Review: Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2

The Guardians are on a mission for the Sovereign (led by Elizabeth Debicki) to retrieve some kind of important batteries, trading them for the duplicitous Nebula (Karen Gillan), sister of Gamora (Zoe Saldana), hoping to take her back home to face the music for past misdeeds. The mission goes sour when smart-arse racoon Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) steals some of the batteries for himself and they end up with The Sovereign coming after them, forcing a crash landing on an unknown planet. On this planet, Peter Quill aka Star Lord (Chris Pratt) comes face-to-face with his estranged father Ego (Kurt Russell), and has to come to terms with the fact that his parentage is half-human and half…celestial entity (Basically, Ego is a planet who can change into human form). Ego wants his son to take his birthright. Whilst he and the super-serious Gamora (Zoe Saldana) are getting acquainted with Ego, Drax (Dave Bautista), Baby Groot, and Rocket stay behind to repair the ship and guard the untrustworthy Nebula. Meanwhile, The Sovereign have sent The Ravagers after the Guardians, though their leader (and Quill’s former guardian) Yondu seems to be facing a potential takeover by the agitating ‘Taser Face’ (Chris Sullivan). Pom Klementieff plays Mantis, an empath raised by Ego, who strikes up a weird relationship with hulking and not-so bright Drax.

I enjoyed the first film from writer-director James Gunn (who made the trashtastic Troma movie “Tromeo and Juliet”, which I need to see again sometime) because although it was tied to the MCU, those ties were minimal and the film was able to work on its own. And boy did it march to the beat of its own drum, nothing like any other MCU before it. This 2017 follow-up from Gunn is a good movie as well. In fact, while I’d rank this a bit behind its predecessor, it’s not by enough to give it a lesser overall score. This is fun sci-fi adventure stuff with tongue very firmly lodged in cheek. It’s not snarky detachment like the “Iron Man” films, this is just tongue-in-cheek fun, an important distinction to make, I believe.

The comradery is even more finely honed this time around, and frequently hilarious. Groot, now Baby Groot (but still apparently voiced by Vin Diesel) is both adorable and very funny. Baby Groot is best Groot. Former wrestler Dave Bautista’s hulking idiot Drax is as amusing as ever (probably even funnier than last time), I shouldn’t have laughed at the line ‘Out of the way, dumber, smaller Groot’ but readers I most assuredly did laugh. While I’ve not always taken to Chris Pratt, he’s the perfect roguish hero. I know it’s an obvious joke, but his referring to smart-mouth raccoon Rocket as a ‘trash panda’ is still wonderfully dick-ish banter. They’re both tools and they don’t even know it. Even Zoe Saldana’s green-skinned character lightens up a bit in this one. She and Pratt’s Peter Quill have a great bit where they have a whole argument where the latter keeps trying to compare them to Sam and Diane on “Cheers”. Kurt Russell (impressively de-aged in the opening scene via apparently 90% makeup and very little CGI) is a great choice to play Peter’s celestial father Ego. Just the character’s name alone, Ego, is a perfect fit for Peter Quill’s dad. I’ll hand it to Russell, the man never half-arses a performance no matter what kind or quality of film he’s in and he gives a good performance. I reckon there might even be a “Big Trouble in Little China” reference here with Russell’s casting and some blue lightning FX. Meanwhile, check out the fountain on his home planet. It’s got fish. You’ll know what I mean when you see it, it’s glorious. I was also glad to see the underrated Michael Rooker given more to do here, with his not-so bright character hanging out with the good guys in this one. In fact, his character is really interesting. Shout out to an unrecognisable Chris Sullivan who is hilarious as the not very threateningly named Taser Face.

On the downside, the roles played by Sly Stallone (looking rather bloated), and especially a barely glimpsed Ving Rhames and Michelle Yeoh are so tiny and superfluous, they feel like they’re waiting to be written into the film. Based on the end credits, one assumes we’ll see more of them in the next instalment, but what we see of them here is a massive waste of their combined talents and star presence. The requisite Stan Lee cameo (that takes place during the film and then also finally giving us a post-credits cameo by the man- about time they did that) is genuinely funny. As with the previous film, the FX and visual design are colourful and fun, and Aussie actress Elizabeth Debicki sure strikes an impressive figure entirely in gold. That said, whoever thought a red font for the titles was a good idea should be sentenced to a lifetime of listening to the musical stylings of William Shatner and David Hasselhoff on a continuous loop whilst imprisoned in a room with brightly coloured (and clashing) décor chosen by a 6 year-old. My eyes! The goggles, they do nothing! All “Simpsons” quote misappropriations aside, one thing I can say about this film as was true with the previous film, is that the soundtrack is a cheesy delight. You’ll hear Fleetwood Mac’s ‘The Chain’, and few things in life make me happier than hearing George Harrison’s ‘My Sweet Lord’, despite my having zero fidelity to any form of religion. It’s just a truly beautiful song by a very important figure in music history. You also can’t hate a film that takes the time to include Cat Stevens’ truly gorgeous ‘Father and Son’. We even get Cheap Trick’s wonderful ‘Surrender’ over the end credits. Some of the other songs on the soundtrack are naff, but overall it’s pretty damn good. On the downswing, I couldn’t care less about Saldana’s jealous-raging blue-skinned sister played under heavy makeup by Karen Gillan. I didn’t care last time, and she’s probably the only real flaw this time. One blue-skinned foe turned tenuous friend is enough for me. Even the use of a split narrative, often not a good thing for a film, actually worked for me here.

A good follow-up, if a slight step down in quality from the first film. The cast is excellent, the interplay often hilarious, it looks great, and the soundtrack mostly kicks arse. Drax and Baby Groot steal the show.

Rating: B-


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