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Review: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
04.24.2017
7 10

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 movie review marvel chris pratt zoe saldana

PLOT: Now firmly established as forces to be reckoned with in the universe, the Guardians of the Galaxy enjoy a little success before finding themselves divided: Peter "Star Lord" Quill finally meets his father, a godlike entity known as Ego, while the rest of the gang must make unlikely allies in order to combat impending doom.

REVIEW: I really raved about GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY in July of 2014, if you need a bit of reference for the forthcoming review. "The coolest thing about GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY is that it feels like it has nothing to lose," I wrote then, and looking back it was an apt compliment. That movie kind of came out of nowhere (despite being from, you know, Marvel Studios) and it delighted and energized a fanbase, one that appreciated there was a different way this studio could do things in lieu of some of its standard superhero origin stories. That movie was fresh, exhilarating, a bit chaotic - but not always in a bad way. It had a lame villain, yes, but we loved the heroes so much that it didn't matter. Turns out the watchability factor of that movie was sky-high, too, because I've seen it roughly a dozen times since.

Expectations aren't so low now for this band of outsiders, now that people all over the world know their names. As with any sequel to a franchise-starter, we're eager to see more of the same while also seeing greater stakes at play, vivid new situations and villains, and intriguing growth from our characters. Writer-director James Gunn has doubled down on the "more of the same" quotient. At once a lightweight offering while longer and noisier than its predecessor, GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2 is a perfectly fine follow-up that is still a bit disappointing when put up against the original. Not a bad movie by any stretch, it has several sequences charged with the kind of irreverent mania that marked the first film. However, our pals Peter (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax (Dave Bautista), Rocket (Bradley Cooper) and Groot (Vin Diesel) - make that "Baby Groot" - are certainly less unconventional this time around, and their adventures are colorful diversions with almost no sense of consequence at all. (That's even though this movie has yet another "save the galaxy from overwhelming destruction" plot.)

The movie's opening 15-20 minutes or so are its best. I won't spoil the prologue because it contains a great visual effect that you should see for yourself, but from there it moves on to one of those "in-progress" scenarios where we're thrust into the climax of our heroes' latest tribulation. No longer the callous rascals they once were, the Guardians of the Galaxy (as they are indeed known) are now helping other civilizations thwart certain doom. In this case, they're making sure a race of beings known as the Sovereign destroy a gigantic, toothy monster intent on eating some... space batteries? Whatever, the details aren't so important, but what's amusing is that the majority of this battle takes place around a clueless Baby Groot, who dances away to ELO's "Mr. Blue Sky" while his comrades get flung about by the titanic beast. It's a really cleverly-produced sequence with some terrific visuals and it starts the movie off just right. And yes, you'll love Baby Groot. He's a joy to watch in action.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 movie review marvel chris pratt zoe saldana

From there, GUARDIANS VOL. 2 kind of moves around in a somewhat unbalanced fashion, not finding quite the right footing plot-wise. One major element introduced is a godlike character fittingly called Ego (Kurt Russell), who saves the gang at one point and introduces himself as the father of Peter Quill. Ego whisks Peter, Gamora and Drax away to his home planet - which is actually just an extension of himself - while Rocket and Groot are left behind to contend with Gamora's bitter half-sister Nebula (Karen Gillan) and Peter's former gang of space pirates known as the Ravagers led by Yondu (Michael Rooker). These threads come together eventually, but not in the most satisfying of ways. There's a lot of male bonding going on and Peter's daddy issues are twofold thanks to Ego and Yondu, but Quill barely gets to brandish the Star Lord persona; more than half of the movie basically gives him nothing to do other than chat with dad.

One could say the story isn't really that important, it's the characters that make us want to see GUARDIANS VOL.2, and while that's not necessarily incorrect, this is a much more clunky, meandering tale than the one that kept VOL. 1 moving along. While the villain story was hackneyed, he still gave the first film reason to bounce around different worlds quite a bit, which allowed us to see action in wonderful new landscapes each and every time, but VOL. 2 pretty much sticks to the same couple of places. Ego's colorful home planet is quite cool to gaze upon at first, but we spend an awful lot of running time there. Similarly, we're confined to a rusty spaceship during the Rocket portions of the film, and while the production design is impressive, this is not always the most enthralling of locales. Still, the film is well-shot and the 3D is expertly utilized, as was the case with the first one. When the screen is alive with eye-popping CGI madness, the result is often dazzling. I just wish Gunn, who has an entire universe at his disposal, had seen fit to show us a much greater array of exciting new planets.

Let's get to the Guardians themselves. It's reasonable for Gunn to expect we'd want to enjoy these misfits engaged in the same sort of exchanges as in the original, but the wacky charm of seeing them forced to care for and depend on one another has faded. No one has grown or evolved, they're maybe a little louder and their one-liners are lamer. I'm not asking for a ton of character development when it comes to a talking raccoon called Rocket, but there's no escaping the fact that much of the Guardians' bickering sessions have a "been there, done that" feel. Maybe because the jokes are a little flatter, the lowbrow humor is ramped up (lots of poo and pee and penis chat) and there are only so many different variations on "rat" or "ugly puppy" you can toss at Rocket. I still like these characters, but GUARDIANS VOL. 2 does not make them as sincerely lovable as they were the first time around.

I know, there's a lot of comparing to the original going on here. Sadly, that's unavoidable. And it sounds like I dislike this movie, and I don't. It has pockets of great fun, and Gunn easily amuses with too many throwaway gags to count. (There's a bizarre moment when several characters are physically tripping out because they're going through a time warp-thing and it's a wild thing to behold.) It's a psychedelic cartoon, and I'm glad there's enough weirdness in it to lift up some of the parts that come off as repetitive. The cast is more or less as enjoyable as they were the first time around, even if their material isn't quite as sharp; Bautista looks like he's having too much damn fun in his Drax persona, and his laugh is still infectious. Kurt Russell is terrific, a very welcome presence here as Ego, his carefree demeanor making him a perfect pop to Pratt's boyish Quill. Another neat new addition is Mantis (Pom Klementieff), a bug-eyed alien who acts as Ego's assistant of sorts. Michael Rooker's Yondu has much more to do this time around, and Gunn gives his longtime pal a few nice scenes of legit pathos - Yondu actually is the only character in the film with a genuine arc.

The truth of the matter is, GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2 is going to have to live in the shadow of its superior predecessor; that's what happens when the original is just so original and the follow-up is just so... decent. It is not a total botch in the vein of IRON MAN 2, nor is it utterly disposable like THOR: THE DARK WORLD; there's no way you can consider it a failure of a movie. It's got plenty of zany sections of lunacy that made me smile, and I never felt like the movie didn't want to amuse me. I still appreciate such a hyper-strange effort from a major studio. It's possible that the next viewings will be better, since expectations will be out of the way, but after the initial experience I'll say GOTG2 is an underwhelming Marvel picture that only delivers some of the goods.

Source: JoBlo.com

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