Bigger in every way than the surprise 2014 blockbuster that brought this new franchise to the screen for the first time, the inevitable sequel Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2 still has the best and most entertaining set of characters of any Marvel comic book movie — even if at times it seems bigger isn’t necessarily better.
As I say in my video review above, the special effects, booming sound, and CGI of it all at times threatens to overtake the genuine character development and clever wit inherent to this ragtag team roaming the universe and saving planets. But, it is to writer-director James Gunn’s credit that this new edition doesn’t lose the charm and general likability of the first one. For Guardians fans — and they are legion by now — you likely won’t be disappointed as this franchise moves from back of the pack to pole position in the superhero universe.
Although at times over-designed and trying to pack too much of a good thing into its two-hour-plus running time, any movie that can boast this many great characters is OK in my book. Sign me up for more (Gunn is already planning the third installment). The film picks up just a few months after the 2014 picture left off, and now this team having saved Xandar is relishing its own fame and rock-star status and moving on to the next conquests. But personal matters interfere, most specifically for our hero Peter Quill, aka Star Lord (Chris Pratt), who is determined to discover and uncover the truth about his real father.
Right from the opening frames we are given clues as to who that might be when we see a much younger version of Kurt Russell’s character Ego (great CGI young-ing down of this veteran star) driving along with the girl who would be Quill’s mother. Cut to the future and Ego finally does come into Quill’s life, and a complicated relationship it is. Although the blue-skinned Yondu (Michael Rooker, the standout star in this sequel), bad guy (or is he?) of the Ravagers, has served as sort of an oddball father figure for Quill, Ego is the real deal — but not exactly what Peter might have hoped for. Dear old dad has his own mission in mind.
This time around, Gamora (Zoe Saldana), in addition to her relationship with Peter, is having sibling problems with her adoptive sister, the take-no-prisoners tough girl Nebula (Karen Gillan); to say their relationship is also complicated is another understatement. When last we saw the giant tree stump Groot, he was sacrificing his own life, but out of those dying branches came Baby Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel again, though the dialogue is still along the lines of “I am Groot”) who is adorably funny, the ultimate Disney invention. My personal favorite, the cyber Raccoon, Rocket is back in fine form thanks to Bradley Cooper’s hysterical voice work. Rocket is really full of himself now and nearly impossible to get along with, but he has spunk. His scenes with Baby Groot are worth the price of admission alone. So too is the pairing of the literal-minded warrior Drax (Dave Bautista) and his newfound friend Mantis (a delightful Pom Klementieff), a new character that is sort of an insect-like alien with a couple antennae. Their interaction is inspired.
Another new cast addition is Sylverster Stallone as veteran Ravager Stakar, but his role here amounts to little more than a cameo, if that. One of the many post-credits scenes indicates there may be much more for him to do in future installments along with Michelle Yeoh, who also shows up here for a nanosecond. I was amused by Chris Sullivan’s villainous Taserface, the subject of lots of ridicule in the storyline. Also The Night Manager’s delectable — and tall — Elizabeth Debicki turns up as Ayesha, High Priestess of the alien planet Sovereign, who calls upon the Guardians to help save her planet. It doesn’t go well.
The cast list goes on and on, indicating Gunn just may be trying to stuff too much into this edition, so a little shortening might have been in order. Nevertheless, more fun is not likely to be had on the blockbuster circuit this summer, and I still look forward to what this group does next. It is one of the pleasures of Marvel’s treasure chest.
Of course, no Guardians flick would be worth anything if not for its soundtrack, and this one has a sensational group of eclectic tunes for its “Awesome Mixtape #2” including Looking Glass’ “Brandy,” ELO’s “Mr. Blue Sky” and Glen Campbell’s “Southern Nights” just for starters. Tyler Bates has contributed a killer score to keep the 2 hours and 17 minutes sailing along at a breathless pace. You won’t want to leave during the credits as the filmmakers offer up more bonus scenes than any movie I can ever recall. Like the whole film it is all madcap, nutso fun that doesn’t take itself too seriously. That’s a very good thing.
Kevin Feige produced. Disney starts counting the money May 4 with Thursday night previews ahead of the official May 5 opening. Do you plan to see Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol 2? Let us know what you think.