Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
By: Arlene Allen
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 has been one of the most eagerly awaited movie sequels in decades. Vol. 1 earned a total of $773.3 million worldwide in 2014 and Vol. 2 already looks like it is going to beat that total; over this past opening weekend, the film earned $145 million domestically, and $425 million worldwide.
Was it worth the wait? Did it meet expectations beyond the dollar sign? Vol. 1 is a very special movie to me, as it was the first movie I saw after I lost my husband and it made me laugh at a time when I thought I’d never smile again. That’s a whole lot of expectation going on! However, before the opening credits appear, my concerns were set aside and I knew the answer to the above questions was a resounding YES! We have more laughs, more badass action, more dazzling special effects, more tears and even more Guardians.
Not to give away too much of the plot or spoil any of the dozens of surprises, the story follows Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) as he attempts to hold his Guardian family together while he searches for the truth about his biological father, who turns out to be the aptly named Ego (Kurt Russell, who can still elicit and “Oh My God!” from a 23-year-old female when he appears on screen). The team also encounters a deadly new foe, the Sovereign, headed by the deadly scary Priestess Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki).
All of our favorite characters are back, including Gamora (Zoe Saldana), who has to find a way to come to terms with her hate-filled sister Nebula (Karen Gillan) and decide whether or not to be a dancer; Drax (Dave Bautista) with his not-ever-helpful commentary, Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) whose old, naughty habits land the crew in heaps of trouble and, of course, Baby Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) who steals nearly every scene he’s in. We’re introduced to the empath Mantis (Pom Klementieff), who is so adorable although during some of her empathic reading scenes I kept expecting her to say, “I feel great pain…and suffering.” (Give yourself a gold star if you get the reference.)
Visually, the movie is stunning, both in terms of special effects (which look even better in 3D) and composition. Every scene has so much going on in it, including a lot of optical jokes. You definitely need to pay attention as you watch or you’re guaranteed to miss something. Director James Gunn has a story to tell and he uses every means to tell it. In addition to what we see, we also have great new songs to hear (of course we have a mix tape!) that are well timed to go along with the action on the screen.
The actors do their bit as well and in a superhero-science-fantasy movie, what the actors bring to the screen is sometimes minimized in reviews. But there is some intensity to the performances this time – Peter has a great deal to process emotionally, as does Gamora. Chris Pratt flows through them all, showing us genuine sadness, real tears, frustration and anger while still slinging uproarious one liners. Zoe Saldana addresses sibling rivalry and maybe some growing feelings for Quill, all the while not letting her guard down. Michael Rooker as Yondu gives the most surprising turn, as it appears the perpetually cranky and vice filled Ravager perhaps has a hidden side. After Baby Groot, it’s Yondu who steals the movie, something I thought I’d never say.
There is, of course, comedic gold everywhere: the insults traded are hilarious without using a single foul word and Rocket’s “Tazerface” routine had me and the rest of the audience doubled over and howling with laughter. Baby Groot’s schtick while trying to help his pals escape a jail cell is simply priceless. When I review a film I also try to gauge audience reaction and from what I could tell, the audience was all in on this one. The laughter was contagious. There was also cheering, applause and not a few tears shed along the way. I think it’s safe to say you become invested in this film.
Cameos abound, as it appears everyone wants to be a part of the Guardians world: Sylvester Stallone appears as head of the Ravagers in what could end up as a recurring role. Tommy Flanagan is one of Yondu’s team. Although Nathan Fillion does not make a cameo, fellow “Castle” alumni Molly Quinn has a part as Howard the Duck’s (Seth Green) date. Look closely and you might see Rob Zombie, Ving Rhames, Jeff Goldblum, Don Johnson and the man himself, David Hasselhoff. Listen closely to a computer voice, as that voice belongs to Miley Cyrus. And, of course, Stan Lee makes his usual appearance and it’s one of his best to date.
PS: Be sure to sit through the entire run of credits. Besides being funny, there are five stingers that are not to be missed.
Final Analysis: The script by James Gunn, based on the Marvel Comics, is brilliant. He is a master of one liners and snark-slinging. Combined with the stunning visuals and an amazing cast, this film is definitely Grade A++