“Sometimes, The Thing You’ve Been Looking For Your Whole Life, Is Right There Beside You All Along…”
Whilst the first Guardians of the Galaxy was perhaps the first entry into the Marvel Cinematic Universe in which expectations were not exactly of the highest order, the finished product was ironically one of the best the franchise has had to offer so far, introducing expertly characterised leading heroes amongst a crowd-pleasing narrative which managed to balance the irregularity and oddness of the source material whilst serving up arguably the best jukebox soundtrack this side of Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction. With power comes increasing levels of responsibility however and a sequel to the biggest surprise of 2014 was downright inevitable, yet with James Gunn returning as director and the added involvement of iconic screen presences such as Sylvester Stallone and Kurt Russell, Vol. 2 is indeed up there with the most excitable releases of the year and a movie which is lynch-pinned within a period of twelve months in which there are so many superb upcoming movies to look forward to and a year in which Vol. 2 begins the triage of MCU movies which are set to be released over the course of 2017. What we have with Vol. 2 however is a sequel which is indeed as inventive and magical as it’s predecessor, playing all the cards in all the right areas to keep its’ intended audience more than happy, but too a movie which suffers from the issue in which many sequels tend to have, with it not entirely being up to the critical level of the original but still being an excellent new addition into the MCU.
With the added input of Kurt Russell as Ego, the long lost father of Chris Pratt’s Peter Quill/Star-Lord, Vol. 2 thrives on the same sense of retro-loving freedom which encompassed the original, nodding its’ head at a wide range of nostalgic avenues alongside yet another successful jukebox soundtrack which ticks off everything from E.L.O to George Harrison across a two-hour plus runtime which does seem a tad too drawn out come the final act. Furthermore, in a similar vein to that of Age of Ultron, Vol. 2 attempts to differ slightly from its’ predecessor by sticking to a driving narrative which comes across as a much darker and melancholic tale, focusing upon a wide range of notions such as the meaning of family alongside a deeper sense of characterisation for each of the leading guardians who individually have enough substantial screen time between them to sway off arguments of favouritism from fans, even when the superbly managed inclusion of Baby Groot manages to steal every scene in which he is involved in. Whilst not setting up anything major in terms of the future of the MCU, Vol. 2 is a substantially entertaining blockbuster which although features arguably a higher dose of comedy than the first, is inevitably not as surprisingly awesome than one indeed hoped for, yet with a core character base in which you could happily spend an entire lifetime with, James Gunn’s second helping of galaxy saving guardians is entertainment galore.
Overall Score: 8/10
“We Do Not Have The Right To Take Innocent Human Lives..!”
Written by Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn and directed by Greg McLean, the menacing mind behind the spine-tingling and wholly gruelling Wolf Creek, The Belko Experiment is the type of B-Movie which relies on an incredibly niche audience, one who doesn’t entirely rely on the thrill of advertisement to venture out and see a movie and one which revels in the sight of movies which attempt to be slightly different from the inevitable and often mind-bending levels of high-profile generic garbage which are released simply with an economic opportunity at the forefront of its’ mind and ironically, the same type of releases which more than often end up being a complete pile of crap. I’m looking at you Furious 8. With The Belko Experiment therefore, from the singular, quickfire trailer which I observed in the cinema a few weeks back, I knew from the outset that a cagey, ultra-violent affair was afoot, and with the successful duo of both Gunn and McLean at its’ core, what could possibly go wrong?
Whilst the central narrative at the core of The Belko Experiment is one of which cinematic audiences are more than familiar with, with Gunn taking leads from a wide range of culty sci-fi classics such as Battle Royale and Cube, McLean’s directorial lead results in a picture which although begins in a spine-tingling and intoxicating manner, one which revels in a winning mix of dark comic humour with Gunn’s penchant for quick, snappy dialogue, ultimately does begin to completely lose steam come the hour mark due to the simply ultra-violent levels of bloodshed which instead of coming across as enjoyable B-Movie splatter, tarnishes the latter end of the movie with a sense of bad taste, a notion which is particularly hard to construct from a self-proclaimed lover of all things horror such as myself. Whilst endless shots of combustible heads and cold-blooded murder is of course something which is ripe in many gore-filled movies nowadays, the violence within The Belko Experiment seems so off-key with the middling tone of the movie that this particular element of the movie ended up seeming inherently rank and unnecessary. High-Rise meets The Hunger Games/Battle Royale, The Belko Experiment may be a mis-judged pile of tastelessness, but it too was a movie in which I was never bored and a film which effectively passed the time thanks primarily to the involvement of James Gunn.