Monday, April 24th, 2017 at 9:00 am
Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2 Director: James Gunn Screenwriter: James Gunn Cast: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, Pom Klementieff, Elizabeth Debicki, Chris Sullivan, Sean Gunn, Sylvester Stallone, Kurt Russell Distributor: Walt Disney Pictures Rated PG-13 | 136 Minutes Release Date: May 5, 2017
James Gunn‘s Guardians of the Galaxy was once considered one of the riskiest films that Marvel Studios could ever release. It was an unknown property which cast three relative unknowns and gave two A-listers voice roles. However, the film’s surprising success proved that a quirky, hilarious, musically-charged space opera could work as a superhero property. Who would have thought a roguish space outlaw, an alien assassin, an alien manic, a gun-toting raccoon, and a talking tree would be our favorite a-holes in the Marvel Cinematic Universe?
Now they are back for round two in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. As with all sequels to a universally loved film, expectations run unbelievably high. Fortunately, Gunn never misses a beat. It’s absolutely terrific and just as fun, if not more fun, than the first. But it’s also one of the few Marvel films that’s emotionally driven. Check out my full review below.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 opens in 1980, with Ego (Kurt Russell) and Merideth (Laura Haddock), Peter Quill’s mother, as they travel the countryside of Missouri to the sounds of Aliotta Haynes Jeremiah’s “Lake Shore Drive.” The song matches the peaceful and serene setting as it provides some very necessary exposition as to why Ego is on Earth. We flash forward to present day where the Guardians – Peter aka Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax (Dave Bautista), Rocket (voice of Bradley Cooper), and Baby Groot (voice of Vin Diesel) – have been hired to protect the high and mighty Ayesha (Elizabeth Debecki) and the Sovereigns from rabid squid-like aliens who intend to feast on the energy of their batteries.
In exchange for successfully protecting the batteries, the Sovereigns hand over Nebula (Karen Gillian). But Rocket’s less than altruistic antics get the Guardians into trouble, since Rocket stole the same batteries to fence off. Offended by this act, the Sovereigns retaliate by attacking and nearly destroying the Guardians’ ship. However, they are saved by a “one-inch man” who reveals himself to be Ego. It doesn’t take too long before Ego reveals himself to be Peter’s father, and in exchange for proving his parentage, he will repair their stranded ship. So Peter, Gamora, and Drax accept the offer and leave Rocket, Baby Groot, and Nebula behind.
Meanwhile, Yondu’s (Michael Rooker) actions have brought shame to his Ravengers, as other Ravenger groups have exiled him. Looking to earn their respect, he accepts an offer from the Sovereigns to take back the batteries that the Guardians have stolen. However, Yondu’s poor judgment leads to a mutiny led by Taserface and Nebula, and now he, along with Rocket and Groot, will be turned over to the Kree.
Unaware of what is happening on the other side of the galaxy, Peter and Ego bond like any normal father and son would. Ego explains what kind of powers Peter has, and starts to teach him how to harness it by playing catch. However, this proves to be more time consuming than it should as Gamora believes that it is time to finally go back. However, Ego’s assistant, Mantis (Pom Klementieff), keeps them at bay. And soon, the mystery behind Ego’s sudden appearance starts to reveal itself.
Yes, there is a lot going on considering the Guardians are practically split across galaxies from each other and it’s hard to tell what kind of a superhero film it is based on the first act alone. There are some tonal inconsistencies as the film shifts from one subplot to the next. But it doesn’t take that long for Vol. 2 to find its footing and reestablish what makes the Guardians film franchise so much fun.
Where the first Guardians had the team building chemistry, Vol. 2 goes deeper into some of their backstories, their drives, and their motivations. The sequel explores the sibling rivalry between Gamora and Nebula, while also fleshing out Peter’s daddy issues. Yondu and Rocket discover they have much more in common, and Drax still doesn’t have a grasp on subtly. But what’s not so subtle is the theme of family. Not that it hits you over the head repeatedly, it’s just that it tries to solve a lot of the family problems in its runtime. Sorta like a sitcom.
Since we’re so familiar with these characters, it’s safe to say that Pratt is still very much a handsome roguish outlaw, while Saldana plays the mother-figure with assassin-like qualities very well. There isn’t nearly enough screen time for Bautista, though. The film tries to give him an arc by giving him a relationship with Mantis, and it works on some occasions, but it’s those other times that misses the mark. It’s not that they don’t work well together, it just there isn’t enough time for that relationship to be believable.
But the dialogue is certainly more developed. There are plenty of one-line zingers and tender moments to draw out the more emotional moments of the film. It’s possible that Vol. 2 has the most emotional depth of all the films in the MCU. And a lot the songs are emotional cues, too. There’s no doubt you’ll be tapping your feet to the sounds of ELO’s “Mr. Blue Sky” as the Guardians fend off a giant squid-like alien, all the while Baby Groot is doing something so adorable that you won’t really care what’s on in the background.
That’s not to say the set pieces should be overlooked. It’s visually striking and everything pops and explodes with color. There is a 70s and Kong Kar-Wai vibe that pulsates during those scenes in Ego’s ship. But the zany dichotomy of industrial and artistry continues to live on in the ships or Ego’s planet. One thing is for sure, it all works, especially during the emotionally charged kaleidoscope of colors ending.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is one of those rare sequels that truly surpasses any expectations. Normally, a sequel would just meet its predecessor or lower the bar. But not this sequel. Just like Peter’s awesome music mix, Vol. 2 is full of emotions that range from exciting and heart-pounding to loving and somber. Gunn never misses a beat with this sequel by weaving in humor with the more intense action sequences, but also balancing it out with the more heartwarming moments. One thing is for sure, there isn’t any shortage of fun or emotion in this sequel.