Movie Review: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2

Directed by James Gunn

Starring Chris Pratt, Zoë Saldana

Running Time 2 Hrs., 16 Mins., PG-13

My Rating: B

Unless we’re talking about Christopher Nolan’s take on the Batman saga, I like my superhero movies the same way I like an Aqua Net-soaked 1980s power ballad: over-the-top, colorful, and cheeky. The misadventures which befall a caped crusader are usually fantastical anyway — there’s no point in trying to seek emotional depth when eyefuls of dreamlands and action set pieces abound.

A tongue-in-cheek sensibility was the ingredient that made the first “Guardians of the Galaxy” (2014) such a hoot: it seemed unwilling to do anything else besides delight itself and us. That made it refreshing in 2014 and that continues to make it refreshing in 2017.

In its sequel, the laughs are still genuine and the soundtrack is still gloriously loaded with ‘70s cheese. The characters as appealing as ever. But unlike its predecessor, dramatic subplots concerning the relationships between different divisions of the titular team are much more prevalent than overarching humor.

Depending on how much you like superhero movies with a predilection for emotional nuance, that’s either a becoming development or a bummer.

The film itself takes place shortly after the events covered in “Guardians of the Galaxy,” with the eponymous team’s dynamics set and the tone familiar. Just look at the way the opening action scene is set to “Mr. Blue Sky” by the Electric Light Orchestra, or the way the gaggle is immediately targeted by not one, but two unearthly groups who want them dead.

But as it moves along, it’s clear that “Vol. 2” is going to be something of an intergalactic cousin to “Running on Empty” (1988). As hinted at in the original’s closing, protagonist Peter Quill’s (Chris Pratt) father is alive, is named Ego (Kurt Russell), and is a Celestial who could give his son powers beyond his wildest dreams.

A final showdown between the Guardians and an unexpected cum expected villain does come. But surprising is the way there isn’t all that much more to the film’s storyline. It is, more than anything, a family drama, concerned not just with Peter and Ego’s imbalanced relationship but also with the toxic affinity between sisters Gamora (Zoë Saldana) and Nebula (Karen Gillan), which was touched on in the first movie.

Those without delegated relatives are forced to contend with themselves. Comic relief Drax (Dave Bautista) is still coming to terms with the death of his family. Quill’s adopted father, Yondu (Michael Rooker), is grappling with his shortcomings.

Because I unapologetically enjoy “Vol. 2” best when it’s jokey and frivolous, I found myself bored during scenes circling around the capturing of dysfunctional familial connections.

What I craved, and didn’t receive as frequently as I would have liked, were the sardonic quips of Peter Quill, the giggling stupidity of Drax, and the general foiling happening between all members of the title ragtag band.

We get some of it in “Vol. 2” (and luckily the use of Drax is more ample than ever). But the overabundance of emotional turmoil is tiresome, particularly when reflecting upon the film’s most memorable moments. (Which are, predictably, funny, absurd, and/or musically oriented.)

But it’s nevertheless a good time, rollicking in its action and especially strong in its comedic sequences. And yet that zest is limited. When a film’s close to two-and-a-half hours, one wishes that the variety of tonalities were more in sync with one another.

A student at the University of Washington, Blake will major in Visual Communications or Journalism.

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