Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

GuardiansVol2-rev

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2  (2017)    Marvel/Action-Adventure-Sci-Fi    RT: 136 minutes    Rated PG-13 (sequences of sci-fi action and violence, language, brief suggestive content)    Director: James Gunn    Screenplay: James Gunn    Music: Tyler Bates    Cinematography: Henry Braham    Release date: May 5, 2017 (US)    Cast: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, Pom Klementieff, Elizabeth Debicki, Chris Sullivan, Sean Gunn, Sylvester Stallone, Kurt Russell.

 

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 The 2017 summer movie season is off to a pretty good start with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, the much-anticipated sequel to the surprise hit of summer 2014. What made the original Guardians so great is that it was completely unexpected. After all, we’re talking about a movie that was released in August, the official dumping ground for substandard summer flicks. It turned out to be one of the most enjoyable movies of the summer…. hell, the whole year. It was great campy fun. While it didn’t exactly subvert the superhero genre (Deadpool accomplished that feat two years later), its tongue-in-cheek approach to the story and characters brought some life back to the genre.

 guardians2Sadly, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 takes itself a little too seriously. While it retains some of the humor of the original, it feels like returning writer-director James Gunn is going for something a bit more commercial this time out. For example, Peter Quill (Pratt) spends less time wise-cracking and more time exploring his Daddy issues. Gamora (Saldana) spends less time kicking butt and more time trying to fix her relationship with her resentful half-sister Nebula (Gillan). But before you go calling the intergalactic Dr. Phil, it has a lighter, funnier side as evidenced by the opening credits sequence in which Baby Groot (voiced by Diesel) dances and boogies to E.L.O.’s “Mr. Blue Sky” while the rest of his team fights some ugly monster. He takes it as an affront that they dare interrupt him with their silly battle.

 It’s what happens after the battle that sets the story in motion. The Guardians were hired to protect valuable batteries from the aforementioned creature which they successfully do. In exchange, golden high priestess Ayesha (Debicki, The Great Gatsby) turns over Nebula who was caught trying to steal the batteries. It should be a done deal but Rocket the Raccoon (voiced by Cooper) decides to help himself to a few which makes them the newly sworn enemies of the entire Sovereign race. They come after them in a fleet of remote-controlled drones which get destroyed by a mysterious figure. The Guardians crash land on a nearby planet where the mysterious figure reveals himself to be Ego (Russell, Big Trouble in Little China), aka Quill’s long-lost father. It turns out he’s a Celestial, a powerful alien being who’s designed his own planet. He invites Quill, Gamora and Drax (Bautista) to come home with him.

 Meanwhile, Ayesha hires Ravager Yondu (Rooker) to capture the Guardians and bring them to her. We get a bit of background on Yondu in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. We find out that he was exiled from the Ravager community by Stakar Ogord (Stallone, Rambo) for his involvement in child trafficking- i.e. kidnapping Quill from Earth and NOT delivering him to his father who hired him. They manage to nab Rocket and Groot but Yondu isn’t sure he wants to deliver them to the Sovereigns. This causes most of his crew to mutiny and throw him in a cell with Rocket. They need to work together to escape and meet up with the others on Ego, also the name of the planet for reasons I will NOT reveal here.

 I like a great many things about Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. It has its share of funny scenes. Each character has his or her moments but it’s Baby Groot who steals the show. The scene where he tries to help Rocket and Yondu escape from confinement is an instant classic. The relationship between Drax and Ego’s pet empath Mantis (Klementieff, 2013’s Oldboy) is…. well, unique. Once again, Gunn makes great use of some awesome oldies like “Southern Nights” (Glen Campbell), “Come a Little Bit Closer” (Jay and the Americans), “Wham Bam Shang-a-Lang” (Silver) and “Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl)” (Looking Glass) although admittedly none of them quite measure up to “Cherry Bomb” (The Runaways) or “Come and Get Your Love” (Redbone) from the first movie.

 The cast, for the most part, looks like they’re having a blast in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. I was slightly disappointed in Russell’s performance. He doesn’t project any real sense of menace. He’s good but he could have done better. Stallone is a nice addition to the family but I wish he had been in it more. However, I’m sure we’ll see more of him in future installments; one of the mid-credits scenes more or less confirms this. I was bummed that Russell and Stallone had no scenes together; I was looking forward to a Tango & Cash reunion.

 The main actors- that is, the Guardians- seem very comfortable in their roles. Gunn gives us a bit more character development this time out, something that helps and hurts at the same time. Let me put it this way. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is at its best when it sticks to action and space battles. The apocalyptic ending isn’t that different from similar scenarios in other superhero movies. The special effects are quite good. I like that Saldana and Bautista go with makeup rather than CGI to create their characters. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is a decent movie; it’s a solid three-star flick. Be sure to stay through the ENTIRE end credits for five additional scenes.

 BTW, in case you were wondering, Howard the Duck does make a return appearance. I still think this character deserves a mulligan (although I LOVE the 1986 movie). 

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