Movie review: ‘Guardians 2’ is almost as good as ‘Guardians’
If you’re a fan of the various “Guardians of the Galaxy” stories that have been around in comic books since 1969, or even if you never heard of them, there’s a good chance that if you saw the 2014 film adaptation of the comic, you loved it, and you were partially responsible for its astounding $750 million box office take. And if you did love it, you’ll love its sequel, too, but maybe not quite as much. It’s more of the same, but perhaps a little bit too much more of the same.
Still, it’s a huge-budget, cleverly done sci-fi romp with unorthodox characters, plenty of action and effects, lots of laughs, a cool song soundtrack that ranges from Fleetwood Mac to George Harrison, from Cheap Trick to ELO, and gives some reverence to “Brandy” by Looking Glass. It’s also got two -- count ’em, two -- cameos from Mr. Stan Lee, one at about the 85-minute mark, and one at the end of the credits.
“Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” is at once a crazy adventure story and a pile-up of background information on many of its characters. It kicks off in 1980, with “Brandy” on the radio of the car being driven by a very young Kurt Russell. I haven’t checked into the digital method in which this was accomplished, but as far as I’m concerned, that WAS a very young Kurt Russell spouting off brand new dialogue. Let’s hear it for technology.
Suddenly it’s 34 years later, and our heroes from the first film -- Peter Quill, Gamora, Drax, Rocket, and the now oh-so-cute Baby Groot -- have been hired by the Sovereigns, a golden-skinned race under command of a stern High Priestess, to rid their planet of a toothy and tentacled “interdimensional beast.” In return for the services, they’ll get custody of Gamora’s evil sister Nebula, who Gamora intends to turn over to galactic authorities.
The unrelenting action of this opening credits sequence is followed up by an even crazier one when the golden folks realize that kleptomaniac Rocket has stolen a handful of special batteries from them, leaving the high priestess not at all pleased.
Action turns to character study, and gets more into what makes the Guardians tick than the first film did. Quill (Chris Pratt) and Rocket (voice of Bradley Cooper) enjoy bickering with each other; Gamora (Zoe Saldana) is a woman who’s green with anger; multi-tattooed Drax (Dave Bautista) is into practical jokes and big belly laughs; and Baby Groot (voice of Vin Diesel) uses only one line of dialogue that apparently has all sorts of inflections that only other Guardians can understand.
Although this is an ensemble piece in which no one character is more important than the others, and that includes some of the secondary ones such as Yondu (Michael Rooker), the deadly-arrow-wielding captain of the Ravagers, and his companion, the big-eyed, antennaed empath named Mantis (Pom Klemenieff), the film’s central story does hinge on Peter Quill, who has never known his father, and the arrival of Ego (Kurt Russell), who has been searching for him for decades, and is now given the chance “to be the father I always wanted to be.”
There’s a great deal of jumping from planet to planet, a good string of sight gags revolving around Baby Groot, a shout-out to David Hasselhoff, and a surprising amount of emotional depth to Peter, Ego, Drax, and Yondu. There are also studies of father-son issues, sister-sister issues, and the still-strange relationship between Peter and Gamora.
With so much going on, with action and visual effects going into hyperdrive while the script still manages to tell a story, the film does drag just a little at the 2-hour mark, then goes on another 15 minutes. But there can’t really be any complaints because it’s simply got to be the first time any movie has presented a serious philosophical discussion based around the lyrics to “Brandy.”
-- Ed Symkus writes about movies for More Content Now.
“Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2”
Written and directed by James Gunn
With Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper, Michael Rooker, Kurt Russell