by Sherry Lipp
The Lowdown: Too many cookie-cutter MCU elements make ‘Vol. 2’ a disappointing encore.
After 15 movies and counting, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is still going strong. Multiple movies, a slew of characters, and a thread of a continuing story line tie all of the films together. The latest entry in the MCU is Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, the follow-up to 2014’s fun and inventive Guardians of the Galaxy. Vol. 2 tries to offer up the same thrills and humor as the first film, and succeeds for much of it, but is bogged down by a boring villain that just can’t match the energy of the heroes.
Vol. 2 gets off to a great start. Based on their heroic deeds in the first film, the Guardians are now able to take high-paying gigs. For example: protecting rare (and apparently very valuable) batteries from would-be robbers. The gang is maybe selling themselves a bit short, but they are together and the galaxy isn’t in danger all of the time. Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) and the rest have made some enemies so they do still have to watch their backs.
Most notably, Quill’s old nemesis/father figure Yondu (Michael Rooker) still has a bone to pick after getting double-crossed in the first film. The Guardians also manage to have quite a high price placed on their heads in a job-gone-bad dealing with the Sovereign, a genetically engineered race that’s so superior their skin is actually gold.
For the first half the film is a lot of fun. The rapport between the characters is genuine and funny and the action is brisk. One of the coolest things about both Guardians of the Galaxy films is the scenery. Director James Gunn takes advantage of their non-Earth locations to throw in plenty of imaginative locales where it seems like anything can happen. Why Vol. 2 decides to ground itself on the empty planet where the mysterious Ego (Kurt Russell) lives is a mystery.
Once Star-Lord meets Ego the film takes kind of strange turn where all the characters decide to explore their feelings. I understand Star-Lord needs to come to terms with his past on Earth, but his immediate trust in Ego is perplexing and frustrating. I did like that we got to learn a little more about Quill’s mom and his origin – assuming everything we’ve been told is true. We get some insight into how Quill ended up spending so much time with Yondu (Michael Rooker).
Personally I wasn’t all that taken with Ego and I wish the film didn’t center so much on him. Yondu on the other hand does get some well-deserved additional screen time and his story is much more interesting. Same goes for Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and Nebula (Karen Gillan). I would have much rather spent a lot more time with them. The real star of the film is baby Groot, who shined in every scene in which he appeared.
The side characters had so much more to do that I dreaded going back to Quill and Ego on their lonely planet. The cool stuff was definitely happening elsewhere – Rocket takes down an army, the Ravagers join forces with Nebula, and Yondu meets up with his estranged mentor Stakr Ogord (Sylvester Stallone). We can only hope there will be more of that in the next film.
Overall Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is enjoyable but also bogged down by a an overly long climax that falls into what’s becoming a Marvel standard – the over-extended, everything-is-at-stake battle sequence. I also thought the pop culture jokes started to get a little too cute. Why would Peter Quill reference Sam and Diane from Cheers? Given the timeline of when he was abducted from earth, I doubt he would have been so into that sitcom at such a young age. I love the relationship between the core group and I hope to see more of what makes them special the next time out.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 images: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures