by Emma Smith, Reporter
What makes a film worthy of five stars? It should have vision, and leave nothing back in pursuit of that vision. It should have a story that weaves a spell on you. It should give you something new – something that you have never seen before. It should have a cast and crew who use their skills to transport you to another time and place. It should have writers who create characters who grow in depth. It might make you laugh; it might make you cry; but it should definitely make you feel. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 has all those things, and it manages the difficult task of living up to the expectations set by Vol. 1.
Minor Spoilers Ahead
The ragtag group of misfits who saved the galaxy are back, and of course, they are in trouble again. During a job for The Sovereign, Rocket’s fingers get a little too sticky, and the Guardians end up on the run from their former employers. Fortunately for us, before they have to make a run for it, they accept payment in the form of Gamora’s sister Nebula, who they plan to turn over for the bounty on her head. The mysterious Ego comes to their rescue and tempts Peter back to his planet with the revelation he is Peter’s biological father. Drax and Gamora accompany Peter, and they encounter a naive empath named Mantis, who rather disturbingly refers to Ego as her “master.” Rocket and Baby Groot are left behind (with Nebula) to repair the ship. Yondu and his merry band of yahoos are hired by The Sovereign to find the guardians, and they capture Rocket and Groot, though not without some entertaining casualties. However, a mutiny against the “too soft” Yondu forces the Ravager into an uneasy alliance with Rocket and Groot. All of these developments lead to everyone saving everyone, and, of course, the galaxy. What kind of Guardians would they be if they didn’t do that?
The strengths of GotG Vol. 2 are twofold: it is a movie clearly made people who enjoy what they do and do it well, and it knows when to play with its own genre conventions. The movie begins with the type of action sequence one would expect from a “comic book” movie, but from a somewhat twigged-out perspective. This twist brings something new to a monster fight – joy. The special effects created for the movie are impressive, but also beautiful and fun. There is a sequence with Yondu’s arrow that borders on an inanimate object becoming a character unto itself. The jokes are numerous, but also tie into the story in unexpected ways.
Writer/Director James Gunn deserves the credit for making a geeky action movie with intelligence. So many action movies ask their audiences to forgive a complete lack of character development and barely cobbled together plot lines because the fight scenes or car chases look cool. This movie gives us the cool chases and action without ever asking the audience to check their brains at the door. Instead, it weaves together various elements and stories from the comics into a compelling and unique plot. The writers also give the characters emotional depth, character growth, and funny dialogue.
Of course, even the best lines can fall flat if not delivered by actors. Here too, the movie shines. Bradley Cooper’s (The Hangover) voice with the motion capture work of Sean Gunn (Gilmore Girls) does an incredible job of bringing life and pathos to Rocket. Chris Pratt (Jurassic World) as Starlord/Peter Quill, Zoe Saldana (Star Trek) as Gamora, and Dave Bautista (Marauders) as Drax remain as entertaining as in the first movie. Rather unexpectedly, secondary characters have some of the best moments. Michael Rooker (The Walking Dead) has more to do this time around. The exploration of his reasons for “stealing” young Peter and the nature of his current relationship with him flesh out Yondu in unexpected ways, and Rooker does an excellent job of exploring emotion while staying true to his character. Karen Gillan (In a Valley of Violence) deserves credit for bringing unexpected emotional depth to Nebula, despite the handicaps of a massive amount of makeup and a half cyborg character. While Gamora has tamped down any feelings she has about their time as Thanos’ daughters, Nebula’s pain explodes in this movie. The complications of a troubled sibling relationship are on full display and shown amazingly well by Gillan and Saldana. Kurt Russell (The Thing) was the perfect choice for Ego. He is quintessentially 1980s in nature, effortlessly charming and arrogant, and his ability to say the most outlandish things as if they make perfect sense serves him well in this role.
Is Vol. 2 a perfect film? Not quite. The second act could be tightened up. The Sovereign is a bit boring. The biggest weakness was how Mantis was used in the story, or rather under-used. Her character literally kicks ass in the comics, but the film incarnation has been striped of her strongest traits and relegated to a naive foil for Drax’s jokes.
Throughout the movie are scattered numerous fun cameos and little nods to both comics and pop culture – everything from Atari sound effects to Cheers references to the action hero of action heroes. The sheer number of stories, characters, and references pulled from decades of source material really ought to make the movie confusing and distracting. Instead things are combined, tucked into corners, and woven into each other in such a way that you almost don’t even notice they are there. Hardcore fans will come out of the theater exclaiming over their favorite callback and comparing notes to make sure they didn’t miss anything. Casual movie fans will still find themselves absorbed in the world without distraction.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 succeeds in creating a fun movie with action sequences to wow, jokes to amuse, plot to engage, and acting to entertain.
Comicsonline gives Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 – 5 out of 5 Dancing Baby Groots.
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