Friday, May 5, 2017

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Less ambitious than the original film, the sequel to Guardians of the Galaxy attempts to focus a bit more on relationships and family while, of course, still leaving plenty of time for hijinks and misadventure. As he proved in Guardians of the Galaxy, writer/director James Gunn is right at home with the later, but if the sequel has a major weakness it's that more subtle emotion isn't his forte.

Not to take anything away from the sequel which proves to be an enjoyable summer romp, but Gunn struggles mightily during emotional beats which are hamfistedly repeated, underlined, bolded, recalled, and given at least three exclamation marks. While this works for the bawdier humor, exploring the relationships between Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and her sister Nebula (Karen Gillan) or Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) and relationships to both his long-lost father (Kurt Russell) and his surrogate father Yondu (Michael Rooker) in repetitive exposition leads to some awkward scenes that drag on far too long. And, because there's not much to the script other than a focus on these relationships, it's hard not to be at least a little disappointed in Vol. 2.

If Gunn struggles with the more dramatic aspects at times he sure brings the fun. Starting with the opening credits, the director plays with our expectations by shifting the focus in unexpected ways. A new alien race in the Sovereign and their Nintendo pilots proves to be a clever addition as well. Understanding how well it worked in the first film, he also continues to play on the humor the alien members of the team can provide. Drax (Dave Bautista), Rocket (Bradley Cooper), and Baby Groot (Vin Diesel) are pretty damn fantastic. And as a fan of the original Guardians of the Galaxy I'm glad to see Yondu get a larger role this time (along with a proper head fin). In fact, fans of that original comic crew should be on the look-out for a few other familiar faces in small cameo roles. Although, to be nitpicky, I'm having a really hard time accepting Sylvester Stallone as The One Who Knows.

The script builds upon the foundation laid in the first film concerning Peter Quill's parentage, his abduction by the Ravagers, and the reasons for Yondu's poor standing within the group. As expected, Gunn keeps the basics of Quill's comic origin in place, but his choice of his alien father is certainly a surprise. If I had all of the Marvel Universe to guess I probably wouldn't have come up with this one. The choice works, but I don't know that much is gained by swapping Peter Quill's comic father for another that ends up having very similar traits when all is said and done. And if we don't get the return of Cosmo, Russell's appearance the movie does bring in another Guardians supporting character in the empathetic Mantis (Pom Klementieff).

Sadly, not every Marvel sequel can be The Avengers. To be fair, that's a pretty damn high bar to measure against. The Guardians snippet of the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe may take a step back in the sequel rather than forward, but it's a small step. It's also even less connected to the rest of the universe than the first film (which still had the plot thread of the Infinity Gems to connect it to a larger universe). These Guardians seem perfectly happy having wacky fun on the edges of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. If you go in realizing the movie isn't going to offer much else, you're going to have a pretty good time.


Cal's Canadian Cave of Coolness said...

Why does it have to be about SOMETHING. I thought it was awesome.

Cap'n Carrot said...

It was fun, and had the just gone for that it probably would have been a little better. It was those scenes where they tried to make it more dramatic with mixed success. How many times do we need to listen to Gamora and Nebula hash out there relationship? How many times do we need to Peter's father to explicitly state everything? It didn't make me dislike the movie, but I think this is going to bother me even more in multiple viewings. A little more show, and lot less tell, would have helped.