Title: Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2
Describe This Movie In One Simpsons Quote:
Bart: "Hey, that's just Pong. Get with the times, man."
Homer: "Marge and I played that old game before we were married."
Kang: "Well, we did build this spaceship, you know."
Kodos: "Anyone from a species that has mastered intergalactic travel, raise your hand."
Brief Plot Synopsis: Biggest idiots in the galaxy get a chance to guard it again.
Rating Using Random Objects Related to the Film: Three Mary Poppins out of five.
Tagline: "Anyone can save the galaxy once."
Better Tagline: "Tear drops rolling down on my face/ Trying to forget my feelings of love."
Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: With Ronan vanquished and the Infinity Stone safely locked away on Xandar, the Guardians of the Galaxy have become something of an interplanetary A-Team. Unfortunately, they run afoul of their latest employers, the Sovereign, which leads to an encounter with the enigmatic Ego (Kurt Russell), who claims to be the long-lost father of Peter "Star Lord" Quill (Chris Pratt). Quill, Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and Drax (Dave Bautista) travel with Ego to his planet, where things are (of course) not as they seem. Meanwhile, Rocket (Bradley Cooper) and Baby Groot (Vin Diesel) have to fend for themselves when Yondu (Michael Rooker) and his Ravagers come calling. And if that wasn't enough, Thanos's daughter Nebula (Karen Gillan) still has a rage on for her sister Gamora.
"Critical" Analysis: The success of the original Guardians of the Galaxy was far from a sure thing. You had James Gunn, a director “best” known for writing two Scooby-Doo movies, adapting for the big screen a Marvel Comics property you could charitably say was unknown to 90 percent of the population. It would go on to be the third-top grossing movie of 2014, turn the Pratt formerly known as Andy Dwyer into an A-lister, and make a talking tree the most beloved character of the decade.
So how do you top that?
At first, it doesn’t feel like Vol. 2 is even going to try. The stakes, for the first two acts anyway, are about as small as can be for a film set across multiple planets. The Guardians are pursued by the Sovereign to a remote world, where they encounter Ego, the being claiming to be Peter’s father. Undaunted, the Sovereign hire the newly mutinous Ravagers to finish the job. With the stage set for the eventual showdown, the characters are free to move on to the important stuff; namely, family angst.
There’s Quill, of course, who has to reconcile his abandonment issues with New Dad while also coming to terms with the man who actually raised him (Yondu is the most well-developed character of the movie, and Rooker deserves mention for this). But wait: Nebula is still pissed at Gamora for being Thanos’s Little Girl, so that has to be worked out. Meanwhile, Rocket is still coming to grips with his identity. Also, Groot is a baby.
[Groot’s toddler status isn’t as obnoxious as early promotional material — or the excruciating opening credits sequence — would indicate, but it definitely pushes that envelope.]
It’s a tricky thing, because so much of what made the original GotG work was the relationships between these characters, and Gunn (still the only MCU director besides Joss Whedon who is the sole screenwriter of his own movies) wisely continues to emphasize this. It's therefore not out of line with the '70s aesthetic to suggest maybe Quill’s mom snuck an EST tape into his Walkman. But all the talking about their feelings (man) starts to drag after a while.
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Gunn also leverages the period thing (and how depressing to be referring to the 1970s as such) to the hilt. Ego’s planet looks like something out of an early issue of Heavy Metal, while Fleetwood Mac and ELO songs are now part of the Guardians’ tactical prep. The Sovereign’s drone ships even make “pew pew” noises straight out of early arcade games. As in the original, it helps ground an audience immersed in the weirdness of the Guardians’ universe.
When it works – when Drax is being gleefully insensitive (and one of the best decisions was giving Bautista more to do), when Gamora grapples with Earth references, anytime Rooker is onscreen – Vol. 2 is a fun diversion, and as such it mostly succeeds, even though it's not much more than a placeholder for whatever happens in the next one. Because as far as advancing the overall MCU story arc (and wasn’t that the point of having three phases of these movies?), nothing much really happens. There's no link to the upcoming "Infinity War," and Thanos himself is only mentioned in passing. There is more Howard the Duck, which is never a bad thing.
You know what is a bad thing? Putting Kurt Russell and Sylvester Stallone in the same movie without their ever sharing a scene. How are we supposed to get that Tango & Cash sequel now?
Are There Really Five Post-Credits Scenes? Well, *mid* and post-credits, yes. None are particularly illuminating, though the credits themselves are kind of fun.