Sunday, 7 May 2017

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Disney's all-out assault on the ageing process continues in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. This time the megacorp serve us up a digitally sandblasted image of Kurt Russell cackling his way through an early-80s courting session. Stranded in this instant, it's difficult to gauge whether we're working our way through a brief technological blip in which digital artists are pushing their new toy to its limits or we're in the opening stages of a new, unreal frontier where no star, no matter how old or dead they are, is safe from a computer generated face lift.

Given the ubiquity of the technique in their tent-pole releases, it's clear Disney are hoping to normalise these blurry, synthetic performances. Perhaps they see the practice as another portfolio opportunity? They own almost everything else. Their stranglehold on the images and aspirations that cascade into childhood aren't enough for these IP hoarders, they want to take possession of faces and voices now, transforming the very idea of human identity into pliant, malleable data that can, feasibly, be used for any purpose. Really, the only thing holding Disney back in this new, terrible arena is the public's gag reflex.

The point where digital homage creeps into the repulsive is difficult to gauge and seems to vary wildly by star. Peter Cushing's resurrection in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story didn't raise half the stink that greeted the very suggestion that a similar technique might be used to reanimate Carrie Fisher for Episode IX. That was too raw a nerve but, if we take a step back, who doesn't want to see Kurt Russell returned to the prime of his life? Moral principles are great but why deny ourselves the chance to return to a time when the actor was young and perfect, frozen between The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes and Escape from New York?

Director James Gunn, to his credit, pushes the idea of an indestructible software Kurt to the limits of the PG-13 rating. The actor is blasted apart then messily rebuilt, layer by excruciating layer, before crumbling into a shapeless, data-heavy sludge. Guardians 2 must be a uniquely horrifying experience for Russell. The star is given the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see exactly what his body would look like after lasers have bored through it or how his organs might jiggle and pulse as they're knitting themselves into a box fresh skeleton.

These shameless displays of excess neatly encapsulate the experiences of watching Guardians 2. It delivers over and over again without respite, providing blazing, luminescent movement slathered all over jarring, dramatically compartmentalised, emotional pain. Sometimes these interactions work, granting us an insight into these tortured four colour characters. Other times they're just grist for the next punchline. Nothing is ever left alone long enough to simmer either, so when the film actually wants you to be sad there is always a beat or two where you're left wondering if a joke is just about to creep in and explode the moment.

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