Exuberant Adventure: Our Review of ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2’

Posted in Movies, Theatrical by - May 03, 2017
Exuberant Adventure: Our Review of ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2’

The ability of Guardians of the Galaxy to check and balance the sweet with the silly, the dramatic with the absurd, made it such a welcome success. For the most part, nearly 20 movies in, Marvel churns out films with a very familiar template, but they triumph because the formula they use is solid. Thankfully  Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 is a slight departure, with its self aware nature and consistent tomfoolery, paired with a fantastic retro soundtrack, making it so much fun, both slyly and overt.

It happens with frequency, but there is one scene in particular that typifies Guardians love for subversion and antics. On a beautifully serene planet, cavalier wiseguy Peter Quill, known as Star-lord, is playing catch with his dad Ego, after the two of them have been searching for each other for decades. However, the object they are playing catch with is a ball of energy that Peter conjured up in his mind after learning that his paternal lineage allows him to control matter. Peter has a dumb grin and Ego acts a proud papa, transplanting stereotypical father-son pastime to the other reaches of the galaxy: it’s ridiculous, yet a key part of the story.

Every time there is something sentimental, it’s pushed back against by a sarcastic comment or awkward pratfall. Even two action sequences bookending the film are focused on mischief going on in the periphery.

Vol 2 also succeeds by finding the right combination of new and old to convince you there is more of the former than the latter. It doesn’t really matter though because it’s a wildly entertaining lark. This installment of quippy aliens and other outcasts traversing the universe dabbles in family drama, though still moves towards the point, as all these other films do, where planets are in peril.

The new figure is Ego, who calls himself a god, but with a lowercase ‘g’ he explains, and he can take any form. He chooses that of Kurt Russell because, well, Peter’s love for 80s pop culture makes the long-locked and suave Russell a seemingly perfect father figure. Not sure if Peter ever saw Escape from New York  or Big Trouble in Little China.

Elsewhere, Gamora (Zoe Saldana) battles physically and emotionally with her sister Nebula, which is arguably a more interesting conflict than the typical father-son struggle. That takes a backseat though, and shoehorned into Gamora’s journey is a continued flirtation with Peter, because, of course.

Still, the theme of family is everywhere, making it a more focused and compelling movie than most Marvel’s tale of One Rich Handsome Man Overcoming Something. Rocket Racoon (Bradley Cooper) continues to be sarcastic and aggressive, pushing away those who care about him, while Yondu (Michael Rooker), the man who initially picked up an adolescent Peter from Earth and raised him, finds an expanded role as a man cast out of his group.

Oh, and there is an adorable baby tree that steals the first five minutes of the film and does other incredibly cute things. But never too cute – writer and director Peter Gunn, his second time at the helm, knows just how to maintain an equilibrium here. The witty and the nonsensical, the necessary and the frivolous, the action and the discourse, are all kept in near perfect tempo. There are a few tangents that may give pause or confusion – including an excessive slaughter of some nasty scavengers – but Gunn delivers it with such brio and joy.

In fact, the entirely of the film is so lively, so bursting at its seams with beaming, infectious euphoria, that it’s hard not to smile and tap your toes. What’s more, Guardians delivers one of the best third act action sequences in Marvel’s history: competent, contained, and coherent. And without some giant thing coming out of the sky to destroy a city, because that’s what always happens. Instead, there is a a tiny tree running around with a nuclear bomb and a racoon in desperate need of tape.

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Anthony is a lover of a good story in any form, on any subject. Tirelessly navigating filmdom, he is equal parts an unbridled idealist and stubborn curmudgeon, trying to strike a balance between head and heart when it comes to pop culture. He pens stories about television, music, the environment, lifestyles, and all things noteworthy and peculiar.