GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2 review

AHHHHHHH!!! Oh my god, it’s here!!!

Whew, three years is way too long to be makin’ me wait. As you can probably tell, I was a huge fan of the first GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY (2014). Probably would come as a shock to me circa 2013 because I thought this movie wouldn’t be good or successful due to these characters not being what many think of when it comes to Marvel Comics. You think X-Men, or Spider-Man, pretty much everyone except the Guardians. But leave it to Marvel to make unknown names household with seemingly little effort thrown in, making that movie arguably one of the best movies to come out of that year and I fell in love with it. This is one of my three all-time favorite Marvel Avengers-related films, tied only with CAPTAIN AMERICA: WINTER SOLDIER (2013) and DOCTOR STRANGE (2016). It had great characters, terrific performances, probably one of the most infectious soundtracks in all sci-fi history, fun action, wonderful humor, everything you’d need for t a fun and amazing thrill ride.

To say that I’m excited for this movie would be a monumental understatement. I mean, I’m a sci-fi junkie as it stands, but this is special, yo! I’m blindly accepting that this will be a great film. Let’s just hope whoever the villain is will be better than Ronan the Accuser. Actually, the plot seems to be pretty well under wraps. All we know is that there’s going to be a lot ass-kicking and humor, so… hellz yeah, let’s kick this puppy into gear!

Let’s take a gander at the amazing talent shall we? The original guardians return, of course: Chris Pratt (PASSENGERS [2016], THE LEGO MOVIE [2014], DELIVERY MAN [2013], and upcoming films AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR [2018] and the Untitled Jurassic World sequel [2018]), Zoe Saldana (LIVE BY NIGHT [2016], THE BOOK OF LIFE [2014], COLOMBIANA [2011], and upcoming films AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR and AVATAR 2 [2020]), Dave Bautista (007 SPECTRE [2015], RIDDICK [2013], THE MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS [2012], and upcoming films AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR and BLADE RUNNER 2049 [2017]), and voice talents Vin Diesel (THE FATE OF THE FURIOUS [2017], THE LAST WITCH HUNTER [2015], BABYLON A.D. [2008], and upcoming films AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR and FAST & FURIOUS 9 [2019]) and Bradley Cooper (WAR DOGS [2016], JOY [2015], AMERICAN HUSTLE [2013], and the upcoming AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR). Returning support includes Michael Rooker (THE BELKO EXPERIMENT [2017], GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY [2014], SLITHER [2006], and the upcoming AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR) and Karen Gillan (THE CIRCLE [2017], THE BIG SHORT [2015], TV show DOCTOR WHO, and the upcoming AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR). Newcomers include Kurt Russell (THE FATE OF THE FURIOUS, DEEPWATER HORIZON [2016], and THE HATEFUL EIGHT [2015]), Sylvester Stallone (RATCHET & CLANK [2016], CREED [2015], THE EXPENDABLES 3 [2014], and upcoming films ESCAPE PLAN 2: HADES [2018] and ESCAPE PLAN 3, due out… who knows when), and Pom Klementieff (OLD BOY [2013]).

Now for the amazing talent behind the scenes. Writing and directing is James Gunn, known for GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY (2014), SUPER (2010), and SLITHER. Composing the score Tyler Bates, known for JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 2 (2017), JOHN WICK (2014), HALLOWEEN II (2009), and the upcoming ATOMIC BLONDE (2017) and TV show Netflix’s THE PUNISHER. Finally, the cinematographer is Henry Braham, known for THE LEGEND OF TARZAN (2016), THE GOLDEN COMPASS (2007), and NANNY MCPHEE (2005).

Overall… SO STOKED, A-HOLES!!! ‘Nuff said.

This is my honest opinion of: GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2

(SUMMARY)

The misfit accidental heroes are back and are still trying to get a handle on things. Hired by the Sovereign race to protect precious batteries from an inter-dimensional monster, the Guardians succeed, but unknowingly, Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) stole a couple for himself to sell later for a hefty sum. In exchange for their services, they hand over a captured Nebula (Karen Gillan), and leave. But Rocket’s actions are discovered as the Sovereign race shoot down Peter Quill’s (Chris Pratt) ship, but still manage to escape in time. As repairs are under way, the crew is paid a visit by a stranger known as Ego (Kurt Russell), who admits to being Peter’s father. To make matters complicated, Peter, Gamora (Zoe Saldana), and Drax (Dave Bautista) separate from Rocket, the still growing Baby Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel), and Nebula to give Peter the chance to learn about his heritage, while Yondu (Michael Rooker) and his band of Ravagers hunt him down with the help of the Sovereign, find them, and take them hostage. The Ravagers divide amongst infighting, Yondu, Rocket, and Baby Groot are imprisoned and attempt to find Peter and the rest of the Guardians.

(REVIEW)

Maybe my expectations were too high, but I only liked this movie as opposed to me loving the first one.

Obviously, I must have my complaints about this movie, so let’s get those out of the way. First thing that I didn’t like… the soundtrack wasn’t as memorable. You’d think this wouldn’t be such a big deal, but let me explain why this is a letdown. The first Guardians was monumentally entertaining and a great contribution to that was the music. “Come and Get Your Love” by Redbone, “Hooked on a Feeling,” by Blue Swede, “Cherry Bomb,” by The Runaways, all of these are memorable and catchy songs. Admittedly, I can’t call myself a “music guy.” I don’t know the greatest of the greatest hits of the 70’s and 80’s, so unless it was in a Guitar Hero game, I’ve likely never heard of the songs. But here’s the thing, with the exception of “Cherry Bomb,” I wasn’t familiar with “Come and Get Your Love” or “Hooked on a Feeling.” Yet, I remember the melodies, the lyrics, all complemented by whatever respective scene the song is playing over, and they were catchy enough that I’d want to listen to those songs when I’m driving down the road some day, which I do. But I couldn’t hum the tune to one song in this one. Not one. I can remember the opening sequence, but not the song that was playing over it. Of course, you could argue that Baby Groot dancing and fighting space rats while the Guardians are getting their asses kicked by a tentacle monster is a simple case of scenery-chewing, but I maintain that I still don’t remember the song. Any of them for any scene.

The next complaint that I had was that Drax with surprisingly not as funny either. I felt like the majority of his jokes were a little too forced. Granted, that’s not all of them, but I laughed at nearly every joke in the first Guardians, but that wasn’t the case. In fact, I found it hard to see him as likable in some areas, particularly when interacting with Mantis (Klementieff). He’s actually pretty berating of her and calls her ugly a lot. I know someone’s going to tell me, “He’s only brutally honest. He’s doing it to be mean,” and I get it, but… that wasn’t an issue in the first movie. Well, I guess he did call Gamora a whore and Rocket a rodent a couple times and I found it funny there. But I do have a theory as to why I separate the humor here. When he calls Gamora a whore, she’s more acting annoyed at the fact that he’s declaring her a friend while also insulting her after he was individually proclaiming his friendship to everyone else. Her reaction was natural and understandable, and the joke is basically that he’s trying to be genuinely sweet and grateful, but he’s still an ass. When calling Rocket “rodent,” he attacks Drax in a fit of drunken rage and we learn why specifically he hates being called that name. It’s a genuine insult that hurts his feelings and we learn something new about him. This isn’t played for laughs, but rather straight and serious, arguably making on the more dramatic moments in the first movie. Here… what’s the joke? How did a five minute conversation come about where they talk about how he sees her as ugly? It’s fairly uncomfortable, not charming.

***SPOILERS***

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Somewhat early on, there’s this bit where the Ravagers tracked down the crashed ship with just Rocket, Groot, and Nebula. Kraglin (Sean Gunn) aids in a mutiny against Yondu for getting them kicked out of the Ravager community and want to return to the way they used to do things. The ones still loyal to Yondu get jettisoned out into space – or rather gingerly float out because the vacuum is completely taken out of the equation for whatever reason – and yet the next time we see Kraglin is when he helps break out Yondu, Rocket, and Groot because, “They killed my friends.” Well, shit, dude, you’re only space pirates who invade and kill whoever you want. In the case of mutiny, I have to ask why this is such a shock. This is in the next scene with them, by the way. This isn’t some character arch journeyed through the movie and in the end he learns the error of his ways. Nope, it’s the next scene where he realized he screwed up. The mutiny almost seems pointless, other than to be a clumsy and contrived way to build up Yondu, and arguably Kraglin, being an honorary Guardian at the end.

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***END SPOILERS***

By the way, this isn’t really a complaint, but I’m not too sure if I agree that the relationship between Drax and Mantis is supposed to be representative of father and daughter. I can’t say I recall where I heard that from, but that’s not what I picked up from their interactions. Both characters are socially inept. They have a tendency to say exactly what’s on their minds and an inability to understand certain social cues. And of course, with Drax constantly telling Mantis that she’s ugly, but still shows a peculiar caring for her, and a greatly expressed lack of desire to want to have sex with each other, I picked up that the two were more brother and sister. Anyone else agree with me on this one?

So I’ve had a few gripes here and there, right? Does that mean I think the movie’s bad? Hellz to the no. At the end of the day, this movie is as entertaining as you could hope it to be.

Despite not remembering the soundtrack playing over the opening fight sequence, I still remember the sequence as a whole. Baby Groot dancing to a song while the Guardians are battling a giant tentacle monster, it’s every bit as brilliant as anyone could hope for. Even when the song ends, I still love how the rest of the scene concludes. It’s an amazing “howdy doo” and worth the price of admission alone.

The humor is still there. Rocket is still a big-mouthed jerk with the one-liners and gives everyone shit. The best scene that stands out with him is when he’s making fun of Taserface’s (Chris Sullivan) name and even getting the rest of the Ravagers to join in on the mockery. Groot is as adorable as he’s portrayed in the trailers, albeit not in on the action as one would hope. But nearly every scene with Groot is full of “aww” moments, be them about how cute he is, or how assholes are treating him. There’s this bit where the Ravagers captured him and want him to dance, and during their amusement, they pour alcohol on him, still laughing at him. You’re part of the crowd that cheered for him when he went ape-shit on that same Ravager and kicked his ass.

Also, am I the only one who made the fun connection that Ego was almost incredibly similar to Andross from the STAR FOX 64 video game as far as their “true forms” were concerned? I mean, Andross’ true form was a giant brain and Ego’s true form is a giant brain… PLEASE TELL ME I’M NOT ALONE IN THIS!!!

***SPOILERS***

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But never mind the comedy, the drama is effective as well. When Ego admits to Peter that he’s the one who put the tumor in his mother’s head that ultimately killed her, he has that “You killed the greatest woman who ever lived!” moment and you can’t help but share his rage. I guess I have a soft-spot for superheroes defending their mothers.

The stuff with Gamora and Nebula is also really well-executed. They have a strange relationship to be sure, one that’s never been explored before this movie. Nebula tries to kill Gamora when she’s got the chance, but can’t bring herself to do it and they air out that dirty laundry. Nebula’s defeats when sparring with Gamora as children resulted in Nebula getting cybernetic augmentations in hopes to being Gamora’s combative equal. But Gamora always won the fights and Nebula just wanted a sister, but with every loss in battle against her, Nebula’s hatred grew. All this time enduring pain and being seen as a disappointment, and yet she still has that shred of love for Gamora, who only now realizes the weight of their upbringing with Thanos and how it tore each other apart. So the ending scene with the two women hugging and parting ways, that was a legit moment. It’s an awkward hug to be sure, but I like to think that’s the point. They’ve never shared a connection like this before, so it’s new territory. But in the end, they do still have different goals and desires. Gamora wants to save the other children that Thanos wants to convert and Nebula wants to kill Thanos himself, despite how impossible they think it is, so we know that Nebula won’t be joining the Guardians any time soon.

And this was something I had a difficult time acknowledging: the father-son relationship between Yondu and Peter. At first, I thought it was contrived and ultimately too sappy. In the first movie, Yondu’s threatening to kill Peter and even kicks the crap out of him before the climax of the film. If Yondu thought of Peter as his own son, why threaten to kill him? What if Peter didn’t have a plan to take down Ronan? Would Yondu have killed Peter? Or would he have come up with an excuse not to do it? While I maintain that this is some bullshit, it’s easy to forget that these characters do have a weird relationship and that’s the point of a sequel: the expand on what we already know and to take these characters and their relationships with each other to new grounds. We knew that Peter and Yondu had a weird connection, and this movie dives into why that is. Yondu had been under Ego’s employment for a long time, rounding up his offspring only to be killed off when they didn’t satisfy Ego. Yondu clearly had enough of it and despite getting kicked out of the Ravager community, refused to let Peter share the same fate as his illegitimate half-siblings. In time, Yondu clearly develops a soft-spot for Peter and does kind of end up becoming Peter’s only father figure he’s ever known, so this development makes more sense than I gave it credit for, making his death in the end very emotional.

Speaking of father figures, I also had some initial reservations against Ego’s motivations. At first, I complained that he introduced himself as a kindly, apologetic person who didn’t want things to turn out like they did between him and Peter. I complained that when he suddenly became a bad guy and tried to kill Peter that it was lazy writing to make a “twist” bad guy. But after realizing the information I had originally missed and thought Ego to be one of the worst villains that Marvel’s dished out, I suddenly realized that he’s arguably one of the better ones. At first, I disagreed with how he went on and on about how much he genuinely loved Meredith Quill (Laura Haddock) and hated leaving her only to kill her in the end. But having missed the previous information that he’s been killing his own children who couldn’t control the power they were supposed to inherit from him, it’s now obvious that he’s probably manipulated his offspring before. He kills them because of his messed up outlook on life. He never fell in love with anyone and he never cared about being a father to any children. He wanted their power to fully integrate every planet he’s been to in order to transform them them into extensions of himself. He probably manipulated his previous offspring like he did with Peter, but only Peter showed that he can use his powers, making him more useful than any other. This is, in retrospect, a little bit of a different take on the whole “bad guy wants to dominate the galaxy” type deal; different meaning and method behind it all. Granted, it’s still tiring to see this bad guy trope, but it’s much easier to sit through with this knowledge.

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***END SPOILERS***

Overall, I’ve only seen the movie once so far and I came out with some bad tastes in my mouth that I probably need to reevaluate after a second viewing. Sunday Movie Night with my coworkers! Objectively speaking, while I stand by that this movie has more problems than the first film, there weren’t as many as I originally thought, and it’s hard to deny that this movie does take steps upward with its characters and tries harder in its dramatic areas, which ultimately paid off. It’s still a lot of fun and is definitely a worthy sequel to the concentrated awesome that was the first. If you liked the first film, I highly recommend seeing this one. Full price, biggest theaters, loudest speakers, wherever that is. But maybe not in 3D. For some reason, the 3D made the CGI a little too obvious. But this movie is incredibly entertaining and that’s the job of any real superhero movie. Not my favorite, but still pretty damn cool.

My honest rating for GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2: a strong 4/5

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