by Benjamín Harguindey
You may or may not be tired of the so-called Marvel Cinematic Universe but if there’s one thing that separated Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) from its slew of superhero flicks was that it was a comedy first and a blockbuster piece second. Something that holds true of its sequel, aptly called Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017).
For proof look no further than Volume 2’s opening scene, a continuous shot in which an oblivious little Groot dances around while his Guardian buddies get pounded by a giant tentacle monster in the background. This mindset where literally “comedy goes first, action goes second” persists throughout the whole movie, down to the inevitable ticking-bomb climax where Earth may or may not blow up.
The story centers on the mystery background of Peter Quill, who as a recently orphaned child was spirited away by aliens and as an adult makes ends meet as an intergalactic bounty hunter. He’s played by Chris Pratt as a douchebag in nerd’s clothing, whose incessant blabbering of 1980s pop culture has rubbed off on his alien buddies and talk of stuff like Footloose (1984) and TV’s Knight Rider with the reverence of a foreign myth. Quill worships his own nostalgic trivia himself, and lo and behold if that isn’t 80s badass Kurt Russell as Quill’s biological father Ego, suddenly returned after all those years spent in absence.
No prize for guessing Ego is up to no good. He’s all too eager and welcoming of his son, whom he abandoned all those years ago. Why look him up now? His name is Ego, for crying out loud. More importantly, his presence puts him immediately at odds with Yondu (Michael Rooker), the blue space pirate that kidnapped Quill as a child (at Ego’s behest) and became his foster daddy, a grump with a heart of gold that taught him the tools of the trade. Yondu isn’t just given a larger role this time around, but is arguably the star of the show. He’s also the one with the arc, and a more endearing presence than Quill.
What do you think readers, will our hero choose his biological no-show father over the person that raised him and loved him in his time of need? Sounds an awful lot like so many plot summaries for so many filler episodes in so many TV shows. Which is what Vol. 2 feels like: a filler episode, or a bridge if you will, over towards Vol. 3 – so on and so forth. And like a lot of filler, the rest of the cast isn’t given a whole lot to do.
One subplot involves Gamora (Zoe Saldana), the green space babe, patching things up with her sister Nebula (Karen Gillan), the blue space babe, but because their characters are so dull and boiling with generic rage we never get invested in them or their broken relationship. There’s a nice will-they-or-won’t-they going on between strongman Drax (Dave Bautista) and newcomer Mantis (Pom Klementieff) which is fun because their personalities play off each other so well, but that peters out disappointingly. Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) is given trust issues that are resolved with a throway line that feels like an afterthought, while Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) has been shrunk down into little more than a cute gag. So you see how everyobdy’s given some menial conflict to keep them busy and out of the way.
By the end of the movie rest assured status quo has been restored to a base degree, and the Guardians of the Galaxy will return more or less intact for more. In fact there really isn’t much to be said about Vol. 2 that you don’t already know and love (or hate) about the first movie. You have your special effects, your awesome CGI vistas, a series of alien races that boil down to full body paint and some fun gags involving 1980s nostalgia fodder, always dependable with the Gen X crowd.
On the subject of the movie’s infamous “5 post-credits stingers”, suffice to say they actually play throughout the credits, and only one of them is a proper sequel hook (the other four are played for laughs).
Still the ‘Guardians’ movies remain a fun view throughout, at least when you hold them up against the remainder of the MCU spawn. The comedy feels a bit more authentic than the snide, studied casualness of your Iron Mans and Spider-Mans and Dr. Stranges, and however feeble there’s a punk sensibility that makes them more engaging in their irreverence. It’s as good a Saturday morning cartoon you’re going to get on the big screen.
Benjamín Harguindey / Managing Editor, Writer (Mar del Plata, Argentina – 1989) Screenwriter graduated from Universidad del Cine, Buenos Aires. Benja’s worked for EscribiendoCine as a film critic since 2010, covering the Biarritz, San Sebastián and Venice festivals. He judged the CILECT Prize and won several writing & criticism contests. He’s published one novel, Noches de Tartaria (2006).