Guardians of Galaxy Vol. 2
Director: James Gunn
Starring: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Michael Rooker, Kurt Russell, Karen Gillan, Pom Klementieff, Elizabeth Debicki, Sean Gunn, and Sylvester Stallone
Have you ever made a mixtape? Those of us from the cassette days probably understand this concept best. It can be a complicated process depending on the kind of theme you want the music to have. Do you start the mix off with something that gets your adrenaline flowing? Do you slowly build the mix towards a climactic final song? For those experienced in this process, you know that there is always a standout mixtape that all other mixtapes will be judged by.
"Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2" is like a mixtape in regards to how it handles composing all the good feelings and emotions in order to match the quality that made the first film so excellent. Happy to say that director James Gunn has made a pretty good mixtape of a film here, one that has more emotion and feel good moments than expected, though a few choices keep the film from reaching the heights of its predecessor.
The Guardians of the Galaxy, lead by Peter "Star-Lord" Quill (Chris Pratt), are introduced in preparation to fight a new foe, a blobby, tentacled beast with pulverizing rows of razor sharp teeth. Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper), and Drax (Dave Bautista) fly around chopping and blasting at the beast while an adorable Baby Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) upstages the entire action set piece with a dance number. From the early moments of the film you can feel the playfulness and silliness that made the first film so unique in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Mr. Gunn, who also penned the script, enjoys moments of levity in his films. When another film would bask in a tension filled action scene, Mr. Gunn instead opts for well placed sight gag or a verbal jab. Many times in his films, it's a welcome moment, however in "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2" it undercuts some of the nice emotional content that he builds.
The emotional content here was an unexpected surprise, there are more than a few moments that will tug at the heartstrings. It provides an opportunity for the talented cast to display some insight into their characters. There are familial themes strung throughout the entire film, fathers and sons, the bond of siblings, the abandonment and loss of family are a few. Mr. Gunn does a good job of utilizing these narrative elements to add some structure to the characters, which is necessary considering there is no true origin story for the world that these characters operate in. While little elements continue to become clear concerning the core Guardians' team stories, the focus is clearly on Peter Quill's backstory and family. This allows a welcome surprise from veteran actor Kurt Russell playing Peter's father Ego with the kind of charm and laid back demeanor that has made Mr. Russell so appealing for all these years. It's great casting because it's not too big of a stretch to see Mr. Pratt follow in the same career path as Mr. Russell.
The team in the "Guardians of the Galaxy" film are a near perfect mix for a ragtag team of heroes, even though they aren't the original team from the comic books. While the spotlight was evenly distributed in the first film, some characters are given lesser or too much attention in the sequel. Gamora is trying to patch up her past quarrel with her sister Nebulla (Karen Gillan) but the conflict is never given much time to fully have the impact that it should and Drax's vengeance-fueled emotional quality is substituted for comedy that sometimes hits but mostly misses the target.
There are fan surprises throughout the film, a quality that this franchise completely understands how to incorporate without ruining a scene. But the surprises aren't limited to Marvel world connecting or one-off references to lesser known comics, it's also how Mr. Gunn makes a digital character like Rocket Raccoon the heart of the film or how he takes the talented abilities of Michael Rooker and provides the actor with a character and material that displays why he is such a great actor. While this film may not compose the combination of elements that made the first film so impressive, it's still consistently fun and filled with heart. A good mixtape is a good mixtape.
3.50 out of 5.00