We’re nine years into the MCU, and Marvel fatigue is in full effect.
“Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” is the sequel to the 2014 surprise hit and features Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel and Bradley Cooper returning as the misfit titular group. This time around, they must outrun a planet’s army while Peter Quill learns the truth about his father (Kurt Russell). James Gunn returns to write and direct.
I enjoyed the first “Guardians of the Galaxy.” It’s a little overrated in that it isn’t the second coming of Christ, game-changing superhero film that some make it out to be, but it made one of my longtime favorites Chris Pratt into a star and was a nice variation from the standard Marvel formula. This sequel is a lot like a taking a second ride on a rollercoaster, because it’s enjoyable in bursts but overall just isn’t as fun as the first time around.
The cast all do solid jobs in the roles. Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel will again be people’s favorites voicing their CGI characters of Rocket and Groot, and they’re certainly given more to do this time. And while they’re fun for a while, their characters suffer from the same thing everything else in the film does and that’s familiarity and oversaturation. Everyone loved the plant creature Groot in the first film, and this time he’s tiny and cute, and the filmmakers know what they have. Much like the Minions stole the show in the original “Despicable Me” and were subsequently given more screentime in the followup, Groot is given a lot to do and some will argue it’s to a fault.
The best performance comes from Kurt Russell who plays Chris Pratt’s long lost father. Between this and the “Fast and Furious” films, Russell has shifted over to blockbusters lately and is doing some of his most fun work to date. Russell has some clever quips and genuine moments of emotion, and is certainly a breath of fresh air into the film.
The special effects are all top notch, but it’s 2017. If the effects in your $200 million movie don’t look good then you have to be trying hard to fail.
Besides familiarity, the film suffers from a script that lacks purpose. The first film gave all the Guardians a reason for doing what they are doing, and as bad as the villain was we knew everyone’s motivations and choices behind their actions. Here there isn’t really a plot, and the entire film essentially takes place in one of two locations with cookie-cutter plot points. There just never feels like there’s a reason for this film to exist outside the first film made a lot of money so Disney wants to cash in on the obligatory sequel, and the absence of purpose creates moments that lull and drag throughout the 2+ hour runtime.
A lot of Gunn’s jokes also fall flat, with Dave Bautista giving admittedly a better performance this time around (he was new to acting in 2014) but every single bit of dialogue he is given is a stale joke. On numerous occasions a character says something that Gunn clearly meant to be a joke so there’s the pause in between lines to allow the audience to laugh, but the theater was silent so there’s just an awkward moment where nothing is happening, onscreen or off. While there are a few funny moments and baby Groot has one standout sequence, punchlines are foreshadowed or lazy, and they lack the punch and surprise of the first film (sensing a pattern?).
“Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” would be a better film if the first one didn’t exist, but it also just isn’t one of Marvel’s best efforts, period. The cast all seem game and the colorful effects will be enough to entice some audience members, but I just never felt as invested or entertained as I wanted to be, and if this is all there is left for the Guardians to do then they really should revisit if we want a Vol. 3.
Critics Rating: 5/10