Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol.2 (aka Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2) review by Mark McPherson - Cinema Paradiso
The sequel (or second volume) to 2014’s standout superhero outing of Guardians from the Galaxy is more of what we want, but not more of what we need. You’ll get more of Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) cracking 80s references, Gamora (Zoe Saldana) being stoic, Drax (Dave Bautista) being hilariously blunt, Rocket (Bradley Cooper) being devious and Groot (Vin Diesel) uttering his only sentence of dialogue ad nauseum. While it is true that James Gunn’s directing style is a refreshing change of pace from the usual superhero epics and his charming ensemble has enough wit to make even the most formulaic of superhero plots more fun than they should be, it’s a little disappointing to see Guardians slip into a safer realm when it was once such a rebel of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Most Marvel ensemble pictures have done a great job at giving every character enough to do and while Gunn’s picture certainly makes enough room for everyone, it comes off very uneven and rushed to make sure everyone gets a piece of the script. There are at least five arcs going at the same time and the most central of all them also seems to be the most undeveloped. Peter finally finds his true father among the stars; a sentient being by the name of Ego, appearing as a bearded and high-spirited Kurt Russell. Or is the Kurt Russell form just what Peter wants to see? Did he see Overboard or Escape from New York before being abducted from Earth? I ask only because Peter seems to have lied about who his father was to his friends on Earth, referencing another celebrity icon of the 1980s. But the more important question is where has dear old dad been all this time and why he left Peter’s mom.
Those questions are sidelined, however, as the movie makes way to give all the other characters something to do, separate from Peter’s “my dad is a god” plot. Gamora finds herself still engaged with bitterness for her sister Nebula, picking up their sibling feud from the previous movie. Her story feels more fleshed out, gritty and personal. But no time for that story! It’s now time to watch Drax form a romantic bond with the cute empath Mantis. Will he finally confess his hidden feelings about losing his wife and daughter? Sort of, but, wait, hold that thought! Let’s watch Rocket and Yondu (Michael Rooker) lay waste to a whole ship of dumb outlaws that want them dead. They make a great team and will perhaps come to terms with their troublesome nature by confessing their pasts. But they’ll have to wrap that story up quickly because Groot, now in his baby form, is doing a silly dance. Look at Baby Groot and how marketable he will be as a toy for the kids!
I think the movie’s resting on its laurels is best personified through Baby Groot. As a baby, Groot can’t do much. Sure, he’s cute in the opening as he dances in the foreground while his comrades fight a monster behind him, but what more can he do? He can’t really fight, spending most of his time tripping people or riding rats. His small height makes him easy enough to throw and toss for his comrades, but more for safety than combat. Groot may not have the deepest background, but he was at least useful and had a personality in the first movie. Here, he seems to be more of a mascot than anything. There’s so little for him to do that the movie has to feature a scene where he is kicked and doused with beer so that you’ll feel sorry for him. And for as much as the whole baby joke angle is forced with Groot, there are at least a dozen missed opportunities here. Couldn’t the group make Groot a baby harness or special seat so he doesn’t bounce around the ship? I kept thinking of how the Guardians would actually handle missions with a baby and cringed.
I’m sure because of the mass appeal of Guardians that you really only care about one question: Is it still fun? And, yes, it’s still just as cute, crass, crude and stylish as it ever was. The soundtrack once more features a collection of funky rock from the late-70s/early-80s, the dialogue is silly, the characters are still likable, the action scenes still awesome and the sci-fi setting has a quality both lived-in and otherworldly. It’s a pleasing sequel on these merits, but for acting as a follow-up to the most risky and divergent of Marvel movies, it’s in danger of stagnating with its overstuffed plot at 2½ hours. Sure, I still had a fun time dancing along to tune of Vol. 2, but with a worrisome thought in the back of my head about the inevitable third film being more of a Greatest Hits than Vol. 3.