Review: Recapturing the magic of the original/first film is often an arduous quest, even by Marvel standards. Let’s forget not about how Joss Whedon’s misery, in crafting Age of Ultron to follow up the groundbreaking Avengers assemble, could not live up to the expectation. Given that record, it’s not a big surprise that Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 falls flat in its attempt to live up the virtuoso of Marvel’s biggest gamble; what’s surprising: it still makes an awesome fun-tertaining space bravura centering on galaxy’s most favorite dysfunctional ‘family.’
Element of surprise is what’s missed in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. The Guardians – along with their closest relatives – aren’t unfamiliar faces anymore; same goes to Awesome Mix, the intergalactic vistas, and the typical jokes and banters they’re throwing. During their tenure in Guardians of the Galaxy, they’ve shared spotlight to finally form this band of misfits into a sort of universe protectors. Now, some must relegate into supporting roles and some must go upfront in not so typical disbanding-after-assembling sequel trope.
Spotlight showers Peter ‘Star-Lord’ Quill (Chris Pratt) since he’s finally found his biological father, Ego (Kurt Russell), after some turmoil with gold-laced Sovereign planetizens. Meanwhile, Gamora (Zoe Saldana) is tangled in an unholy reunion with her half-sister, Nebula (Karen Gillan); and Yondu (Michael Rooker) along his Ravagers are tasked to catch his foster boy’s Mötley Crüe. In short, lots of stories are bound to be told in Vol. 2 and, although James Gunn’s script is able to neatly compile them altogether, the presentation could’ve been trimmed down into a more effective account. In fact, after an exhilarating hour, suddenly Vol. 2 enters a cloudy, draggy and tiresome phase, ironically, during the climax.
From those numbers of stories, most are necessary and well-developed, even, astoundingly. Quill’s search for answers to who his father is enters a new level. His sense is torn into two: his biological father – a non-David Hasselhoff celestial figure, Ego, or his father figure – blue savage, Yondu, who exploited him for theft. This storyline even soars more extremely (in a good way) because this film needs a villain. And, talking about villain, Vol. 2 follows Civil War path to somehow prove that Marvel can use a great villain, too, if not for the typical larger-than-life CGI-fest for the final showdown. In addition, clash of Gamora and Nebula is also a great pitch, although often overshadowed by Quill’s agenda; Groot (Vin Diesel) with his completely new role practically steals every scene he’s in; and Drax’s (Dave Bautista) closeness with Mantis (Pom Klementieff) effectively moves the story forward during specific scenes.
Some other arcs feel weak and not urgent, although necessary, i.e., the mutiny story, especially when nudging a villain wannabe named Taserface. Another underused (or overused) plot point is Quill and Gamora’s ‘unspoken thing’, which often tries too hard to emulate 10cc’s song scene in the first film (this time with Sam Cooke’s song for a necessarily unnecessary dance scene). And, you might forget that Sylvester Stallone is “in the film,” since he only virtually matters and not more. Possibly, it’s the marketing niche which pumps up Sly’s appearance. Should his involvement be well concealed (or less pumped up), his cameo might as well spurt out more awe like other cameos (Michelle Yeoh, Ving Rhames, and Howard the Duck again).
Many Guardians of the Galaxy’s properties retained from the first film might not get us as awestruck as the first time, but they’re working all fine now. Unique interstellar beings and designs – costumes, architecture, et al – are as astonishing as it might be (now it gets me thinking that Marvel is doing Star Trek and not Star Wars with this); and retro-pop culture references are injected into the storyline purposely (that Knight Rider and Pac-Man references, for the win). The biggest highlight is the so-called Awesome Mix Vol. 2, which is kinda hit or miss. Some songs are directly connected or, at least, adjacent to specific scenes, i.e., George Harrison’s My Sweet Lord, Silver’s Wham Bang Shang-A-Lang, and especially, Looking Glass – Brandy as well as Cat Stevens’s Father & Son. Some, like Sam Cooke’s Bring It on Home to me is aesthetically important, but feels off. For me, most obvious reason this is a hit-or-miss piece is that I barely knew songs from the playlist; different from those in Awesome Mix Vol. 1.
While not an instant superior as the predecessor, James Gunn is lucky to have presented the film’s main characters so exceptionally in the first film that it is easy to get invested to them over and over again. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is still as groovy, kitsch and awesome as ever although it can’t get us hooked on the same feeling twice.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)
Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi Written & Directed by: James Gunn Starred by: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, Kurt Russell Runtime: 136 mins Rated PG-13