Monday, May 22, 2017

Current Reels: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Fights an Ego-Centric Future

Quill gets introduced to his father's "perfect" world
Marvel's fast-talking, sarcastic group of space weirdos are back to take on the greatest threat to the galaxy yet - narcissism.

James Gunn returns to the director's chair to bring together the intergalactic hellraisers once more in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2. In this roundup, viewers begin to get a sense of what makes all these characters tick.

Set to the tunes of Peter Quill's "Awesome Mix Volume 2" given to him by his mother, viewers are tossed into the action from the get-go. This time around, the Guardians are on the run from a haughty and vengeful race of aliens known as "The Sovereigns" that are hellbent on creating a perfect human being. When all seems lost, our favorite antiheroes are unexpectedly delivered from their fate by a deity named Ego, who reveals to Quill that he is his long-lost father. Thus begins a battle of the flawed versus the supposedly flawless, and the disastrous effects of focusing too heavily on the "selfie".  

What makes the Guardians so compelling is they are all works in progress; each one of them on the mend from some past trauma. These are no mere caricatures, but full-fledged beings that have their own cultures, planets, and stories to tell, which make them interesting and relatable - even if they are assholes sometimes.The double-edged sword of a sequel from a writer's standpoint is on one hand, there's no "gear up" needed since the viewers are already familiar with the characters and the universe. On the other, it is trickier to grab the audience's attention from the start without a built-in plot springboard. James Gunn and Dan Abnett (who is also the writer for the Marvel comic) elaborate on the diverse cast's hopes and fears and their relationships with one another, while leaving plenty of time for snappy comebacks and good old fashioned space shoot 'em ups. 

The continued theme running through both Vol. 1 & 2 (which you can read more in my review of the first movie here) is family is what you make of it. I was gratified to see the stories of Nebula, Gamora, and most notably, Yondu (my personal favorite) expanded upon. We learn more about Yondu's past with the Ravagers, his relationship with Quill, and his own personal demons. He goes through hell, but on the plus side, gets a serious upgrade to the most deadly of mohawks! We even get treated to a cameo of the greatest underdog of all - Sylvester Stallone, playing Stakar Ogord (basically space Rocky) who banishes Yondu for misunderstood misdeeds. A weaker script would've taken the easy route with Nebula (played by the impeccable Karen Gillan, best known as companion Amy Pond in Dr. Who)  and reduced her complexities hinted at in Vol. 1 into a cold-blooded villainess. Instead, the story explores further her relationship with her sister, the inscrutable Gamora (Zoe Saldana), and we learn of the atrocities she suffered at the hands of her father, Thanos.

Yondu, Rocket and Groot get in some dude bonding time
What makes this second serving all the more enjoyable is it never takes itself too seriously. Ego waxes philosophical on the 70s classic "Brandy (You're A Fine Girl)" by the one-hit wonder band Looking Glass (fun fact: this tune fueled the writing of this review). Poop and dick jokes abound. The only true weakness with this feature is certain gags that worked in Vol. 1 are stretched to the breaking point in Vol. 2, reducing what could have been big laughs to mere chuckles - for instance, the sequence of Baby Groot continuing to bring back the wrong item to Rocket and Yondu would've been just as funny with three fewer items. Drax calling the newcomer Mantis "ugly" when he really means "beautiful" got old pretty fast. And as adorable as he was, I could've done with less gratuitous use of Baby Groot.

The sets, effects, action, and makeup are all of the top-notch quality we have come to expect from Marvel blockbusters. What sets Guardians ahead of the pack is the solid storytelling around themes that we can all relate to -family, belonging, and the quest for self-love, which make for a satisfying - if on occasion, emotional -  big-screen experience.

Jackaroo sez: Despite the need for thoughtful pruning of tiresome gags, Vol. 2 succeeds in reminding us, in the words of another 70s classic, "We all need somebody to lean on."

No comments:

Post a Comment