Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)
Starring: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Kurt Russell, Karen Gillan, Michael Rooker, Pom Klementieff, Sylvester Stallone
Directed by: James Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy, Super, Slither)
Synopsis: The continuing adventures of Star-Lord and company as they navigate through space and find love, family and batteries.
What works: A near-perfect sequel! We all had high hopes that the second installment from James Gunn and Marvel would be a home run and it was a terrific time at the movies. After seeing it, I was and still am on the fence if I like the first one better or not. I’m like leaning a tad over to the first but this one I really had no complaints about. But I’ll get to that later.
This episode is way funnier. The first one established this zany galaxy of characters and creatures and really didn’t take itself too seriously and had a lot of light moments in tense situations. This one seems to take that one step further and make this a Laugh-In episode of near constant gags and jokes. Especially from Drax and Rocket. And of course every scene with Baby Groot is for nothing but cuteness and chuckles.
This isn’t to say that it doesn’t have some seriousness to it either. The plot revolves around Peter Quill reuniting with his Celestial being father, Ego the Living Planet, and most of the tone involving them and what makes for a good family. Peter’s adoptive father, Yondu, is also heavily involved in this plot. More family ties and tribulations are also with Gamora and her sister, Nebula and how they reconnect and get along after the events of the first film. While The Avengers never really gel as a family-unit and act more like co-workers, the Guardian movies treat this group as a “family” so the bonding they go through is a prominent theme for both movies.
While the first movie was way more tethered to the other Marvel movies this recent one is less so. There’s no cameos by Thanos or mentions of any other Marvel characters. In fact the Nova Corps is nowhere to be seen, either. So if you’re looking for any set-ups to the other MCU flicks, you may be disappointed. They mention Thanos and one of (five) post-credit scenes has a set-up to another cosmic character that may or may not be a part of the next Avengers movie but this Guardians movie is way more on its own in the (Marvel) universe.
The soundtrack is top-notch again like the first one. However, I will definitely side with the first Guardians with having the better soundtrack. That’s mostly due to personal preference though. Volume 2 had a few songs I never even heard of, like “Lake Shore Drive,” “Wham Bam Shang-a-Lang” and “Southern Nights.” But I’m glad I’m discovering some new stuff. And the Looking Glass hit, “Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl)” is a great tune but this movie made it a plot-point for some weird reason.
Kurt Russell is Ego in the film and I was thrilled that he had a major role in this Marvel movie. Russell almost never disappoints and he was the perfect choice to play the dashing and charming Peter Quill’s father. He literally stole the show and that brings me to…
What Doesn’t Work: A little too much Russell. Crazy? I know! But hear me out. I’m still processing the whole movie but after my initial viewing I was a tad underwhelmed by how much Quill and Ego conversed with each other. Without going into particulars and spoilers, Russell overshadows the rest of the cast a little too much for my tastes. Don’t get me wrong, I love Kurt Russell but for such an already splendid cast in the Guardians themselves, I wish there was just a teensy-teensy more of them in the story. In other words, for most of the middle of the movie, Quill doesn’t do much but chat with his dad.
Going further into this slight complaint of the film, the plot had the Guardians split up into two teams and this kinda disappointed me because the camaraderie and bickering between the whole group was the best part of the first film. Rocket mainly was alone with Yondu for most of the film. Drax was getting chummy with the new character, Mantis. And Baby Groot was, well, just a baby. I’m not saying that the film suffers because of this however, because the split of the group still worked for the overall story but it wasn’t a perfect sequel split like Empire Strikes Back and its main characters being split up. I’m sorry if that’s an unfair comparison. I may be too hard on this movie and I can probably use a second viewing as well.
The only other thing I can nitpick is the lack of action. With Quill, Gamora and Drax basically slumming it on Ego’s planet for most of the middle act there wasn’t much action happening. And even though I wasn’t bored at all in the 136 minute movie, I was hoping for a little more action in the middle act. Also, the opening battle sequence with that space octopus creature was fun as hell but it basically was presented as a big joke. I also would like to point out that one of the antagonists, a golden-skinned, humorless race called the Sovereign keep attacking our heroes with a huge armada of drones that the Guardians evade or defeat not once, but twice, very easily. I didn’t care much for the repetitious way we see this army come out of nowhere with 100s of ships that they control light-years away that pose very little threat. It would’ve been better if they tried another way instead of the same drone ships, like a giant robot or something else to show how the Guardians can easily defeat their attempts. Like Wile E. Coyote always coming up with new ways to capture the Roadrunner but ultimately failing badly.
Overall: Nitpicks aside, this is a major win for the franchise and Marvel again. The first one was a surprise and is still ranked as not just one of the better Marvel movies but one of the best movies of all time. This one took the team in a new approach and while I initially didn’t like the team being split up and having Yondu and the Ravagers such a major player in the film, I think that my opinion may change over time. I did indeed enjoy every minute of it and laughed many times. I could pretty much recommend this movie on its sense of humor alone. Its basically a comedy with a sci-fi/action subplot. Which is sad, because the actual comedies coming out these days are hardly funny at all. I just didn’t gel much with the father and son theme as I probably should have. I will end this review saying that I look very forward seeing this again and the next Guardians of the Galaxy adventure.
Score: 9 Tasers to the Face (out of 10)
Brian’s take: I really enjoyed basically every bit of this picture. Imagine, a blockbuster movie where every character is likable and has some sort of purpose! Even Ego, who is completely evil, is very likable, but a lot of that probably has to do with Kurt Russell. It does take a breath in the middle, but that was totally fine with me. There’s plenty of action in the beginning and end. I just cared that I cared about what was going on. Plus, like Brad said, it’s genuinely funny throughout and never felt forced. It’s just a talented director executing his vision without (seemingly) a lot of studio micromanagement and being forced to be gritty, and by extension miserable and muddled. You can just go watch this and have fun, and isn’t that refreshing? Although, it gets a one point deduction for having Russell and Stallone in the same movie and not having them share a scene in a long-awaited Tango & Cash reunion. Score: 9 Famously Huge Turds (out of 10)