By: Mike McDaniel Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)
Director: James Gunn
Writers: James Gunn, Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning
Chris Pratt: Peter Quill/Starlord
Zoe Saldana: Gamora
Dave Bautista: Drax
Vin Diesel: Voice of Baby Groot
Bradley Cooper: Voice of Rocket
Michael Rooker: Yondu
Karen Gillan: Nebula
Pom Klementieff: Mantis
Kurt Russell: Ego
Slyvester Stallone: Stakar Ogord
Jeff Goldblum: Grandmaster
David Hasselhoff: David Hasselhoff
I reviewed the original film back in 2014, beginning thus:
Guardians Of The Galaxy has been done before. The only question is whether this particular version of a familiar plot is done well enough to distinguish it from its predecessors.
The plot: a group of misfits is improbably thrown together and stumble into a situation whereby they are the only thing standing between the nation/the world/the galaxy and total annihilation, which will surely be brought about by an evil villain they know they can’t possibly defeat. They suppress their lesser urges, bring out the best in each other, demonstrate the nobility and self-sacrifice the audience always knew was there–because they’ve all seen this plot before–and at the last minute and at great cost, defeat the evil and save the nation/world/galaxy. The end. Roll credits.
Posters and advertisements play up the Marvel connection, and reasonably so. Guardians Of The Galaxy isn’t good art, but it’s certainly great entertainment. No one is going to be overheard leaving the theater musing about how the movie inspired them to philosophize about the great heights to which humanity might aspire or plumbing the depths of the human condition. But that’s no loss. The trademarks of Marvel superhero movies are all present: a wry sense of humor, solid comic timing, interesting, but not overly introspective characters, excellent computer graphics, a fast, but not confusing pace, excellent sets, costumes and special effects, and above all, touches of emotion and humanity without getting maudlin about it.
That’s pretty much it for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 as well. See it. You’ll have a good time. The end.
What’s that? You’re expecting more? Very well. This movie too has been done before, but it’s done so very well. As with the original, it’s not good art. When the history of movies for this century is written, it’s not going to be in the top ten, but it’s enormously entertaining, touching, funny, delightful, and fast-paced.
The action is non-stop and dramatic. The opening credits roll over an epic–and funny–battle between the Guardians and a huge monster, while baby Groot dances in the foreground, and that’s truly just the beginning, building up to epic space battles and the destruction of a planet, all beautifully and convincingly done.
The quality of computer graphics is simply outstanding. The palette of colors used throughout is gorgeous, the imagined landscapes, impossible to fully appreciate on a single viewing. The usual wry humor of Marvel movies is taken to a new level here, playing not only on the quirks of the characters, but the situations they face, and where Chris Pratt’s Peter Quill is concerned, it’s delightfully self-deprecating. Rather than the occasional laugh, they are interspersed throughout the movie to good effect. The production values are uniformly high. Sets, props, costumes, sound, makeup–lots of makeup–lighting, camera work, all are excellent.
The music, which begins with the classic Brandy, by Looking Glass, is memorable, but on a few occasions, seems almost to intrude rather than being supportive of the plot and the emotions of the characters. It’s almost a little overdone, as though the Director thought he had to outdo the music that was so much a part of the first movie. When the music becomes the point, plot tends to fade into the background.
What ultimately makes this movie work, and sets up many future sequels, is character development. Virtually every one of the characters, including supporting rather than main characters, is dynamic, growing and becoming better people through their interactions with the other characters, and endearing themselves to viewers. All of the main characters are likeable, but through the plot, they become admirable. That’s good writing.
In a sense, this is an origins movie. We meet Quill’s god-like father–Ego, played to perfection by Kurt Russell. Ego is one of the few static characters in the movie, which is important in that he appears to be benevolent, but ultimately reveals himself to be evil. It’s this revelation that causes Quill to allow his nobility and self-sacrifice to come to the surface.
The movie is also about family, an endearingly dysfunctional family to be sure, but family nonetheless. So strong is this thread, the audience finds itself loving computer generated characters such as Rocket and Groot, who is now a baby, but growing, plant creature.
The acting won’t win any Academy Awards, but what do those weenies know about it? I’m not suggesting the acting is substandard–far from it–only that it’s not terribly nuanced, which for this movie is a good thing. Chris Pratt’s Star Lord continues to be a somewhat less roguish, swashbuckling hero, though we do see something of his softer side. Zoe Saldana’s Gamora shines though the layers of green makeup. Even Karen Gillan’s Nebula–Gamora’s deadly sister–is redeemed and becomes likeable. Dave Bautista’s Drax is also humanized, though he remains an abrasive–yet loveable–lout, who occasionally spouts something profound, which suggests greater depth. Rocket too becomes more loveable and somewhat less cynical, and Groot remains a humorous, though very cute, character.
Pom Klementieff’s Mantis is an interesting new character that is apparently added to the Guardian’s roster for the future. An Asian actress, her character is distinctly Anime-ish, with huge brown eyes and a meek aspect. Michael Rooker’s Yondu becomes a pivotal character, but you’ll have to see the movie to see what I mean.
The cameo-ish appearances by Sylvester Stallone and Jeff Goldblum are fun, and as always, there is a funny cameo by Stan Lee, CEO of Marvel.
Finally, the movie is about love and self-sacrifice. As I said earlier, it has been done before. In the first movie, Quill sacrificed himself to save Gamora. In this movie, Quill’s real father–not his sperm donor–sacrifices himself to save Quill, and through it all, Quill learns what’s truly important and seems about to act on his, to this point, suppressed love for Gamora. Will they get together, which closes off future plot possibilities, or remain platonically aloof? We’ll have to wait for Vol. 3.
There are, of course, all manner of improbable, even impossible, actions. Physics is regularly defied, and our heroes survive blows, falls and attacks that would kill –well–them, but we’re more than willing to suspend disbelief.
Unlike so many movies that work as a stand-alone film, this franchise will work well into the future. It has characters we care about, good writing, excellent production values, honest emotion, good and playful laughter, more action than three movies normally contain, and it remains true to the Marvel formulas, which reach back to the earliest and most enduring stories and archetypes.
As always with Marvel movies, one needs to remain in their seat for the ending credits, where more than one bit of foreshadowing takes place, as well as another Stan Lee cameo, and more merriment, including Monty Pythonesque fun with the text of the credits.
My schedule kept me from seeing this movie during its opening days, so readers may not have the opportunity to catch it in the theater, though it is certainly worth the price of admission. It is also certainly a movie to add to one’s DVD collection.
Mike’s Home blog is Stately McDaniel Manor.