The Bock’s Office: ‘Guardians’ sequel doesn’t reach for the stars but still does the job
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Thursday, May 11, 2017
It wouldn’t be a summer movie season without a sequel that’s almost as good as the original but not quite the same quality. Yes, that’s true of “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2,” but don’t hit that death button just yet!
If you go...
“Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2,” rated PG-13
Rating: 3 out of 4 stars
Running time: 136 minutes
Starring: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista and Kurt Russell
Now playing at Wildhorse Stadium Cinemas and Craig’s West Theatre.
Andy Bockelman is a member of the Denver Film Critics Society, and his movie reviews appear in Explore Steamboat and the Craig Daily Press. Contact him at 970-875-1793 or abockelman@CraigDailyPress.com.
Find more columns by Bockelman here.
Noble as their intentions may be, the Guardians of the Galaxy can’t seem to stay out of trouble for long.
No sooner does the band of misfits led by Earthling Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) prove their worth to a powerful race of beings known as the Sovereign than they’re on the run again thanks to Rocket (voice of Bradley Cooper) pulling a fast one, the talking raccoon putting all his companions in danger, including Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista) and Groot (Vin Diesel).
A hasty escape results in a crash landing on a strange planet, but Peter is suddenly faced with something he never expected: his long-lost father (Kurt Russell), who has been searching for him for decades.
Besides finally learning where he came from, he also finds that his dad, Ego, is actually an omnipotent life force known as a Celestial, which makes him half-god.
However, the other Guardians are less interested in the father-son reunion and more concerned with other matters — like the fact that they are still fugitives and have a long line of people all over the universe hungry for their blood.
Pratt’s easygoing charm is in full blast once again as a leader who’s only just started to grasp the concept of maturity and now learns he no longer needs to pretend his daddy was Michael Knight — remember, he grew up in the 1980s. Nothing like finding out you hold the potential to shape the entirety of existence to distract you from your woes.
A long overdue game of catch with a ball of light makes for a heartwarming moment made better still by Russell as the alien known as a living planet who takes human form to reveal himself to his son.
Acknowledging Peter’s preferred nomenclature as Star-Lord gives him points in the boy’s eyes, though his companions are less enthusiastic.
Saldana gets little opportunity to do much more than gripe as Gamora, her annoyance with Peter’s obliviousness and their Sam-and-Diane relationship overshadowed by her ongoing battle to the death with sister Nebula (Karen Gillan), unwilling to go down after a prison stint without a fight.
On the flip side, Bautista is a barrel-chested barrel of laughs as Drax, whose grim persona is now one of guffaws at anything and everything, literal or metaphorical, especially the naiveté of wide-eyed Mantis (Pom Klementieff), an empath employed — Enslaved? — by Ego, only rarely getting to socialize.
Still, just because you can ask about her antennae doesn’t mean you should.
As for the not-so-dynamic duo, a Groot in the hand is worth… well, probably just as much money in the visual effects department, Diesel’s rough voice made squeaky cute as the action figure-sized tree creature reverted to a sapling, though his courage and daring is still that of a mighty oak.
Cooper is no less appealing as Rocket, now the enforcer of the two, still unable to keep his mouth shut or his paw off the trigger, which ain’t a bad thing in the right time or place. He won’t stand for being called a raccoon, but the names he will tolerate are rat, fox, puppy, trash panda and triangle-faced monkey.
Also making a triumphant return is Michael Rooker as Yondu, the captain of the motley crew of Ravagers and Peter’s captor/mentor, now on the hunt for him once again, but not for the reasons you think.
There’s a lot of role reversal here as scoundrels show themselves to be heroic and those who appear benevolent prove anything but, a sadly predictable trait for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Parent issues, hidden destinies and a showdown with a threat that’s inconceivably massive are familiar plot points in the ever-expanding series of films that are starting to mesh together more and more.
The script and direction by James Gunn are those of someone who’s gotten comfortable after a previous smash hit and knows he can play it safe. That isn’t to say he doesn’t give us an entertaining sequel that’s heavy on action — you can’t get enough of Yondu’s whistle-beckoned arrow — and gags alike, although we really didn’t need to hear about Drax’s sensitive nipples or “famously huge turds.”
The soundtrack known as “Awesome Mix” is again as much a star in itself, full of tunes you’d never expect to be in a superhero flick, now available to Star-Lord in Earth’s greatest audio technology. You enjoy that Zune, buddy!
Electric Light Orchestra’s “Mr. Blue Sky” blares as Groot prances around while his pals fight a giant space squid, George Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord” soars as we enter Ego’s world, and Sam Cooke’s “Bring It on Home to Me” sets the mood as Peter attempts a dance with Gamora, awkward as always.
One point of contention: Do we really need Russell guiding us through a song as self-explanatory as “Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl)?”
“Vol. 2” is by no means a letdown so much as a step down. Marvel fans of all levels had their hopes raised in 2014 with something so unique, it was only natural the successor would be less successful once it became mainstream.
It’s not the first time and won’t be the last that the sequel pales in comparison, but if the long string of teasers in the credits is any indication, there is still plenty of uncharted territory to explore. Just please don’t bring back a character who’s stupid enough to be proud of the name Taserface.