A lot has been written about what a surprise hit Guardians of the Galaxy was when it landed back in 2014, but it bears repeating: Marvel Studios really did accomplish the unthinkable in making a big budget film about an obscure superhero team – which including talking raccoons and trees, no less! – into one of the most critically and commercially successful blockbusters of that year.
Fast forward three years and the inevitable follow-up, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2, has finally arrived to considerable anticipation. In promoting the film, returning director James Gunn promised fans something different, but in reality, this second go-round doesn’t really diverge too much from the formula laid down by its predecessor.
But then, when that formula produces such fun end results, does anyone really care if Vol.2 simply offers more of the same?
It’s becoming something of a dubious tradition for me to post outrageously postponed reviews in January, a custom only further perpetuated by the decidedly late arrival of this look at La La Land.
Now as then, the reason for this delay isn’t procrastination (well, the main reason anyway…), but rather it comes as the result of me mulling over my initial, complex reactions to what I had seen.
Because for all that Damien Chazelle’s musical has wowed audiences and critics alike – just this week it received a record-equaling 14 Oscar nominations – I have to admit that I had (and still have) mixed feelings on La La Land, even as I can’t deny the incredible craft that lies at the heart of the film.
Considering all the time and money that goes into each and every major studio release, it’s pretty mindblowing how many movies are released to no fanfare, and then promptly forgotten.
2012’s Rise of the Guardians falls squarely under this banner. Despite being the product of DreamWorks Animation, boasting an all-star voice cast, and drawing on a popular series of children’s books as source material, it flopped at the box office, and – much like its invisible protagonist – you’d be lucky to meet someone who even knew it existed.
That’s a real shame, as thanks to its smart approach to a fun basic premise – Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, the Sandman and Jack Frost form an Avengers-style team to fight the Bogeyman – it’s actually a surprisingly sincere, heartfelt and entertaining adventure.
Flash forward 13 years and a new creative team has cooked up Bad Santa 2 with the hope of recapturing the same blend of pitch black comedy and surprisingly heartfelt emotion that made the first outing such a success.
Unfortunately, the end result comes across a bit like warmed-up Christmas leftovers: still enjoyable, but far less satisfying than when it was served up fresh the first time around.
When the Harry Potter film franchise ended with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows back in 2011, a lot of fans still weren’t quite ready to say goodbye. Although many had already bid the Boy Who Lived farewell once before in the pages of the final novel of the series, it seemed that their appetite for further escapades set in the Wizarding World was far from satisfied.
In the years since then, creator JK Rowling has released a few tiny morsels that served to only feed this hunger – a tantalising opening chapter for a non-existent prequel novel and The Tales of Beedle the Bard, a collection of related fairy tales, both came out in 2009 – but it wasn’t until this year that Potterheads hanging out for a new, fully-fledged adventure were properly rewarded.
The first of these was Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, the two-part stage show epic that continued (and concluded?) Harry’s story. The second of these was Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, the first film in a new spin-off franchise, which – despite being set 70 years in the series’ past – looks set to ensure the future popularity of the franchise.
It’s past the middle of October, which means by now we’ve all binged our way through the first season of Marvel Studios’ Luke Cage on Netflix since it landed earlier in this month.
I think most people who have blitzed through these first 13 episodes will agree that showrunner Cheo Hodari Coker has crafted an entertaining show, albeit one that’s not without some fairly major flaws, either.
Still, by telling a superhero story directly linked to the African American experience, Choker and his team have created something different to every other comic book adaptation out there, pushing the genre in a new direction and putting out the most important work that Marvel Studios has produced since last year’s Jessica Jones.