When the first “Guardians of the Galaxy” came out three years ago, it was a minor revelation. Here was a comic-book movie with characters few outside of rabid Marvel fandom knew about that had heart, humor and a cool soundtrack. What’s not to love?
“Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” feels less like a fresh discovery and is far more self-conscious about its quirkiness. Director/co-writer James Gunn returns with what’s essentially more of the same; there’s nothing particularly surprising and, at 15 minutes longer than its predecessor, it has moments that sag. Still, “GotG 2” at its best is a lot of fun, even if it now seems the “Galaxy” formula has been set for the many sequels surely to come.
Much as with that other behemoth of a franchise starring Vin Diesel, “The Fast and the Furious,” “GotG” is all about misfits finding familial bonds with each other. This time around our reluctant hero from the last film, Peter Quill/Star Lord (Chris Pratt), is reunited with his father, Ego (Kurt Russell), who abandoned him many years before and Peter never knew why.
Peter gets to put the missing puzzle pieces together as Ego re-enters his life, promising him things that just may be too good to be true. It turns out Ego can do pretty much whatever he pleases and even has an entire planet of his own where he lives with a female empath, Mantis (Pom Klementieff). How cool is that?
Meanwhile, Gamora (Zoe Saldana) is dealing with an angry sister, Nebula (Karen Gillan), who wants her dead. Groot (voice of Diesel), who’s now Baby Groot since he’s a twig from the character in the previous movie, wants love and attention from his adoptive parents, aka the rest of the Guardians crew. Separately, Yondu (Michael Rooker), the thief who raised Quill, can’t stand that he’s fallen out of favor with his father figure, gang boss Stakar Ogord (Sylvester Stallone).
While all of this is going on, our heroes are on the run from some ethereal, gold-plated humanoids because Rocket (voice of Bradley Cooper), the raccoon creature, stole some of their batteries (don’t ask). The wise-cracking Rocket comes across as a guy who says he doesn’t need anyone else but, underneath the furry nonchalance, you just know he’s totally ride-or-die for his “family.”
The muscular and perpetually shirtless Dax (Dave Bautista) makes a romantic connection of sorts with Mantis and their exchanges provide some of the film’s funniest moments.
Then there’s the ‘70s-flavored soundtrack which, as in the last movie, is something of a character itself. While using Looking Glass’ 1972 pop hit, “Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl),” to open an intentionally cheesy movie about space adventurers or have Groot dance to Electric Light Orchestra’s “Mr. Blue Sky” might seem like just a knowing wink to boomer grandparents, by the time the film ends sweetly with Cat Stevens’ “Father and Son,” the music has taken on an unexpected emotional resonance. It’s perhaps a too-obvious choice in a film about the importance of family and finding strength in those around you but it works and, besides, how much subtlety do you want in a movie with a talking raccoon?
Oh, be sure to remain in your seat through the end credits as there are five – count ‘em, five – extra scenes inserted. Not only that but, if you stay, you get to hear “Flashlight,” the 1977 hit by that original group of interstellar misfits, Parliament/Funkadelic. “GotG 2” may not have its predecessor’s shock of the new, but any film that introduces the current generation to P-Funk can’t be all bad.
‘GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2’
2.5 out of 4 stars
Cast: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper
Director: James Gunn
Length: 136 min.
Rating: PG-13 (sequences of sci-fi action and violence, strong language, brief suggestive content)sequences of sci-fi action and violence, language, and brief suggestive content