We are all still Groot and thank goodness.
(This review contains minor spoiler)
Of course we’re all asking ourselves if this sequel was ever going to be able to live up to the original surprise overnight sensation Marvel movie based on a team that even the passing casual comic book reader may have never heard of. It’s an unorthodox situation that the film’s director, James Gunn finds himself in. A director whose pedigree includes getting his start with the Troma schlock B-movie house and writing both screenplays for the Scooby-Doo live action films (that Scrappy-Doo cum-villain-twist makes a lot more sense now, doesn’t it?). How could they possibly eclipse that first film?
Well, they didn’t.
And we’re better for it. Guardians 2 has it’s own identity and story to tell just like it’s predecessor. But Vol. 2 stands a bit taller and prouder. It struts in the room knowing that you saw that first movie and uses it to it’s advantage. From the opening scene that throws our first big action sequence into the background to rather focus on more dancing baby Groot who is oblivious to the carnage taking place around him. The sheer audacity that Gunn and co. have to let the audience know that they are having fun and that they were just as eager to get back to it as we were to watch it is infectious. The cast eases you right in to their universe with family dynamics that play out front and center throughout the movie with rough housing, and bickering in the cockpit of their ship the Milano, that feels like it could have been any other establishing family dinner table scene out of an 80’s Spielberg vehicle. Put in the bitchin’ new tunes, crank that baby to 11, and let’s get this show back on the road.
Families grow and also go through growing pains, which only make for amazing character arcs. Everyone has their shining moment in this movie. Even Drax, played by former wrestler Bautista, steps out from his stuck-in-1st-gear characterization that the first movie painted him into a corner with and bursts out this time around showing off his criminally underrated comedic timing. Gamora and Nebula work out some sisterly rivalry issues in the most therapeutic sense by trying to blow each other out of oblivion with obnoxiously huge guns. Their relationship showcasing why Karren Gillan belongs as a series regular in future installments (and more movie roles for that matter). I could also write an entire other piece with the argument that Michael Rooker’s Yondu steals the movie and easily was the emotional lynchpin for this story to work at all. Rocket is still Rocket. It’s not a bad thing.
Couple all this along with fantastic alien designs and costumes that I dearly wish the X-men franchise would blatantly rip off and the opulent color schemes Gunn has chosen to build all his thematic elements on top of that run wild in Vol.2, and you are on sensory overload. Yet the film is able to keep all these plates spinning and not lose it’s audience. Gunn may have the formula to keep things grand while holding your hand along for the adventure figured out.
Kurt Russell shows up for this installment as EGO, the living planet as well as Chris Pratt’s character, Starlord’s father. He brings along all the swagger in the universe with him which impossibly doesn’t over shadow everything else happening on the screen. Russell’s swagger is not to be reckoned with. He’s instantly likable and brings a classic Hollywood charm that necessarily grounds our galactic adventure. And he makes it look easy. It’s inspired casting. I think many diehard comic readers will be happy how the character is handled explaining how it’s possible to both be a living planet and able to inhabit a human form in order to have offspring. A moment in the film that handles huge religious overtones in a brief origin scene better than Snyder’s Christ-complex/Superman comparisons in Man of Steel ever could.
It’s easy to take Vol.2 and compare it to any other superhero mythos that exist where dead parents or deadbeat fathers are the catalyst for what makes our superheroes put on their spandex every day. When the unconventional script finally reveals the core of it’s story at almost the end of the 2nd movement of the film, Guardians shares the more common daddy issues that would be right at home in a Wes Anderson film. The tired trope starts to settle in the pit of your stomach and you find yourself making peace with the fact that everything you’ve seen up to this point was still worth the price of admission. That is until we learn that Ego was intentionally behind the cancer that claimed Starlord’s mother.
Starlord immediately unloads his space blasters into dad upon learning this. Never mind what you thought. This movie is a love letter that goes out to all the moms for doing all the real work.
There are a couple moments where the film appears to lag. Some may find this a boring speed bump to wade through as the movie tries to make up some of its narratives to catch the audience up as well as get the story back on track. But make no mistake, the Guardians franchise exists almost entirely outside of the current Marvel cinematic universe. With only a single mention of the infinity stones, Marvel Studios is making it’s case even stronger that they are the premier movie making studio and will eventually move out of making strictly movies based on the characters that reside in their comic books. Vol. 2 may be even more enjoyable for me because of this fact. While we all get to start over the waiting game for the next time the Guardians save the galaxy for the 3rd time in Avengers: Infinity War (they’ll be old hands at it by then), I’ll be more eager to get to Vol. 3 as quickly as possible after that. The Guardians of the Galaxy are stronger characters when they are standing alone on their own, umm… together.
emotional lynchpin. you heard me.