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Saturday, May 6, 2017

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 (2017) - Review

Who is Star-Lord and what is a Groot were just a couple of questions that the bulk of the movie going public were asking when James Gunn released the original Guardians of the Galaxy back in 2017, not being based characters with the public awareness of likes of say Spider-Man or Captain America, but now having made over $400 million dollars worldwide one can assume pretty much everyone knows who Star-Lord and is friends are, yet what is interesting here is that instead of making a sequel that is bigger and splashier than original film James Gunn has decided to go deeper into who these guys really are and what makes them tick. Now don’t get me wrong this sequel has action galore, and the screen practically explodes at times, but this entry has a much greater emotional heft to it than its predecessor.

This sequel opens with Peter Quill aka Star Lord (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax (Dave Bautista), Rocket (Bradley Cooper) and Baby Groot (Vin Diesel) battling an inter-dimensional monster as they have basically become galactic heroes for hire. In this instanced they were hired by a race called the Sovereign, a genetically perfected race that are grown in incubation pods, to protect valuable batteries from becoming this particular monster's lunch, and when they succeed they are paid by the leader of the Sovereign Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki) with the handing over of Gamora’s sister Nebula (Karen Gillan) who had herself been captured by the Sovereign while trying to steal those very same batteries. All seems good until the Sovereign discover that Rocket had managed to steal a few of those batteries for himself.

At first it looks like the movie is going to tread familiar ground with our group of heroes running from a bunch of villains with the maguffin du jour in their hot little hands but then the film takes a dramatic left turn when they run into Quill’s father (Kurt Russell), who we learnt from the movie’s opening prologue was an alien who visited Earth to knock up Quill’s mom, and who then brings Quill, Gamora and Drax back to his planet…kind of. I don’t want to get into spoilers here as the relationship between Quill and his intergalactic deadbeat dad is one of the major components of the film and to reveal his origins here would not be fair but the theme of family, genetic or otherwise, is the true crux of this movie.  Not only do we learn who Quill’s father was but we find out more about Yondu (Michael Rooker) and the real reason he never delivered the young Peter Quill as he was originally hired to do.  We discover what makes Rocket tick and why he acts like an asshat most of the time and we also get a particular dark reveal as to why Nebula is the way she is.

The movie of course isn’t all about dark emotional issues and tragic backstories, as fun as that would be, it is at heart still rousing space adventure with countless laugh-out-loud moments; with Baby Groot stealing any scene he appears in and Dave Bautista’s Drax killing it in his moments with the innocent Mantis (Pom Klementieff) who is the antennae alien servant/pet of Quill’s father.

There is a lot going on in the film’s 136 minute running time, with characters splitting off into separate groups to have their own side adventures, and for the most part it all works brilliantly and the only real negative I can say towards the movie is once again Marvel seems to have provided another rather lacklustre villain in the form of the Sovereign. Whenever they show up you can only hope that  its brief so we can get back to the good stuff with Quill and his dad or Gamora and her sister, or especially the side quest with Rocket and Groot as they end up hooking up with Yondu and his mutinous crew.  Thank god the Sovereign aren't the film's main antagonist.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 doesn’t have the fresh out of the box smell of the original film but writer/director James Gunn wisely decides to cut down on the exploring of the Marvel Universe and instead explores the characters we’ve grown to love with a result that makes this film stand above most of the Marvel Cinematic Universe sequels, with the possible exception of Captain America: Winter Soldier, and has me eagerly awaiting Vol 3.

Final Thoughts:
• The CGI to de-age Kurt Russell for the 1980 prologue is even better than what they did for Michael Douglas in Ant-Man.
• Dave Bautista is comic gold here and should get a shot to with his own film.
• We finally get to see Rocket Racoon finally rocket around as he did in the comics.
• The movie is littered with a plethora of cameos as well as five credit cookies.
• The soundtrack is just as good as the first film’s
• The Opening battle being played out in the background as Baby Groot Dances was pure genius.

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