More of the same, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
It’s 44 degrees in Chicago as I write this, but make no mistake—summer is here. I know this because Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 hits theaters today and meets all of the “summer blockbuster” criteria: it has a huge budget, is part of a mega-franchise that has already announced another chapter, boasts an A-list cast and lots of CGI and action sequences, and has been dominating every marketing channel for quite some time. (I’m pretty sure Chris Pratt has cloned himself because he is everywhere.)
So the biggest question on everyone’s minds is not whether the film will earn a gajillion dollars, but rather whether it lives up to its joyful (but in a sarcastic way) 2014 predecessor, whose success was by no means a sure thing since it hinged upon the masses caring about comic book characters who don’t have ‘-man’ at the end of their names.
The answer is that Vol. 2 almost lives up to the hype, and the biggest fans of the franchise will likely love it just as much as the first film. Since the whole gang is back and once again led by Peter Quill/Star-Lord (Pratt), you can expect more of the original’s near-constant bickering and one-liners, literally colorful characters and can-you-top-this action. Gamora (Zoe Saldana) is still bright green, is still the smartest one of the group and is still in denial of the “unspoken thing” she has with Quill. Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) is still treating us to the inventive ways he can come up with to dispatch bad guys—and still has a chip on his shoulder. Drax (Dave Bautista) still has no filter and provides even more of the laughs this time around. And Baby Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) is still as ridiculously cute as when we last saw him. His childlike naiveté is the source of some of the funniest scenes, from the opening battle sequence, where Groot grooves obliviously to ELO’s Mr. Blue Sky, to Rocket’s random search for tape near the end of the film (which is Groot-related, but I won’t spoil it), to the best of the five (yes, really) post-credit scenes.
At times I felt like I was watching “The Fast and the Furious… in Space!!!” for all the characters’ talk of “family,” but I must admit that the more emotional scenes were superior to and helped make up for the many unnecessary and ho-hum chase sequences that inflated Vol. 2’s running time past two hours. I found those parts so lacking that I wish writer/director James Gunn (who helmed the first film and has also signed on for the third) would’ve found a way to NOT involve The Sovereign—a gold, perfection-obsessed alien race who are on a mission to destroy the Guardians and therefore keep them on the run. Aside from one humorous moment that reveals how they control their spaceships, I found them boring.
Not boring at all is Kurt Russell as Ego, a celestial being who is also Quill’s mysterious and until-now-absent father. Audience members of a certain age will get a kick out of the film’s first scene, which employs some sort of straight-up wizardry to deliver a flashback of the “starman” in his 20s, driving a convertible alongside Peter’s not-yet-mother, his glorious head of hair rustling in the breeze as the couple jams to “Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl)” by Looking Glass. Russell was a fantastic choice for Quill’s father, not only because of his sci-fi cred, but also because he plays so well off of Chris Pratt’s every-guy likeability. A perfect example of this is when the two share a touching moment celebrating their celestial super-powers . . . but then turn it into their own (hilarious) version of “normal” father-son bonding.
Another highlight is Pom Klementieff as Mantis, Ego’s pet of sorts, who can tell what others are feeling, as well as influence it. She is as naïve as Groot and as awkward as Drax, which makes for an extremely odd but moving and funny Mantis/Drax friendship. I hope she is on board for future films.
But the scene that will stick with me most—the scene that made up for all The Sovereign crap—involves Michael Rooker’s bright-blue, snaggle-toothed rogue Ravager Yondu. No, it’s not one of several sequences where he whistle-commands his deadly arrow in dizzying formations to take out his enemies. (But those parts are all very cool.) Rather, it’s a brief scene and just a few words he utters near the end of the film that made me have to wipe my eyes under my 3D glasses. I was caught off guard and thought, “What?!?! Am I CRYING at this movie?!?!” But indeed I was, and depending on your own family history, maybe you will be so moved as well.
The Bottom-Line? However you felt about the first Guardians of the Galaxy is likely how you’ll feel about Vol. 2. If you consider yourself a fan of this franchise, then I probably don’t need to tell you that it’s best experienced in a theater. I am Groot.
Cast: Chris Pratt (Peter Quill / Star-Lord), Zoe Saldana (Gamora), Dave Bautista (Drax), Vin Diesel (Baby Groot (voice)), Bradley Cooper (Rocket (voice)), Michael Rooker (Yondu), Pom Klementieff (Mantis), Karen Gillan (Nebula), Kurt Russell (Ego)
Credits: Written and directed by James Gunn
Studio: Walt Disney Pictures
Run Time: 2 hours and 16 minutes
Erika Olson © May 5, 2017