March 20, 2019 | Story | No Comments
If there’s one truism in comic-book moviemaking, it’s that giant superhero team-ups are almost always sure-fire hits. (And then there's *Fantastic Four; *there are some things reshoots and wigs just can’t cover up.) What’s less true is that superhero team-up sequels will have the same good fortune. All the right ingredients can be there—good cast, same director, bomb-ass CGI—and for whatever reason, the movie just doesn’t ascend as high as its predecessor. Such is the case with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.
Like any good mixtape, James Gunn serves up a steady vibe, and it's a familiar one to fans of 2014's GOTG. Peter Quill/Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) still has his cock-of-the-Walkman swagger; Gamora (Zoe Saldana) continues to kick ass and thwart Quill's advances; Drax (Dave Bautista) has perfected being the living embodiment of Big Dumb Fun; and Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) managed to maintain a bottomless reserve of dickish rejoinders. The only perceptible difference this time around comes courtesy of Groot—well, Baby Groot, a marble-eyed CGI bundle of emotional manipulation who has been raking in the dawwwws since the first trailer dropped.
But as long as we're talking mixtapes, think back to the first mixtape your crush gave you. You remember the songs, the sequence, even the smell of the air wherever you listened to it. Now, quick: What was on the second mixtape they made you? You remember some of it, but chances are you're having a tougher time remember if the opening track was by Steely Dan or Stevie Nicks. Or, y'know, any non-1978 equivalent. That doesn’t mean Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 isn’t fun. If you like superhero flirting, bonding, and not-too-graphic dick jokes, it’s a hoot. There might even be a tearjerker or two. But if you’re hoping for something radically different from the first Guardians, you might be disappointed.
There is, of course, one new prominent member to the Guardians supergroup this time around—and he’s the one that causes all the drama and makes it all worth it. As Ego, Kurt Russell plays the role of Living Planet/Father of Star-Lord perfectly. The first film, you’ll remember, focused a lot on Quill not knowing who his father was and simultaneously finding a new family in his fellow Guardians. Side B is Quill meeting Ego, who claims to be his dad and also, by his mere presence, threatens to break up that family in its infancy. And Russell, being the most Kurt Russell he can be, walks the line between Charmer and Do We Trust Him? with ease. In fact, he brings more multi-dimensionality to Vol. 2 than anyone else (to wit: his analysis of the Looking Glass song “Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl)”).
Also new to the galaxy is Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki), the leader of a superior(-acting) gold-skinned group known as the Sovereigns, who are out to get the Guardians for stealing some of their highly-valuable batteries. It’s her quest for retribution that ultimately brings back fan-favorite Yondu (Michael Rooker), whom she sends after the Guardians and who loses favor with his fellow Ravagers for seemingly going soft on Star-Lord, and leads to the movie’s final showdown. (Speaking of which, see this movie in 3-D, if you can, it’s really quite beautiful.) Ayesha will, no doubt, also play a role in the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe, so keep an eye on what she does.
All of this adds up to a movie that is, no doubt, a joy. The humor—even if it, like Drax’s laughter, feels forced—is there. So is the camaraderie, and the stunning visuals, and the super-fun soundtrack. There’s no reason to think that fans of the last Guardians movie, and Marvel movies in general, won’t love it. It just might feel like the second time around the same dancefloor. Towards the end of Vol. 2 someone (we won’t spoil who) gives Star-Lord a “new” music device. The joke is that it’s a Zune. After marveling that it can hold “300 songs?!” he scrolls through the menu and, like he did at the end of the last movie, fires up a track. It’s Cat Stevens’ “Father and Son.” Peter Quill—like Marvel, like James Gunn, like this movie itself—knows how to shut up and play the hits.CULTURE