Solid ‘Guardians of the Galaxy 2’ is Typical Marvel Sequel Slump
Marvel Studios always has a trick up their sleeve. Back in 2014, who would’ve expected their obscure superhero space western, Guardians of the Galaxy to become such an overnight sensation. Yes, a talking tree, a genetically-enhanced “raccoon” and a tuneful soundtrack highlighted by Blue Swede, Redbone and David Bowie would be the the talk of the lucrative superhero genre. No longer the weirdo underdog, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 has much to live up to. Can audiences be hooked on a feeling twice?
After saving the planet Xander from the terror of space radical, Ronan (Lee Pace), the Guardians of the Galaxy have made their name known as a ragtag band of galaxy saviors. Their latest mission involves protecting precious batteries from a multi-tentacled space monster. What a piece of cake after near-galactic Armageddon in the previous film. All’s well until the wise-cracking Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) steals the batteries just because.
Once again, the Guardians are caught up in another heap of mess thanks to Rocket’s shenanigans. The Sovereign (gold aliens and owners of the batteries) are hot on their tail. Vengeful space pirates return back into the fold and “Star-Lord” Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) begins to have daddy issues when he comes face-to-face with his old man (Kurt Russell) for the very first time.
If Guardians of the Galaxy brought its unlikely band of misfits together through fate, Guardians 2 is a test of their very character. Gone is the pitch-perfect, snappy action adventure that director James Gunn presented us in the first film. Instead, Guardians 2 falls into the trap of sequelitis – a grueling 136-minute second chapter that even strips away some of the fun. Darker and more intense, Guardians 2 is yet another Marvel sequel that fails to top its predecessor.
The opening battle with the tentacled monster is pure delightful energy. But once it begins to meander into a series of events to divide our heroes up does the film drag its feet for a good 30-45 minutes. It’s a shame that this second go-around plays more like a Iron Man 2, Thor: The Dark World or Avengers: Age of Ultron. I guess unless you’re Captain America, every other MCU sequel is clueless how to improve on a breakout origin story. Winter Soldier and Civil War though, now that’s a benchmark.
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Guardians does right by its heroes, digging deeper into the characters’ psyche and backstory. In the forefront is the relationship between Peter and his dad Ego. The first film hinted at Peter’s paternal lineage and his ability to clutch an Infinity Stone without dying. Russell’s Ego’s on a cosmic level that makes the audience wonder how much more expansive this cinematic universe can be. And with powerful beings like the endgame baddie Thanos in the MCU and Doctor Strange able to bend space and time, why does a powerful being as Ego feel more like a placeholder? Bogged down in daddy issues and random gold people, Guardians 2 feels more like a pit-stop on the way to Avengers: Infinity War and the untitled Avengers 4.
The rest of the cast is more confident in their roles. Zoe Saldana is given more this time around as Gamora. A sisterly quarrel with the villainous Nebula (Karen Gillan) makes the most of a derivative subplot. Dave Bautista’s Drax the Destroyer eliminated his filter completely. Struggling with human emotion already, he’s relegated to a slew of missed toilet humor jokes. Any of the other one-liners aren’t bad, particularly his reaction to Peter’s buried love for Gamora. Rocket Raccoon and Baby Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) are highlights once again. Rocket’s even more a cynical jerk in this sequel. He and Michael Rooker as the space pirate Yondu work wonders with one another. However, it’s Baby Groot who steals the show. Teased at the end of Guardians of the Galaxy, Baby Groot never overstays his welcome. I am Groot indeed.
What made Guardians of the Galaxy stand out from the rest of the MCU films was its lively soundtrack. From Blue Swede’s “Hooked on a Feeling” to Norman Greenbaum’s “Spirit in the Sky,” it was two hours of toe-tapping delight. Who wants to break out the Walkman and rock out? The Guardians 2 soundtrack a.k.a. “Awesome Mix Vol. 2” isn’t quite an encore we’d hope for. Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain,” as heard in the trailer is brilliant addition as is E.L.O.’s “Mr. Blue Sky,” featured during the opening credits. The remainder of “Awesome Mix Vol. 2” lacks the replay value “Vol. 1” excelled at.
Perhaps the bar was raised too high for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 to strike lightning twice. It’s energetic and fun when it wants to be. At the same time, the tempting pitfalls of a sequel keep it from flying as high as the first installment.