Gal Gadot owns the screen as Wonder Woman. She manages to juggle the immense power that resides in the character as well as the innocence, compassion, and purity of heart that make Wonder Woman such an admirable hero. Diana is here to save everyone. She has no qualms about risking her life. You may have heard of an infamous scene where Diana charges into a battlefield, deflecting bullets and generally being awesome. It’s a powerful scene – not only because of the physical power that Diana demonstrates but also why she charges into a war zone. I won’t spoil it for you, but one of the most compelling parts of this incarnation of Wonder Woman is her motivation for what she does. It contrasts her with many of the other characters in the movie, including Pine’s Steve Trevor. Through Steve, Diana learns to better understand these people that she is fighting to protect and why they are fighting in the first place, while he discovers a deeper understanding of why he is fighting and what he is fighting for.

I’m excited to see what Justice League does with Diana and development of Wonder Woman as a character. Wonder Woman was a delight, both heart-pounding and heart-wrenching at times. It has everything a proper superhero movie should have and does it better than most. Here’s to more awesome female superheroes! 9/10

Spiderman: Homecoming

The Spider-Man franchise is on its third incarnation and in this case, I think third time was definitely the charm.

Tom Holland’s Spider-Man is young, smart, and snappy, supported by a delightful cast and an intriguing villain storyline. As a young hero trying to prove himself to the almighty Iron Man, our Spidey is an eager beaver, itching to stretch his skills on a bigger stage, aching to do something more than return stolen bikes and help little old ladies. In his longing to be part of the Avengers, he forgoes his high school experience, dropping his extra-curriculars like flies. Which is sad, because Peter Parker is also a huge NERD. He’s on the scholastic decathlon team and builds Lego Death Stars with his best friend, Ned, in his spare time – meaning, whenever he’s not web-slinging through Queens, strewing chaos and minor rescues in his wake.

Ned, on his part, is the quintessential sidekick, landing big laughs and brightening every scene he’s in. Peter and Ned’s best friend handshake should make all other best friends jealous.

But Peter’s not just a step on the high school food chain, he’s also a sticky, spider-y superhero. The advent of new high-tech weapons on the New York crime scene draws Peter into a plot much bigger than he can handle, but that doesn’t mean he won’t try. Alien power sources and an angry guy in a bird suit add to the complexities of Peter’s quest to catch a big one so that he can finally be taken seriously by Tony Stark and become an Avenger.

But with high school relationships and commitments fogging his vision, will our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man catch the baddies before it’s too late? You’ll have to watch Spiderman: Homecoming to find out. Even if you’re not that into superheroes, Zendaya, as the purposeful outcast Michelle, has one-liners that make the movie worth the watch. Reboot number three has given Spider-Man concrete motivation and development, bridging him into the Marvel Cinematic Universe flawlessly. It is both a great superhero movie and a great teenage romp, mixing the crime-fighting with a healthy dose of the realities of high school. So go see it – and make sure you stay for the after credit scenes! 9.5/10

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