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Monday, February 26, 2024

Newly released “Guardians of the Galaxy 3” and “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” are cinematic triumphs

Finally, superhero movies are doing something right

 

By MAYA KORNYEYEVA — mkornyeyeva@ucdavis.edu

 

Earlier in the year, I wrote a column about my disappointment with the recent trend in the quality of movies produced by Marvel — every new movie seemed to lack the stunning energy and intrigue present in their earlier films.

Well, I would like to formally revise my previous statement to say that the newest Marvel movie — “Guardians of the Galaxy 3” — and another recently released and highly-anticipated superhero movie — “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” — are exceptional new additions to a long list of superhero movies. Both have outstanding storylines, rich and dynamic dialogue and a plethora of moments that made me pause and connect with my own thoughts and emotions.

First on the table, we have the third and final installment of the “Guardians of the Galaxy” series. This movie centers around an intergalactic superhero team, also known as The Guardians, working together to save their partner Rocket Raccoon, who is severely injured at the beginning of the film and whose memories and backstory appear intermittently throughout the rest of the movie, giving viewers a look into his disturbing past.

Walking into the film, I knew almost immediately that I had sat down to witness something truly special. The dark, recherché atmosphere of the opening scene, coupled with the beautifully animated mix of fear and curiosity captured in the young Rocket Raccoon as he is selected for experimentation by the “hand of God,” was indicative of well-developed scene symbolism that was echoed throughout the entire film. The smooth transition from Rocket’s young, unmodified self to his present body was carefully and creatively animated and set the bar for overall computer-generated imagery (CGI) quality.

As the movie progressed, several strong motifs were revealed in the two parallel stories of Rocket’s past and the Guardians’ efforts to go to any lengths to ensure the survival of their friend. The first was the cruelty of experimentation performed on animals for the “development of a perfect species,” and the raw emotions that come with healing from trauma and making friends. The second was the love for family: the bonding and acceptance of individuals for who they really are, not who they were created to be. 

Aside from deep messages, “Guardians of the Galaxy 3” contained wonderfully light humor as well as the successful introduction of new characters into the MCU that tied loose ends and created novel story arcs as bridges between the cinematic universe and the comic books. I particularly enjoyed the way the plot and central conflict differed from previous films, as well as the fitting soundtrack that featured various genres and styles of music that have me listening on repeat. 

Meanwhile, the second animated Spider-Verse film created by Sony Pictures in association with Marvel Entertainment, was released in theaters on June 2. The first “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” movie rocked the Marvel fandom and introduced an animation style that mimicked comic books and street art.

This new sequel was a stunning success; I believe it is one of the best examples of fusing art with film, as well as a pioneer in terms of representation and diverse characters. This movie features people from various socio-economic backgrounds, races and ethnicities, as well as different ages and gender and sexual orientations, effectively shining light on groups of people that are often underrepresented in media. Nothing about the characters felt forced, and the unique art style of each Spider-Man variation expertly complimented their personalities and individual characteristics. 

Beyond the incredible storyline and action sequences, this movie also had some very fresh music choices. All of the songs in this movie were played on vinyl and physical media to protect the “crunchy” and “scratchy” quality of music and allow it to shine through to compliment the ambitious visual style, according to an interview of composer Daniel Pemberton. 

The reworked “Prowler” theme from the first film also felt like a breath of fresh air. It was staticky, crisp and ominous, and absolutely perfect for a character that wasn’t your typical villain but rather a fusion of different motivations and identities. 

Upon reflecting on both these newly released films, I can conclude that they are a must-watch in theaters. Each has a unique and refreshing angle, and both introduce new music, animation, humor and plot twists that make them perhaps even better than the movies that preceded them. I am happy to say that superhero movies seem to be turning a new page following their post-pandemic decline: I can’t wait to see what is to come. 

 

Written by: Maya Kornyeyeva — mkornyeyeva@ucdavis.edu

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by individual columnists belong to the columnists alone and do not necessarily indicate the views and opinions held by The California Aggie.