Friday, May 12, 2017

Too Much of a Good Thing?

Written by  Chuck Duncan

The case of Guardians of the Galaxy 2

Let me start here by saying I absolutely loved the first Guardians of the Galaxy. After a lengthy spell of traditional superhero movies from Marvel, more dramatic than comedic, the film was a refreshing breath of air, an epic sci-fi action film that replaced a lot of the seriousness of the previous Marvel movies with some off-the-wall comedy, courtesy of director James Gunn and the blessing of Marvel. Considering how Marvel was building their Cinematic Universe, connecting all of their superhero films, it’s a miracle Guardians got made in the first place.

And audiences responded, overwhelmingly, ensuring that we would get a sequel – and that the Guardians would find their place within the MCU mythology. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 picks up the first film’s plot thread of Peter Quill, a.k.a Star Lord (Chris Pratt), still wondering who and where his father is. It doesn’t take him long to find out after a massive space battle finds the Guardians rescued by a mysterious figure named Ego (Kurt Russell). Who also happens to be Peter’s father, and who also happens to be a Celestial, or “small G” god. Bringing Peter and some of his friends to his own planet, Ego is pleased to find that Peter shares some of his own godlike abilities, but of course these miraculous powers come with a price: the destruction of the universe as we know it so Ego and his son can basically have the place to themselves to do with as they wish. Not a prospect any of Peter’s Guardians family is pleased with.

At two hours and 20 minutes, there is a lot packed into the movie. One of the subplots involves Yondu (Michael Rooker) being banished from the Ravagers for his misdeed of “stealing” Peter as a child (they don’t deal in children), and Rocket’s (Bradley Cooper) and Groot’s (Vin Diesel) capture and possible execution by Yondu’s former friends, and their subsequent attempt to escape and get back to Peter and the Guardians. The film also introduce the Mantis (Pom Klementieff) character, and her interaction with Drax (Dave Bautista) gives the film much of its humor. Nebula (Karen Gillan) is also back, this time as Gamora’s (Zoe Saldana) prisoner. The film also introduces the Sovereign, led by Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki), who go to war with the Guardians after Rocket steals batteries from them that the Guardians were originally hired to protect. Like I said, there is a lot going on. And that doesn’t even count all the Easter eggs like the inclusion of the original comic book version of the Guardians, another appearance by Howard the Duck, and five credits / post-credits scenes including one reference to the upcoming Thor: Ragnarok that only eagle-eyed viewers will catch.

Is Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 as good as the first movie? Almost. It’s not bad by any stretch of the imagination, it’s just exhausting. There is only so much visual stimulation one can take (especially in 3D), but it’s still a lot of fun. Perhaps after the movie’s amazing opening title sequence, which features a massive battle between the Guardians and a space monster ... as the background action while Baby Groot takes center stage gave the rest of the movie way too much to live up to. It’s a brilliant moment and probably my favorite of the entire movie. The prologue with a young Kurt Russell is also mind-blowing. We’ve seen Marvel de-age their stars in previous films, but this has to be the best one yet. And with all of the humor and action, the movie really hits you in all of the feels by the end when we find out what really happened to Peter’s mother, and the shocking death of a major character (no not Groot, he’s “too adorable to kill” – one of my favorite lines in the movie). Maybe it was from the exhaustion, but I was sniffling quite a bit by the end.

Will Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 be a crowd-pleaser? Undoubtedly, as it should be. But perhaps Gunn can stay focused a little more on the next one and not take an “everything and the kitchen sink” attitude towards the story. There really can be too much of a good thing.

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