Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
Marvel kicks off the summer season with its squad of lovable space losers. This go around, we get a little less middle finger and a lot more heart. Don’t worry, that’s a good thing.
And we are off to the races! The summer season has us on radar, and it decided to use its tractor beam first. Hollywood has taken a different tack this year, as May is usually kicked off with brand-name bankable commodities. Iron Man 3, Mad Max, and just about every X-Movie not entirely about Wolverine (oh who the hell am I kidding, they’re ALL about Wolverine).
This time around, we get a sequel to a movie that surprised just about everyone, including Marvel Studios. We also get a decidedly jauntier outing. May is usually time to trot out the big guns and grit. Guardians of Galaxy Vol. 2 manages to do all that, but gives us more than a visual roller-coaster, balancing the laughs and explosions with some well crafted personal moments.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)
Peter Quill is Star Lord, a puckish rogue leading a gang of heroes for hire. Gamora, Rocket Raccoon, Drax, and Groot round out this highly dysfunctional family. A botched gig lands them on the wrong side of a pretentious and highly vindictive alien empire. The ensuing chaos leads Peter to encounter Ego, an extremely powerful being who claims to be his dad. Cue the music!
This movie is a visual barrage, from the space battles to the scenic vistas. Colors pop and explosions rock, without nary a trace of lens flair. The movie opens fast and furious, and then puts the pot back on simmer for about an hour. After that, we go full boil for just about the rest of the film, and the film revels in how pretty it is. You can almost feel how much fun everyone from the actors to the director had making some of the scenes.
All of this is pushed along with spectacular musical choices. The kitschy soundtrack from the first is added upon, and I’d have to re-watch the first to make sure, but I think this one works even better. The first movie’s soundtrack was a wink. It did all the heavy lifting of creating the vibe of the “Guardians” aesthetic. Guardians of the Galaxy 2 gets to just be itself, and use its music to help tell the story. It’s fantastic. This movie has 5 (count them, 5) stingers at the end, but the end credit’s soundtrack is so good you won’t mind.
I tried my damnedest to avoid any kind of review or spoiler, but all the headlines were: “Guardians 2 is funnier!”. “GotG2 ramps up the Comedy!”. So yeah, kinda spoiled. I walked in expecting a LOT of comedy. So how funny is Guardians of the Galaxy 2?
It’s good. James Gunn has written raunchy before, for the likes of Troma no less. He’s also done two Scooby Doo movies, and knows how to tame the jokes down when necessary. The humor here is a synthesis. We get a lot of dick and fart jokes. But hey, if you are going to joke about a penis, it might as well be Kurt Russel’s. We get a good amount of slapstick and banter. It’s spaced very well (especially the wordplay, with jokes coming back later in the movie for a second payoff). One negative: they killed the best joke by putting it in a trailer. It was the perfect joke at the perfect time, but it had a lot less impact since I’d seen it months ago.
If the humor is salty, the stew is sweetened by its cast. Each Guardian gets time to shine, to develop and interact meaningfully with other members of the crew. You usually only see the whole team together for the action segments. The rest of the film is more intimate. In the first movie the Guardians of the Galaxy were renegades, societal outcasts full of snark and defiance. Here we see them as misfits, an ensemble of damaged goods trying to smooth over their rough edges and (begrudgingly) form bonds. It blends the movie together into something better than just a shinier iteration on the “Guardians of the Galaxy” formula.
My only real bone to pick was with Groot. He wasn’t egregious, but he wasn’t great. I know, he can’t really talk, and he’s got the mind of an infant tree (a real sap, get it?), but his character was erratic and just a gag delivery system. And a marketing and merchandising ploy. He’s going to sell a ton of toys. Everyone else got to grow, but there were no rings added to this tree’s core. If everyone else is taking a step forward, standing still looks like a step backwards.
This was an enjoyable film, start to finish. The visuals and music delight the senses, and the pacing is smart enough to not overstimulate. The characters are a three dimensional evolution of the icons they created in the first movie. The new characters are all very good, but I can’t talk too much about Kurt Russel and Sylvester Stallone without getting into spoilers. The humor is over the top, but reined in just enough to stay out of puerile territory. Lastly, the film has heart. I teared up as often as I laughed out loud. The movie is a triple threat, and it sets the bar pretty high for what seems to be a jam packed summer.
I saw the movie in standard definition. I bet 3D or IMAX will blow your eyeballs up and cause tinnitus, but it might be worth the upgrade. With Gunn already committed to directing a third Guardians of the Galaxy, I’m feeling good about this franchise within a franchise. We got tone in the first. Now they’ve added depth. I look forward to it being an integral part of Marvel: Phase 17: We Own Your Wallet.