Emotional Miscue

Guardians Of The Galaxy 2: once more, with feeelings

Film | by Jorge Ignacio Castillo

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
Cineplex

The first instalment of Guardians of the Galaxy was treated like the second coming of Star Wars. Writer/director James Gunn took a long-dormant and often derided subgenre — the space opera — and gave it with enough respect to make a worthwhile film.

The praise, however, was disproportionate. Sure, GotG was cute, but it didn’t reinvent the wheel. The villain was perfunctory and we’ve seen MacGuffin plots a dozen times in the Marvel Cinematic Universe alone.

For his second turn at the wheel, Gunn doubles down on the most effective elements of the original: broad comedy, rich soundtrack and candy-colored planets. Sure, the concept of “makeshift family” is beyond played out after 20 (approx.) Fast and Furious movies, but I’ll give Vol. 2 a pass on the strength of its characters, each one a fully developed entity (except Gamora, who remains underserved).

The sequel takes place three months after the events of the first movie. The Guardians have settled into some kind of normalcy as contract mercenaries. During one job they come in contact — and quickly fall out with — the Sovereign, a genetically engineered, highly advanced race that doesn’t take kindly being insulted and robbed by Rocket Raccoon (still a rascal).

As they try to escape the short-fused Sovereign, the group is rescued by Ego (Kurt Russell), a living planet who also happens to be Peter Quill’s dad (just go with it). The event splits the Guardians in two groups: Peter, Gamora and Drax head to Ego’s realm while Rocket, Baby Groot and Nebula reconnect with Yondu and the Ravagers, who are going through a crisis of their own. The gang thinks their blue captain is too soft on Quill and  costing them money.

The narrative doesn’t matter as much as character development or the jokes, refreshing for the plot-driven MCU. If Guardians were a straightforward comedy, it would be the second coming of Airplane: Drax’ earnest delivery, Rocket’s insult comic act and Baby Groot’s childlike ineptitude are priceless (and if it wasn’t for all the laughs, audiences may notice the ridiculous body count).

The opening act is the finest minutes of the saga: the Guardians try to dispatch an interdimensional creature but the focus is not on the action but the bickering, and Baby Groot goofing around. It’s pure cinematic giddiness.

The Ego plotline isn’t bad, but by comparison feels anticlimactic. It mostly comes alive whenever weirdness is allowed in. Also, I like Sylvester Stallone as much as the next ’80s action dinosaur, but his presence here is barely justifiable. More to the point, how a feature with Sly and Kurt Russell doesn’t have any Tango & Cash references is beyond me.

The movie also goes for emotional substance. This is dicey given the jocular tone, the vast amounts of CGI and the jarring 80s’ pop culture references. Despite a nice bit of retroactive continuity, it doesn’t have the punch of, say, Logan. At best, it’s sweet, much like the first one. At worst, it’s cloying.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is barely connected to the rest of the MCU (chronologically, it precedes Avengers: Age of Ultron). This is refreshing: No connective tissue is shoehorned into the plot, halting momentum.

Also: there are five, count ’em, five stingers in the credits. You know by now to stick around, right? ❧