Film Review: ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2’ Rocks With Action and Heart From Michael Rooker

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The Marvel Cinematic Universe (or MCU) has had its formula down for quite some time. Assemble a group of superheroes, give them a bunch of zingers and one-liners as they fight an interchangeable stock villain, and set up a future film or sequel in some way with a post-credits scene. That’s exactly what you get with director James Gunn‘s latest installment of Marvel’s favorite “space family.” With this same formula used film after film, you can’t help but want something new and different. In some ways, this is the “Age of Ultron” of the “Guardians” story. For a film that has lots of Easter eggs and an even more complicated plot/villain motivation, a whole lot of nothing happens.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” is set to the backdrop of Awesome Mixtape #2. The film tells the story of our favorite heroes: Peter Quill a.k.a. Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax (Dave Bautista), Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) and Baby Groot (“voiced” by Vin Diesel). “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” continues the team’s adventures as they unravel the mystery of Peter Quill’s true parentage.

From an action standpoint, “Guardians” encompasses some of the best action scenes in the MCU yet. Full disclosure, I’m just a sucker for space battles. Henry Braham‘s camera work in partnership with Fred Raskin and Craig Wood‘s fast-paced editing make for pure entertainment, even if the story itself has its shortcomings. You also can’t have a “Guardians of the Galaxy” movie without talking about the killer soundtrack that surrounds it. Tyler Bates’ score littered with the terrific ’80s tracks is spot-on spectacular.

The script by Gunn manages some great high points – like what they choose to do with the Yondu character, played by Michael Rooker. Besides the rehash of the “Cliffhanger” disagreements with Sylvester Stallone (they were both stars of the 1993 classic), they offer him up as an emotional and likable central force for the narrative. Not to mention, Rooker tackles his character with utter precision. It’s one of his more memorable turns of his career.

Its missteps seem to happen, as always, with the insertion of the comedic beats. The first time or two, you’ll chuckle proudly, but constantly circling back to comedy becomes repetitive. Where it really falters is how they seem to “dial up” Drax and Rocket in particular, who seem to be screaming and yelling the whole time.

The stock villain, which you can just interchange with every Marvel villain in the history of the MCU save for Loki, is just as forgettable and forced as we’ve seen so far. Before they bookend the series with the upcoming “Avengers” films, I sincerely hope they are working on the evolution of Thanos (the villain that all of these movies have been building to) and how different he will be from every villain that has preceded him. Just inserting the motivation, “I want to rule the galaxy” or “I want to destroy the world” has never been a recipe for success. We can only hope they are continuing to work on the process.

If we’re looking at this from an awards standpoint, we can add the Production Design, Makeup, Visual Effects and Sound teams to the equation. They all present compelling cases as some of the best elements of the year so far in their respective areas. If you’re looking for the “second coming” of superhero movies, sit tight and keep waiting. This is more of the same. If that’s been great for you, then this will satisfy amazingly. If your criticism of the Marvel films has been loud, start preparing your stock speech.

“Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” is fun, no doubt. It’s action-packed and completely enjoyable. We’re just waiting for the evolution of Marvel to take place. Your move Marvel. Oh, and the opening credits rock.

“Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” hits theaters on May 5 and is distributed by Marvel Studios.

GRADE: (★★★)

TRAILER:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dW1BIid8Osg]

  • Joey Magidson

    I mostly agree. You might even like it a little better than I do, which is interesting considering how the roles are usually reversed.

  • Tee

    …First Beauty and the Beast, then Logan (it’s the best movie of the year but that’s a low bar), and now GotG Vol. II. 2017 is actually a more disappointing blockbuster season for me than 2016 was.

    • Sadly, I don’t think the blockbusters are going to get better. At least until that space movie at the end of the year… As soon as the studios realized audiences had decided visual effects were an acceptable substitute for a well-developed plot, it was all over.

    • Greg

      Beauty and the Beast and Logan were amazing. For me 2017 is better than 2016…

  • AndreTheTurtle

    I actually really liked this movie. In terms of comparing it to the first, I feel this movie might actually be better. It was funny, the performances were better, the themes were more interesting, the dynamics betweens characters were more complex, the action sequences were memorable and engaging. I might be in the minority, but most anything(apart from the villains) they could have improved on from the first one I think they did.