Image Credit: Marvel
Back in 2014 Marvel took their biggest gamble yet with the offbeat, hardly known or heard of, “Guardians of the Galaxy” and our world stood in shock. Here was a film about a rag tag group of the most oddly assembled mercenaries who were being forced to work as a team. Peter Quill (a.k.a Star Lord) was the thief with the wits and knowledge, Gamora, had the brawns, Drax is easily the muscle of the squad, and the team wouldn’t be complete without the foul mouthed Raccoon named Rocket and his side companion, a tall tree like twig that could only mutter the phrase “I AM GROOT” in different tones and variations (he also sounded a lot like Vin Diesel).
What ended up being produced was, and forgive the pun, a marvel in itself. The kind of action comedy that had the tenacity to make fun of the studio that was making it. It also had a bumping soundtrack in the form of hit 70s send ups, that introduced artists like Redbone to a younger generation of millennials, that probably had no idea the song “Come and Get Your Love” existed. The biggest (and best) joke of ‘Guardians’ was how self referential it was, which is why it was so hilarious three years ago.
I did enjoy “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2.” but it’s not on the normal tier of top-notch Marvel quality, but it has a sweetness that helps round out the faults. Some of the subplots are hardly interesting, and the self referential humor is not as funny this time around (that goes without saying, no joke is as funny in its second iteration). And the soundtrack is still a hit (Fleetwood Mac’s The Chain is used beautifully).
Still, writer and director James Gunn knows what the audiences want - and all of the characters are back. When we first encounter them - Peter (Chris Pratt), Drax (Dave Bautista), Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper), Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and the extremely adorable and scene stealing Baby Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel, although you would never know that because his voice is altered drastically to fit the character). - they are fighting a giant squid in an effort to appease a gold skinned race on the Sovereign planet headed by the Queen (Elizabeth Debicki). The Guardians are now guns for hire, outlaws known for their tactics and eccentric personalities. That all changes when Rocket steals some priceless artifacts from within the planet's core, causing our newly introduced gold skinned humanoids to pursue them. And just like that, they are in danger again.
Their conquest lands them on a deserted planet, where we meet Ego (Kurt Russell) a celestial being with a mullet that screams Billy Ray Cyrus. But, most importantly, he is also Peter’s long lost father. What this event does is set up the rest of the film’s dueling plotlines about estranged family. Can siblings, Gamora and Nebula mend their daddy issues? Can Quill’s father convince him to take his place by his side as a demigod? A lot of subplots that hardly leave room for saucy racoons and bug eyed baby face Groot.
My biggest complaint of “Guardians 2,” however, is the fact James Gunn thought it would be a sound idea to split up our gang for the better half of the film. Basically gutting the core of what made the original so fresh. It’s a shame too, because the Guardians have such great chemistry together that it doesn’t make sense to separate them. Now, I do love Kurt Russell and his charisma in the film alone is fun to watch, but his character’s purpose is the least interesting one. What’s worse, is that it leaves very little room for Pratt to blossom and drop zingers so frequently like he did prior. In fact, I felt like Pratt was totally underutilized for the entire film. Some might argue this entry is also “funnier” than the original, and that might be true. But, make no mistake, pushing for laughs only gets you so far. Call me crazy, but I don’t think Drax dropping easy gimme one liners is good comedy. It’s funny, sure, but the joke wears thin.
In the original, there seemed to be a general attitude when it came to tired move conventions - a smart dialed in plethora of cliches that were averted because of the quality of the script. And while Gunn acknowledges those cliches here, it doesn’t make them any less cliche. Many paradoxes that we have seen before (the acute love story that slowly transpires between Quill and Gamora can be seen from a mile away). But even though “Guardians 2” slowly crumbles under the weight of it’s predecessor, It’s funnier and more action packed than most films in the same vein. And that’s a testament to the Marvel brand, because even when their films dip in overall satisfaction - they still produce a semi-decent film worth watching a few times. B