Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2, 2017.
Directed by James Gunn.
Starring Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, Pom Klementieff, Sylvester Stallone, Kurt Russell, Elizabeth Debicki, Chris Sullivan, Tommy Flanagan, Ving Rhames, Laura Haddock, Seth Green, Michelle Yeoh, David Hasselhoff, Jeff Goldblum, Michael Rosenbaum, and Sean Gunn.
Set to the backdrop of Awesome Mixtape #2, ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2‘ continues the team’s adventures as they unravel the mystery of Peter Quill’s true parentage.
I don’t usually make my writing or reviews personal (most of the time connecting a movie to one’s personal life doesn’t make for entertaining reading), but if there was ever an exception to the rule, it’s now with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. Back when writer/director James Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy, Super, Slither, etc, the guy has yet to make a movie that is anything less than outstanding) released the first film, he followed up with fans by posting a very special thank you status to his constantly active Facebook page where he compared the titular ragtag unlikely group of heroes to outcasts similar to himself growing up as different and socially awkward. He heartwarmingly expressed that the movie was aimed at those that are abnormal. As a disabled man born with Muscular Dystrophy, it’s a no-brainer that I was always going to be viewed as different from other people, which is probably why I identify with most of James Gunn’s work, and more specifically the Guardians of the Galaxy superheroes. In other words, he truly accomplished his goal of making a superhero film that sincerely honors those that are different (it’s a movie where a talking raccoon and an adorable tree save the galaxy for crying out loud, in addition to so many other wonderfully idiosyncratic characters).
The sequel continues this ever-growing bond between the galactic heroes in some unexpected ways. For starters, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 doesn’t have much of a plot, but that’s not necessarily a negative. This time around, James Gunn is interested in further exploring the Guardians’ relationship together as a dysfunctional family. They get along but they don’t. At one point a character comments on their lack of cohesion by stating that they are not friends, to which Drax the Destroyer (a returning Dave Bautista who once again hits a home-run with the role) quickly rebuttals “you’re right, we are a family”. Why? Well, because families give each other constant shit, and by giving each other constant shit they build each other up and make an even stronger connection, both mentally and physically. Some will argue that Drax is simply just the comedic relief, but that couldn’t be any more false; in this sequel he may understand what a metaphor is and have a better grasp on sarcasm, but he also continues to say what is on his mind without regard if it’s something he should keep to himself, which brilliantly makes for some wise words of wisdom peppered throughout jokes about his famously large turds.
A good hour of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is a combination of the team ribbing one another and getting into semi-serious arguments, seemingly going nowhere from a narrative standpoint (a high priestess played by Elizabeth Debicki is introduced early on as a villain persistent in killing the team, but she’s hardly super important in this entry of the franchise). Without spoiling too much, Star-Lord (Chris Pratt playing his usual sarcastic self, also getting a few really well done emotional moments again) runs into his long lost father Ego the Living Planet (Kurt Russell with his unmistakable badass gruff voice), who is literally a living planet that also has a human physical form extension of his existence, and naturally they catch up with one another. Oh, and Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and Nebula (Karen Gillan) continue their sisterly death match as we come to understand more about the dynamic of their messed up upbringing.
Furthermore, for reasons I won’t dive into, the Guardians actually find themselves broken up from one another and separated into smaller teams, which has its pros and cons. On one hand, it makes for some shaky editing that leaves you wondering what certain characters are up to and generally feeling like the flow of the film is off, but on the other side of the coin is James Gunn expertly knowing which characters to match together to create some beautiful moments that give each Guardian more depth.
Rocket Raccoon (seriously, where can I buy a real one of him? Bradley Cooper continues to kill this role) and Yondu (a returning Michael Rooker in one of the more surprisingly developed roles of the movie) in particular have a dramatic back and forth dialogue exchange that again, further defines them as characters. James Gunn is not lying when he says he puts as much thought into writing for these oddball characters than those that do for serious prestige Oscar-drama pictures, and with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, he continues to make each individual member more interesting than anything else in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Continuing along, the second hour of the blockbuster is where much of the action kicks in, and by all accounts, it is again some of the best stuff Marvel has dished out thus far. Before even diving into specific set-pieces, it needs to be mentioned how stunning the film looks visually, utilizing a wide variety of colors and different landscapes that effectively make each planet feel distinct and unique. The imagery also evokes many different sci-fi designs and cultures, ranging from environments filled with luscious green pastures, barren wastelands, Egyptian-like aesthetics, underground caverns, and so much more. Rounding out the beauty are numerous wide-angle shots of every aforementioned area that also look exceptional in 3D. It also helps that James Gunn consciously made the decision to avoid using colors (primarily purple) that were heavily featured in the first film.
With that said, just try to imagine what the multistage and complex, epic battles are like among all of these locations. It’s basically a pleasant assault on the senses that also is not empty of substance, as the confrontation raging on is one massive in scope and filled with emotional depth. It’s absolutely nothing compared to the humongous battle during the opening credits, which by the way features a dancing Baby Groot. And for those of you thinking that Disney and James Gunn are going to shove Baby Groot down your throat during every action sequence for the obvious reasoning of exploitable marketing purposes, then you’ll be happy to know you’re wrong, as the character is used with restraint. That’s also a good thing, as it makes the segments where he is the center of attention that much more adorable and easier to invest in.
Basically, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is a tale of two movies; one of camaraderie and soap opera shenanigans between the team, and all-out razzle-dazzle chaos once shit hits the fan. Unfortunately, what little plot there is pops out as entirely predictable, but James Gunn definitely seems more focused on expanding the depth of each character rather than telling another paint by numbers save the world story. What’s funny is that by doing so, he ends up bringing to life one of the best villains in the MCU thus far. There are also some new lovable characters introduced, most notably Pom Klementieff’s Mantis, Ego’s sort of assistant that is completely oblivious to all social interaction meaning that she and Drax really get to steal the show with some of their ridiculous banter that is boosted by terrific chemistry. Sylvester Stallone also appears, but I’m not going to spoil his role as it’s more of a cameo setting up a much larger presence in future films.
Before wrapping things up I’d also like to quickly comment on the Awesome Mixtape Vol. 2, which honestly pales in comparison to some of the iconic chosen songs in the first film. If anything, it’s the original score by Tyler Bates here that will be remembered, but that isn’t to say the licensed soundtrack doesn’t have its moments. Good ol’ rock and roll is even utilized during the common superhero movie routine where good guys and bad guys charge into battle to begin beating each other to a pulp. However, the hits featured do definitely serve the plot, although I’m not sure we need characters discussing each single to explain how everything relates. Still, the soundtrack is definitely worth purchasing.
On that note, much of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 actually feels like set up for a bigger picture, but surprisingly not too much for Avengers: Infinity War. It will be interesting to see how some of these decisions play out for the third film. Minor gripes aside, James Gunn has written and directed the two best films in the entire MCU thus far; his work continues to contain superb irreverent humor, boast visually and emotionally captivating spectacles, and embraces being different from the rest of the pack going against standard superhero conventions.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★