It’s a rarity these days to just go to the movies and have a blast from start to finish. Usually there are some hangups about the way in which a film represents a certain minority, a political theme that may upset half of the viewers or some other kind of objectionable thing that alienates its audience (or the “social justice warriors” in said audience). This is why the Marvel movies appeal to so many people. They are fun and even when they are darker than usual (Captain America: Civil War) they are still very easy to watch and provide hours of entertainment. This one in particular is the sequel to one of the most fun Marvel movies of all-time that was released three years prior so the question is: does it hold up?
Guardians Vol. 2 features the continued adventures of Peter Quill/Starlord (Chris Pratt), Rocket Raccoon (voice of Bradley Cooper), Drax (Dave Bautista), Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and Baby Groot (voice of Vin Diesel) as they are renowned for defending the galaxy and are often recruited for various rescue/protection missions. Unfortunately, Rocket gets a little too grabby after their last mission and they are hunted down by the very people that paid for their help. Soon enough they’ve also got Ravagers on their tail led by Yondu Udonta (Michael Rooker) and his crew (who believe that Yondu has “gone soft.” Meanwhile, Peter is also confronted with his father Ego (Kurt Russell), who appears to be some sort of celestial being. The threats involving Nebula (Karen Gillan) and the other Ravagers are still very much there as well.
So as you can see, the Guardians have a lot to deal with in this movie and yet it never feels like the film is trying to pile in too many characters or information. Instead, we learn to grow at the same time our main characters start to mature and come to several realizations. In a ridiculous silly and over-the-top movie where many amazing things take place, it can not be underestimated how much attention this film pays to character and pathos. Everyone has their own individual journey that is taken from the first film and not changed but rather just matured. The highlights include the relationship between Gamora and Nebula as their sister-like bond combined with Nebula’s contempt for their father is strengthened in this one and yet in several scenes they are literally trying to kill each other. There’s also the return of the “will they/won’t they” back-and-forth between Peter and Gamora, which is made as a Cheers reference which Gamora amusingly doesn’t understand.
There are also some new wonderful characters and relationships. Kurt Russell plays a fairly large supporting role as Ego, Peter’s father and a celestial being (or “lower-case god”) and while you might expect him to whoop it up, he generally plays it fairly grounded and subtle. Russell is the type of actor that can take a crazy role like this and humanize it and he does that all over the movie. The leads are all fantastic once again – Pratt is the thrill-seeking leader but has matured somewhat; Bradley Cooper gives Rocket Raccoon a sort-of Han Solo vibe – you never get the vibe that he is totally selfless but he is usually looking out for #1; Vin Diesel is Baby Groot and the character is adorable but also a lot of fun when he wants to get involved in the action; Zoe Saldana is the voice of reason as Gamora; Dave Bautista probably gets the most big laughs in this one just from his dry, sardonic delivery and occasional explosions of laughter at the silliest things. His deadpan delivery when telling new character Mantis that she is ugly and he would never be with her would normally be a tough pill to swallow but with an only literal form of dialogue, you are more willing to accept it and still find Drax completely likeable. There are other side characters that have returned as well. Michael Rooker gets a lot more character to work with in this one and steals a number of scenes while the same can be said for Karen Gillan, who even gets the occasional laugh with her portrayal of Nebula.
Of course, if you’re looking for action and insane special effects sequences than you can’t go wrong with this movie either because they have those in spades. Whether it is a highly-entertaining opening credits sequence featuring Baby Groot busting a move while the Guardians get flung around by a random space creature or the insane balls-to-the-wall finale which I can not speak much of without giving it away. There is one scene in particular though that nearly steals the whole movie and it involves Yondu and his magic arrow. As he and Rocket plot to escape their prison (after a hilarious scene in which Baby Groot just can’t seem to figure out what they need), the characters calmly take out hundreds of guards and former associates with one single arrow.
Yes, it is excellent, very well-acted, exciting and everything in between. There are even a few surprises and make sure to stay through the closing credits because there are a few fun additional scenes after the movie. It’s the most fun I’ve had at a theatre all year and for that, I’m going the full monty.
Less than * (Actively offensive to one’s intelligence)
* (Brutal; bottom-of-the-barrel)
** (Some elements keep it from being awful but still not very good)
*** (Completely watchable; a rental as old-timers might say)
**** (Great film with a few things here and there keeping it from being perfect)
***** (Flawless; a true achievement)