GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2
Writer/Director: James Gunn
Starring: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Kurt Russell, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, Pom Klementieff, Elizabeth Debicki, Chris Sullivan, Sean Gunn
In 2014, Marvel took a chance at a fairly unknown series in their canon named Guardians of the Galaxy and unleashed it as part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It felt fresh and exciting for the superhero genre and made star Chris Pratt a bona fide action star. Three years later, the sequel is here to make fans laugh all over again. Chris Pratt leads our group of Guardians as Peter Quill/Star-Lord alongside Gamora (Saldana), Drax the Destroyer (Bautista), feisty Rocket (Cooper), and the adorable little tree Groot (Diesel) who are fighting off a gigantic slug with razor sharp teeth on the planet of Sovereign. Despite killing the slug they find themselves in quite the bind with High Priestess Ayesha (Debicki) on a planet where everything and everyone is gold. Gamora is confronted with her sister Nebula (Gillan) who has a bounty placed upon her on another planet. There is no love lost between the sisters. Meanwhile, Rocket steals some coveted batteries on the planet sending Ayesha off attacking the Guardians as they try to flee. The Guardians crash land on another planet barely escaping Ayesha’s warriors. They’ve also been followed by another ship through this portal. The pilot of this mysterious vessel is Ego (Russell), Peter’s father whom he hasn’t seen since childhood. His guard is up and not ready to trust his father who left his mother many years ago. The question remains as to why Ego has taken it upon himself to find Peter all of a sudden. I could go with divulging more about the various plotlines involved in Vol. 2, but I don’t want to overly complicate things that could wind up being spoilers.
Within the film’s first opening moments, writer and director James Gunn, who also conceived the first film, reminds the audience why the Marvel Cinematic Universe sets itself apart from the DC movies. I sat back with a big grin and chuckled along with the bickering among Peter and his crew. Gunn then takes time to shift the action a bit by focusing in on little Baby Groot who is off dancing to his own rhythm when there is a big monster right behind him. To compliment his cuteness is Bradley Cooper voicing Rocket who is full of attitude and opinions. Cooper is so memorable and dynamic as Rocket that I’m still contemplating if this is his best role to date. Is that fair given it’s an animated hero versus his edgier work with David O. Russell or Clint Eastwood?
Marvel has done well by making their sequels work just as well, if not better, than their predecessors. Once we move past the introductory stories, we can start having more fun and experiment with the characters. That’s precisely what Gunn has done as you can tell by that opening scene. He has written a witty and playful sense of humor with nearly every major character given their time to shine with a snappy comeback or retort back to their adversary. The script is also chock full of pop culture references throughout including bits about Cheers, Mary Poppins, and David Hasselhoff. Back again is the catchy rock music that fills the soundtrack as Peter turns on his cassette of “Awesome Mix 2” for inspiration.
Like most sequels, everything is bigger and more lavish in Vol. 2. I often lament about the overreliance on CGI and special effects when practical sets and effects could be utilized. This is that rare example where they were used exceptionally well to the point where I was never distracted by it. The costumes, make-up, and production design are exploding with color and texture in every frame. They fit right in with the galactic tone without looking cartoony. There are plenty of dynamic action sequences yet none of them felt like they were dragged out for too long like we’ve seen in some of the Marvel or DC movies. James Gunn raises the stakes for our heroes by making them reaffirm what the idea of family means to them. Peter’s reunion with Ego is front and center as well as his relationship with the paternal Yondu (Rooker), while Gamora and Nebula test their definition of sisterhood. In a broader sense, the Guardians have a family unit among themselves and are constantly reminded that, despite their differences, they are an unbreakable force when united for the common good.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is another highly entertaining outing for Marvel. James Gunn is fully aware of the story and world they have created and have fun with it. It sets out to be an entertaining ride that never takes itself too seriously. It starts to feel a bit long and stretched out in the middle due to the various plotlines which has our team separated but regains its momentum once a big character reveal occurs. It’s great to be back with these characters again, especially scene-stealers Rocket and Baby Groot. Rocket’s wiseass cracks yield some of the biggest laughs, and it’s hard not to adore the cuteness overload in the animation given to Baby Groot and Vin Diesel’s various intonations of “I am Groot!” Kurt Russell is a great addition to the cast as he easily dips into his ultra-cool persona as Ego. He’s having a highly successful year thanks to this and starring in The Fate of the Furious. Make sure to stay through all of the credits, as there are five post-credit sequences and the announcement that “The Guardians will return.”
Is It Worth Your Trip to the Movies? Will no doubt please fans, but also those growing tired of the genre
RATING: 4 out of 5 TICKET STUBS