I’ll be the first to admit that I was unnecessarily hard on “Guardians of the Galaxy,” painting the movie in broad strokes and calling it a good “popcorn flick.” And while the film does mostly aim for that demographic, after taking some to time to realize just how outstanding the good parts are, I realize now just how effective that film was. The characters are all given plenty of time to shine, the plot is refreshing filled with far more humanity than I gave it credit for, the comedy is surprisingly timeless, and the soundtrack is now classic.
While “Guardians of the Galaxy” is still certainly a popcorn flick, it is arguably the best one in the last several decades and right up there as one of the best Marvel movies to date.
This brings us to “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” which I feel is best described as more of the same. More one-liners and quotable scenes, more comedy, more of our “heroes” simply sitting down and trying to have a normal conversation, and more great uses of music. And while this does make for a great experience, it does leave me feeling like we’ve been down this road before, which somewhat taints the movie.
Now that our group of ragtag and misfit Guardians have made a name for themselves across the galaxy, Starlord (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax (Dave Bautista), Rocket (Bradley Cooper) and baby Groot (Vin Disel) have been taking on stranger and more dangerous missions, which eventually leads them to encounter a powerful being known as Ego (Kurt Russell), who claims to be Starlord’s father. Ego takes Peter, Gamora, and Drax to his planet, where he intends to prove he is ready to be a dad, while Rocket and Groot repair their damaged ship and are hunted by the Ravagers, led by Yondu (Michael Rooker).
Like with the first movie, what I found to be memorable was the comedy and the character interactions. How these vastly different personalities and quirks bounce off one another while Starlord tries to make everyone try to act like humans. Peter has clearly been teaching Rocket to understand sarcasm better through winking (though he always ends up winking with the wrong eye), as well as getting Drax to lay off his barbarian nature and learn when others are joking.
Some of the better lines come from Drax, who takes great joy in watching others suffer, whether through physical beatings or emotional assaults, while things like dancing or physical beauty repulse him. Yondu also gets some great moments, especially when we finally get to see him get to put his arrow abilities to full use. They make Yondu a much more sympathetic character in this movie instead of the vulture-ous character we got in the first film, to show that he’s always had good intentions but has been normally given by greed or power, showing him for the misfit he truly is.
But my problem with “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” is similar to my feeling on “Avengers: Age of Ultron” and how that film up’ed the ante of “The Avengers” by taking everything that movie did but making it feel bigger.
In nearly every regard, “Age of Ultron” did everything “The Avengers” did, but better; yet we look back on the first film with awe and admiration, while the second one is just fine. The reason for this is because “The Avengers” was an experience, watching all these characters from five different movies come together in such a spectacular fashion for something unique and exciting. “Age of Ultron” was a sequel to an experience, and it does everything a good sequel should do – bigger stakes, bigger fights, more of what made the first one so good.
But everything it offers is something we’ve already seen, so that same magic that the first film had isn’t there. We’re not watching this one with fresh eyes. For all of its good points, “Age of Ultron” was just trying to be “The Avengers” again. Did it work? At times, yes, but the filmmakers we trying to recapture lightning after it had left its jar.
“Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” falls into the same category as “Age of Ultron” – trying to be far too much like its predecessor that it hardly creates its own identity. The first film was magical in its character interactions and writing, so I cannot blame James Gunn and crew for wanting to recapture that whimsy. But the tone, style, and sense of humor were so identical the previous movie that it feels like a watered-down version of the first movie.
Don’t get me wrong, I still had a blast watching this movie. There are lots of memorable moments, some of them quieter heart-to-heart scenes between Gamora and her sister Nebula. I never once thought I was wasting my time or that this was a bad movie. I’m just a bit disappointed this one wasn’t as much of an experience as “Guardians of the Galaxy.”
Final Grade: B