Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy was an all-around fantastic movie. It broke the generic mold of the previous Marvel films, gave us some memorable new heroes that were fairly unknown, and is the most entertaining Marvel movie to-date (and arguably their best behind Winter Soldier). I’d been a fan of writer/director James Gunn since his 2006 debut, Slither, and was happy to see his talents transfer over to a big budget film. It seems like Marvel gave Gunn free reign on this series, which is why I was so disappointed to see that the follow-up is so by-the-numbers.
Volume 2 splits up our gang as Quill, Gamora, and Drax travel to Ego’s Planet. Ego is Peter Quill’s father (played by Kurt Russell) and has found his son after the events of the first movie. Rocket and Groot are forced to stay and repair their damaged ship and keep an eye on Nebula. Splitting up the team is a massive misstep in my eyes. The strength of the first film comes from the banter and reluctant teamwork together. Luckily, Gunn does give more screen time to Yondu (played by the always excellent Michael Rooker), who is arguably the only character with an arc throughout the entire film. Rooker is great in the role and is one of the few great parts of the film. The film’s brightest spot though is Dave Bautista as Drax. Bautista has been a real unexpected find, often being the MVP in films like Spectre and the first Guardians. He is absolutely hilarious here and steals every scene he’s in. If not for him in this film, it would be fairly forgettable. The first hour soars by pretty quickly, but the second act seems to wander – sometimes literally with our characters exploring Ego’s planet. I have a lot of issues with this movie (most that have apparently been overlooked by other critics) and, as with Doctor Strange, they overshadow other solid moments in the film.
The real problems come in the third act, with the villain threatening to destroy all other planets because of “reasons.” The finale is an overload of CGI that skimps on character and plot. Unfortunately, this is further evidence of Marvel’s problems with third acts and their villains. I am a bit surprised to the almost unanimous love for this film because I am fairly forgiving to superhero films, but this one left a bad taste in my mouth. While this film is entertaining (mainly the first act) and has its moments, I honestly found both Batman v. Superman (extended cut) and Man of Steel much more satisfying experiences. While it may be a hair better than Marvel’s last effort, Doctor Strange, that still isn’t saying much. Maybe my expectations were too high and it would be better on a second viewing, but it’s only been a couple of days since I left the theater. I hope Gunn & Co. find their groove again because they really have a knockout cast for these characters and I want to see them go out on a high note. With action films like Fate of the Furious, John Wick 2, and even superhero films like Logan, Marvel really has to step up their game and give us something different.
Rating: PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action and violence, language, and brief suggestive content
Runtime: 2 hours, 17 minutes