Movie Review : Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)
The "unexpected" success of the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie in 2014 was, in hindsight, the most carefully planned commercial endeavor that sneaked by the internet's watchful eye. Few people know, but Marvel Comics and Lucas Arts both belong to the Walt Disney Company and with Star Wars: The Force Awakens in production, it's no coincidence if a radically different superhero space opera materialized in theaters to gauge mainstream audiences reaction. And the response was terrific. People loved the movie so much it created a happy problem for Marvel. Could the Guardians of the Galaxy grow into a thing of their own and become a "thing" alongside zeitgeist-defining franchises such as Star Wars and Star Trek which are STILL going strong today?
I've seen Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 last week and my answer is: most likely yes. There are no guarantees in the movie business but there are telltale signs of unlimited potential and the Guardians of the Galaxy are showing them all.
The movie picks up a short while after the events of the first. Several months, one or two years at most. The Guardians have become fair trade space mercenaries hired by various people to protect various assets against the chaos of the greater unknown. When Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) shits the bed on a gig and leaves with stolen materials, the group is ushered into an unexpected space battle they are rescued from by a strange old man floating in the void. They soon meet the old geezer in question. His name is Ego (Kurt Russell) and he claims to be Star Lord (Chris Pratt)'s long lost dad. Under the spell of this revelation, Star Lord, Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and Drax (Dave Bautista) travel to Ego's planet and shit starts getting really weird. Of course, it ain't a coincidence if Ego stumbled upon his estranged son while wandering through the universe.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is a big, fun, colorful and thoroughly predictable space movie just like Star Wars, except that it has a sense of humor about itself. And since it doesn't have a wealth of preexisting culture to fall back on, it shamelessly harvests pop culture to foster emotional connection with the audience. Sure, it's a little lurid but since the movie doesn't take itself too seriously it's not unpleasant. There is really nothing else you can desire from a big production like this. Maybe Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 doesn't have the craft and nuances of a contemporary classic like the Coen brothers' No Country for Old Men for example, but it stands heads and shoulders above the rest of Marvel's boring-ass movie catalog. The main reason why it doesn't suck is that it was written and directed by the same person James Gunn.
But what do I mean, aside from the fact that Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 doesn't feature two hours of people clumsily fist fighting in silly costumes? For one, the movie has an interesting antagonist. He is seducing, humanoid and he doesn't JUST want to take over the world. American cinema always had issues representing imperialism with any nuance, so it was refreshing to see it portrayed in such a complex and conflicted way in a movie like Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. James Gunn also tones down the eternally dissatisfying "saving the world" rhetoric that plagues superhero movies and big productions in general. There is a little bit of that, but every character has personal stakes in that fight. And unlike most superheroes, they're all fleshed out, flawed and thoroughly human in their own way. When I said this movie does a lot of things well, I wasn't kidding.
I wouldn't finish this Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 review without mentioning the cameo from MY MAIN MAN Sylvester Stallone. It didn't have anything to do with anything and it probably alluded to another sequel but it felt good to see my man in there, doing his space mercenary thing. I went into Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 with a critical mind, looking to pick it apart but I have to give writer and director James Gunn his due. The man did his homework and the Guardians of the Galaxy are becoming the only interesting Marvel franchise on screen. Sure, it's a little emotional and manipulative around the edges but you can do that when your characters are sound and your story has an identity of its own. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 was a blast and if any summer blockbuster deserves your money, it's this one.