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Movie Review: Guardians Of The Galaxy, vol. 2

Posted: May 8, 2017 at 5:52 am   /   by

When the first Guardians Of The Galaxy came out back in 2014, it took everyone by surprise, how successful it was.  I’m sure even Kevin Feige, Supreme Overlord of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, didn’t anticipate just what a phenomenon it would be.  At any rate, it made an instant superstar out of Chris Pratt, and introduced the music we now call “The Oldies” to quite a few Millennials.  I myself have often joked that I’m more likely to love a song if it came out before I did…so words cannot express my gratitude to James Gunn for helping educate my generation on the finer things in life:

“Come and get your love….  Come and get your love….”

Now, where was I?

Ah, yes.  The sequel.  Honestly, too many people were asking “Can lightning strike twice?”

Uh…why?  It’s not like people had somehow lost interest in this ragtag quintet of misfits.  For goodness sake, anticipation for the chance to hang out with these guys again was off the charts!

Maybe that was the issue.  Could the sequel live up to that anticipation?

My approach: “Of course—just so long as they stay true to the characters, their charm, and their dynamic.”  And don’t worry, dear readers—they did.  And yes, we did see growth.  Still true to the characters.

Well, maybe I personally didn’t expect Baby Groot to be quite that slow on the uptake.  But other than that…

Anyway, Guardians Of The Galaxy, vol. 2 begins with a prologue, like the first—this time, introducing us to the parents of Peter Quill (Chris Pratt): Meredith (Laura Haddock)—cancer-free at this time…and the charismatic “spaceman” (as Meredith calls him) Ego, played by none other than the mighty Kurt Russell.  The prologue, by the way, has perhaps the best digital “de-aging” work we’ve ever seen.  Young Kurt looks amazing—and real.

Anyway, this prologue’s got more of a purpose than to just introduce us to Starlord’s folks in love, and clearly about to make a Starlord.  It’s the Law of Chekhov’s Gun at work, and let’s be honest—we all know that plant’s got to have some kind of payoff, even if it’s just “It was a locator so Yondu could find you guys.”

If.  That’s all I’ll say.  Maybe I’ve said too much already.  Anyway

Sylvester Stallone’s also in this movie.  No, his character and Kurt’s don’t meet.  Sorry, Tango & Cash fans.  But it’s a nice extended cameo, nonetheless.  He’s a veteran Ravager (the organization of space pirates Peter used to be a part of)—and he’s not happy with Yondu (Michael Rooker) for violating the Ravager’s Code.  Apparently it has something to do with Yondu trafficking children (a reference to Peter, it seems).  This leads to Yondu’s crew starting to have…well, questions.  Namely: Has Yondu gone soft over Peter, after all?

Speaking of Peter, the Guardians have been hired by a gold-skinned race of super-haughty folks called the Sovereigns to save their energy sources from a giant slimy beast.  See, the Sovereigns don’t like risking any of their own kind, and the Guardians are expendable—as the High Priestess bluntly and super-haughtily tells them after the fact.

The battle’s an awesome re-introduction to our heroes, by the way—including the beloved Baby Groot, played once again by Vin Diesel, who may or may not have swallowed helium for this sequel.

By the way, the payment the Guardians want is Gamora’s (Zoe Saldana) embittered “sister”, Nebula (Karen Gillan), who’s been captured by the Sovereigns.  She’s not happy.  She despises their “father”, Thanos (Josh Brolin—but he’s not in this movie) for putting her through terrible “discipline” in the girls’ fight training…and she holds a grudge against Gamora, whose victories during said training apparently led to said discipline.

Well, Rocket (Bradley Cooper) does not like to be talked down to, so he and Drax (Dave Bautista) swipe a bunch of those batteries they’d just saved from said slimy beast.  It takes the Sovereigns a little bit to figure it out—but find out they do, and send out a swarm of drone fighters piloted from the home planet.  If you can believe it, everything about the control room is played for “arcade”—down to the sound effects.  It’s both as (consciously) stupid as it sounds, and every bit as awesome.  Drax, for his part, guns down quite a bit of drones in a most…interesting way.

Well, the Guardians are saved in the nick of time by a man riding a ship.  After the Guardians crash-land, the man introduces himself: It’s Ego, now looking like Kurt Russell’s “real” age.  And he’s up for a family reunion.

Meanwhile, the Sovereigns want their revenge, and hire Yondu to find them and take them in.

The plot’s pretty crazy as it is—delightfully so.  Believe me, you don’t know the half of it.  But all that matters is: Does it get us, emotionally—the humor, and (if need be) the drama.

Yes.  It absolutely does.

As if the humor wasn’t crazy enough in the first one, we have Drax going all out, here.  Let’s just say he seems to find low-brow humor fascinating—to the point of asking Ego if he truly…

Er, let’s save it from spoiling.  I’ll just say Ego kinda lives up to his name, here.

Rocket’s both at his defensively arrogant best—and at his most vulnerable, as he has to get his buddy Groot reintegrated, as it were.  Easier said than done, as Baby Groot’s got the mind of a child…even more so than before.  But it takes a surprising source to call Rocket out on his attitude…or maybe not so surprising.

Gamora has to deal with the strife with her “sister”…and feelings for Starlord that may or may not be there.  She says they aren’t.  Peter’s sure it’s a classic Sam-and-Diane thing.  I myself hold the first five seasons of Cheers as the golden formula for an on-screen romantic storyline, so I love any reference to it I can get.  I personally think Peter’s over-simplifying the “ratings” issue, though….

(By the way, some critics have wondered how the heck Peter knows so much about Sam and Diane, if he was a little kid when it was on.  My answer: The same way he got new batteries for his Walkman.  Trust me—if he’s got access to ‘80s tech, he’s got access to ‘80s culture.)

But I digress.

As for Peter…well, as far as I’m concerned, Chris Pratt gives some of his best acting yet.  He runs the full range of emotion, in his arc.  He isn’t sure what to make of his father suddenly showing up, after all these years—especially over all the complications of before.  Why did he never know him?  Why did he never come back?  We see struggle to accept—we see anger—we see him fighting tears…and in one of the sweetest scenes in the MCU, we see him light up in simple joy as his dad invites him to partake in the ultimate “father and son” activity.

Speaking of which, Ego’s sidekick, Mantis (Pom Klementieff) clearly deserves a nomination for Galaxy’s Sweetheart.  Try your best to harden your heart towards her.  Chances are, you won’t—any more than Drax can.

Sean Gunn, the director’s brother, plays Yondu’s second-in-command—who has quite a surprising arc of his own.

…As does Yondu.  But to say any more would spoil a lot.  In fact, I think I’d better stop right here.

I’ll just say this: vol. 2 is a fun roller-coaster ride, as we all wanted it to be—and at long last, we have some real reassurance that Marvel movies haven’t forgotten to have hart, after all.  More than once, I found myself a little misty-eyed.  Which is more than I can say for Civil War.  But that’s another story entirely….

There is a fair share of flaws, though.  The “Awesome Mix” soundtrack for this one’s somewhat less memorable than in the first Guardians—it’s a bit more “mellow”, here; less prominent.  Still, a few serve as nice emotional plot points—and the lyrics of one in particular’s even used by Ego in a powerful moment of connection with his son.  Yes…I said “powerful”.

And there’s even a Cat Stevens hit—before he changed his name to (be honest, Muslims) something decidedly less awesome than “Mohammed Ali”.

Also, as so often seems to be the case these days, some great trailer moments are noticeably absent in the actual film.  There’s no gag of Drax slurping (“Dude!”), or Baby Groot shouting out “I…AM…GROOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOT!!!” as he rushes away with the bomb (and Rocket says something different), or everyone reacting to Drax’s late warning to Mantis (“I tried, guys…”), or the High Priestess snootily asking just who the Guardians think they are (Starlord: “Well…”)—let alone any line about the Sovereigns wanting to “cleanse” the galaxy (which frankly made them seem a bit more villainous than they actually turn out to be…).

Still, don’t let that detract from the film.  It’s great entertainment, with surprising heart.  And Mary Poppins, for good measure.  (You’ll understand when you see it.)

There are five—count ‘em, FIVE—during/post-credits scenes.  Why the heck anyone leaves the theater before the credits are over for a Marvel movie is beyond me, nowadays…but for some strange, unfathomable reason, people still do.  Regardless, die-hard comic fans will find them rewarding…especially the one with Sly Stallone and his buddies.

Oh, and Stan Lee’s cameo runs for two scenes—including one of the aforementioned “five”.

Howard The Duck returns, too—pretty early on.  Give it enough time, and you just know Marvel’s going to give him the full-story treatment, to wipe that George-Lucas-produced memory away….

It’ll be before they finally bite the bullet and give Black Widow her movie, likely as not.

Anyway—a great, entertaining, compelling sequel is Guardians Of The Galaxy, vol. 2.  It’s wholly rewarding, and worth the price of admission—popcorn and everything.

Movie Grade: B+

 

Buy the movie here And stay film-friendly, my friends.

Eric Blake

Eric Blake

Team Writer at Western Free Press
Eric M. Blake is a recent graduate of the University of South Florida, with a Bachelor's in Political Science and a Master's in Film Studies.  As that implies, he is very passionate about political theory and filmmaking--and the connections between the two.  Inspired by Andrew Breitbart's axiom that "Politics is downstream from culture", he is deeply fascinated by the great influence that popular culture has on public opinion, and is a firm believer in the power of storytelling.  He proudly owns his second copy of Ben Shapiro's Primetime Propaganda...his first copy having been worn out though intense re-reading.

Eric was raised by Conservative Christian parents, but first became especially passionate about politics in high school, through reading up on economic theory.  He also first read The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged around this time, for the ARI's essay contests.  He now owns a great deal of Ayn Rand's work.  Also included in his library are the collected works of Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin, Ann Coulter, etc.

Eric is no stranger to writing commentary, as the writer of the Conservative Considerations column on CampCampaign.com, and as a film critic and commentator on FlickRev.com.  He has also carried on the Conservative tradition of talk radio commentary, as the host of "Avengers of America" for the USF student radio station, Bulls Radio.  In the meantime, he is practicing what he preaches: Striving to enter the professional realm of Hollywood, he has already written and directed short films for the Campus MovieFest, which can be found on his YouTube channel, Hard Boiled Entertainment.
Eric Blake

Movie Review: Guardians Of The Galaxy, vol. 2