By Bob Garver
In amongst the jokes and the cheesy 80’s soundtrack, a theme of redemption ran throughout 2014’s “Guardians of the Galaxy.” The team was comprised of various lowlifes who finally got a chance to do something decent and found out that they actually liked it because they’re all big softies at heart. Now comes the sequel that figures that since the five main characters found their redemption in the first movie, it’s someone else’s turn to be redeemed.
The five Guardians of the Galaxy are back: smart-aleck human Quill (Chris Pratt), no-nonsense enforcer Gamora (Zoe Saldana), graceless beast Drax (Dave Bautista), hair-trigger raccoon Rocket (Bradley Cooper), and infantile tree Baby Groot (Vin Diesel). The characters go through all the paces you’d expect, bickering and getting into trouble and having their friendship tested but of course they’ll be a family again by the end, that sort of thing.
The Guardians complete a mission for an alien race called the Sovereign, and as a reward they get to take custody of Gamora’s captured sister Nebula (Karen Gillan). But Rocket double-crosses the Sovereign, and soon the team is on the run from an imperial fleet. They’re saved by the mysterious Ego (Kurt Russell), who reveals himself to be Quill’s father. The ravager Yondu (Michael Rooker) was supposed to take Quill to him decades ago, but for reasons unknown decided to keep him and raise him as his own. Speaking of Yondu, he’s slowly losing his position of power. His crew is on the edge of a mutiny and he’s been blacklisted by fellow ravagers led by Staker (Sylvester Stallone). But a contract put on the Guardians by the Sovereign may be his ticket back to glory.
It’s Yondu who needs redemption the most in this movie. He’s a space pirate who kidnapped a child and was a less-than-doting father figure. Nebula needs redemption too, she was little more than a glowering villain in the first movie. And of course Ego needs to make up for being absent for Quill’s whole life. Ego is redeemed with the most ease, he’s a god who passed along godlike powers to Quill, so Quill is basically able to summon any toy he wants at will. Quill summons a ball, and father and son play catch for the first time – aww.
There’s curiously little for the Guardians to do until the end, so the movie pairs them off with non-Guardians. Quill hangs out with Ego, Gamora combats adversity with Nebula, Rocket has a heart-to-heart with Yondu aboard the latter’s ship, and Drax bonds with Ego’s assistant Mantis (Pom Klementieff). You know how an embarrassed child will say that a love interest is ugly so they won’t be accused of having feelings for them, which they obviously do? That’s 90% of Drax’s schtick in this movie.
“Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” is disappointingly dull except for one element, and that’s Yondu. I knew Rooker was a scene-stealer, but I had no idea the character would turn out to be so complex. Good for the movie using him to his full potential. But otherwise there’s nothing here to write home about. The action is okay, if typical for a comic book movie. The humor, which seemed so crisp and spontaneous in the first movie, now feels scripted and forced. You know the movie is doing something wrong when even Baby Groot grows tiresome. The villain is just flat-out awful. The character is reasonably interesting until they’re officially the villain, but once they turn, it’s just one clichéd mistake after another, one of which is so stupid it loses the character all respectability as a purveyor of evil. There are enough gags that land that the movie isn’t a total waste, but overall I’m hoping that the inevitable “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” will redeem “Vol. 2.”
Two Stars out of Five.
“Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” is rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action and violence, language, and brief suggestive content. Its running time is 136 minutes.
Bob Garver is the movie critic for the Southern Arizona News-Examiner. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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