Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)

The first ‘Guardians’ flick caught people off guard when it was released in 2014, and I mean that in a good way. Where most of the Marvel Cinematic Universe entries up to that point had gone for something of a ‘grounded’ feel, it embraced the wacky and fun spirit of the source material and ran with it, to the tune of HUGE bank! In light of how much cash it managed to rake in (not to mention the almost universal praise heaped upon it too), a sequel was absolutely inevitable…and now it’s upon us.
Personally, I love ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ (2014). It was a fun time at the movies and is one of those rare flicks with a lot of rewatchability. When it was announced, one week before the first movie’s release, that Marvel / Disney had green-lit a sequel and that most of the core crew were returning, I was naturally happy and curious…though a wee bit weary. We’ve all seen it before…a new movie comes out, kicks all kinds of ass, makes a shit-ton of money, the studio gets dollar signs in their eyes and they dive straight into assembly-lining a #2 out onto screens to capitalize on the still simmering popularity of the first flick. Sometimes it works…other times it doesn’t. Marvel Studios has had a couple flicks that probably fell victim to this manner of doing things, titles like ‘Iron Man 2’ (2010) and ‘Thor: The Dark World’ (2013). Now, there’s nothing that’s flat-out wrong about those two titles…it’s just that they undeniably lacked the spark of what came before. I’ll easily watch those ones again…while recognizing that they’re not as tight or as impactful as they should / could be. As my girlfriend and I walked into the theatre today to check out ‘GotG Vol. 2’, I wondered if this would be one of those. Well…it kinda was.
‘Vol. 2’ takes place 6 months after the events of the first movie and we’re quickly reintroduced to our quirky team of space-faring misfits, still led by the loveable doofus ‘Peter STAR LORD Quill’ (Chris Pratt). Along with ‘Gamorra’ (Zoe Saldana), ‘Drax’ (Dave Bautista), ‘Rocket’ (Bradley Cooper), and ‘Baby Groot’ (Vin Diesel), he has been tasked by a race of stuck-up gold humanoids called the ‘Sovereign’ to protect a vital power supply from a Lovecraftian beast from beyond the stars…or something. After a harrowing, and hilarious, battle with the creature, ‘Rockets’ kleptomaniac second nature gets the better of him and he puts the entire group into the cross-hairs of their newly former employers. Escaping the laser-spitting wrath of the golden “douchebags” with their payment, the recently captured ‘Nebula’ (Karen Gillan), ‘Quill’ and Co. find themselves crashed onto a forest planet and are soon approached by a powerful humanoid named ‘Ego’ (Kurt Russell). This being, in short order, claims to be ‘Quill’s biological father and expresses a clear desire to be part of his life. The group splits up, with ‘Quill’, ‘Gamorra’ and ‘Drax’ heading to ‘Ego’s home planet, along with his servant ‘Mantis’ (Pom Klementieff), while ‘Rocket’, ‘Groot’ and ‘Nebula’ remain behind to fix their mangled ship. Not long after this, ‘Quill’s former Ravager step-dad ‘Yondu’ (Michael Rooker) pops into the scene and much crazy space action and chuckles ensue.
I liked ‘Vol. 2’…but I can’t say I loved it, certainly not on the level that I hold the first one. It could be that since Vol. 1 left such an impression, that there was no way a sequel could match expectation. Honestly, I think ‘Vol.2’ would work best if you were to marathon it and the first one back to back and treat both as one complete narrative. Since we’re as familiar with the crazy characters and amusing dynamic as we are this time around, I found that there was a certain ‘freshness’ missing. Sure, there’s plenty of cool sight-gags and ‘in’ jokes, with lots of gnarly sci-fi details and set-pieces and it all works in the context of this flick, but I just didn’t find myself as ‘gripped’ as I wanted to be. I chuckled and smiled many times, but didn’t really laugh out loud once…not like with the first movie. With a couple exceptions, the characters also didn’t change all that much. Strangely, ‘Yondu’ was the one who got the meatiest ‘arc’, as blossoming characters go, with ‘Nebula’ coming in second as Next Most Interesting.
That being said, the cast, as with the first movie, was great. They were all solid and all had their moments to shine, but again, I had trouble ‘connecting’ this time around. And don’t be fooled when you see Sylvester Stallone’s name in the credits. In total, he MAY be in it for about 5 minutes…tops. I hate to say it but his role reeked of ‘stunt casting’ and really, he didn’t need to be anywhere near this flick. But…there he was.
It was parts of the script and some of the pacing that let the cast down, IMO. There are too many sequences in the 2nd Act where it’s ‘Quill’ and ‘Ego’ working on the Father / Son dynamic…and I found the pacing suffered and the material…boring, which is saying alot if proven talent like Pratt and Kurt muthafuckin Russell are involved. I also found that, as with many of the Marvel flicks, this one’s climax just degenerated into another overly CG’d lightshow where I found myself slightly confused about what was going on and borderline overwhelmed by the lack of restraint in the visuals. On the plus side…the 3D, like with the first one, worked pretty damn well.
One other area that I do have to bring up as a Negative was the use of music. The soundtrack for the first one is terrific and the tunes were used really well to get the fun and wacky feel of the movie across but here…it felt like a gimmick. A gimmick built around some great music…but still a gimmick. Too many times it seemed like popular music from the 70’s / 80’s were shoe-horned in simply because the audience now expects it, regardless of whether or not the tunes actually worked with the scene they were playing over. Maybe I’m just nitpicking…but I did find it a teeny bit annoying.
All in all, ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2’ is a perfectly acceptable sequel to a surprisingly kick-ass first movie that I enjoyed watching while I watched it, but in the end, didn’t leave a huge impression on me. The characters are still fun (just not as much as I hoped), the effects are great (just a bit more ‘in your face’ than I needed) and the story carried on from the first one effectively (with just a few too many lulls in the pacing). The sound design was cool and many of the sci-fi ideas were inspired, while most of the jokes ‘landed’, just not as hilariously as I would’ve liked. It’d be nice if director James Gunn and his crew can craft a solid third entry to give us a well-rounded trilogy…similar to how things went with the three stand-alone ‘Iron Man’ flicks. If you liked the first one, odds are good that you’ll get what you need with this one and there are enough slick visuals on display that I can recommend this for the theatre. However…if you opt to check this one out at home…I think you’ll be mostly entertained by what they’ve done…just not as much as you maybe could’ve been. I liked it…didn’t love it.

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