REVIEW: Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2

Image: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Chris Luckett

“There’s figures on this. Seventy percent of what people react to is how you look, twenty percent is about how you sound, and only ten percent is actually what you say. So, if you look good and sound good [but talk nonsense], everyone’ll go wild!” –Eddie Izzard

Even those who were left unimpressed by 2014’s crowd-pleaser Guardians of the Galaxy were in unanimous agreement about how fantastic its soundtrack was. Employing a vintage Sony Walkman and a cassette mixtape to accompany the humourous action of the movie, its soundtrack topped the Billboard chart for 11 weeks, was the best-selling soundtrack of the year after Frozen‘s, and introduced a new generation to the hits of the Raspberries, Norman Greenbaum, 10cc, The Jackson 5, and Blue Swede.

The fact it was such a fun movie and a solid sci-fi actioner/superhero flick was better, but even if it had been just okay, the music (and the dazzling CGI) would have been enough to mostly make up it. The traction-less Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 is proof of that.

Image: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Since becoming a makeshift family in the first movie, Peter Quill/Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista), Rocket (Bradley Cooper), and Groot (Vin Diesel) have turned their fame into a career as heroes-for-hire.

After saving a golden race known as the Sovereign in exchange for Gamora’s sister Nebula (Karen Gillan), Rocket steals some very valuable batteries from the Sovereign, which leads to an attack in which they are rescued at the last minute by a space-surfer who looks a lot like a bearded Kurt Russell.

Image: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

He reveals himself to be Ego the Living Planet, who takes human form sometimes and just so happens to be Peter’s birth father, but something seems off about him. He’s accompanied by the empath Mantis (Pom Klementieff), whose awkward lack of social skills outdoes even Drax’s.

Meanwhile, the blue menace who abducted Peter from Earth as a child in the 1980s, Yondu (Michael Rooker), is hired by the leader of the Sovereign to hunt down the Guardians of the Galaxy.

Image: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Written and directed by James Gunn, Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 tries too hard to live up to the expectations which result when following a sleeper hit that went on to become the third-highest grossing movie of 2014. It wants to appeal to everyone, leading to its plot splitting the guardians apart for two separate stories that weave back together by the end, in an attempt to bring an Empire Strikes Back flavour to Star-Lord and gang’s story. It doesn’t really work.

Too many parts of the movie feel reheated from other sources, be they the original Guardians of the Galaxy, episodes of Futurama, or Star Trek sequels. In fact, as much as later parts of the movie pointedly recall Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, the single movie Vol. 2 most reminded this critic of by the end was Star Trek Into Darkness.

There’s no need to either movie. Star Trek Into Darkness concludes with the very same ending as the earlier 2009 Star Trek, negating the need for any of the narrative to have happened. Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 has the same defect. It’s the first completely disposable and irrelevant movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (to say nothing of a climax that recalls Man of Steel in all the worst ways).

Image: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Of course, with Gunn knowing the same thing Eddie Izzard does, Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 stacks the deck not just with even more impressive visuals but a soundtrack the equal to the first film’s. Every time the movie begins noticeably running out of steam or ideas, a new sequence begins, set to “Mr. Blue Sky,” “Lake Shore Drive,” “Come a Little Bit Closer,” “The Chain,” or “Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl).” It’s unfair, but damn if it doesn’t get away with it every time.

Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 is certainly as fun as the first movie. Many theatregoers will be looking for nothing more, so will get everything they need from the kick-off to 2017’s Summer Movie Season. If what made the first movie for you, though, was its refreshing comedy, complex relationships, and begrudging heart, you’ll be a bit disappointed. But man, does that soundtrack almost make up for it.

3½ stars / 5


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