Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 - Spoiler-free review
I really enjoyed the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie. Probably in part because I had absolutely no preconceived idea of what it would be about, or who the characters were, or anything about it, really.
But now, they've actually got something to live up to, since the movie's been on TV a dozen times (and I've watched it besides that on Blu-ray and iTunes), the characters are well-established personalities (having their own animated TV series and shorts), and there's been a huge build-up to the sequel.
So... is it any good?
Well, I have no idea.
I have tickets for a 9:00 PM showing tonight. But I'll be back afterwards with a Spoiler-free review of it.
So, where was I?
Oh, right. Was it any good?
Yep - it was!
I went out of my way to avoid spoilers (really... that shouldn't come as a surprise). Even knowing who some of the new characters were going into the movie, I didn't know how they were going to figure into the plot, so most of it came as a surprise. The movie was refreshingly short on predictability.
Revisiting the main characters could have been tough to pull off well. Recapturing lightning striking the same place in a bottle twice isn't easy. Or something. But I was really pleased that James Gunn managed to pull it of so well. It was like visiting with old friends that hadn't turned into jerks or gotten weird since the last time you saw them. They've had some time together since the events of the first movie, so there's an interplay and camaraderie between them now that's fun to watch. It seems natural, having been built off of what we knew about the characters from the first film. There's also a depth to it, as these characters have clearly come to care about and rely upon each other. Other characters from the first film are folded back into the mix, and we get additional insight into them and their relationships as well. By the end of the film, I found myself more attached to and empathetic with these characters than most of the other movie superhero teams out there. They mention they're like a family, and that rings true. It's interesting that the most bizarre, mismatched, alien characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe feel the most human.
Speaking of bizarre, Marvel continues to push into their more fantastical, cosmic territory here. More so even than in Doctor Strange. But oddly enough, it works. They establish the movie's universe and its rules, and they stick to it. I think that's the key to believable fantasy - don't break the rules that have been set up (something J.J. Abrams didn't do with his Star Trek movies - red matter and trans-galactic transporter backpack, I'm looking at you).
The new characters in the film (played by Kurt Russell and Pom Klementieff) fit right into this weird universe, and into the weird family dynamic of the Guardians of the Galaxy. Ultimately, this story is about family. Maybe that's why the movie works so well. It's especially impressive since some of the characters exist only in CG. I never thought of Rocket or Groot as CG while watching this film - just as characters. Contrast that with Rogue One, where all I could think about whenever CG Tarkin came on screen was how fake he looked.
Now, I don't know if everyone is going to buy into GotG2's cosmic weirdness or not. But I read a lot of comics back when I was into collecting, and as long as the stories and characters were compelling, it didn't really matter how weird they were. The same thing applied here - I was able to shut off my brain and just go and enjoy a really solid, fun comic book movie. The movie had a lot of heart - surprisingly so. There were some genuinely moving moments in it for many of the characters. Of course, in keeping with the first film, it had epic space battles and action scenes, as well as a lot of humor and pop culture references. And of course the requisite cameos ranging from obscure Marvel characters to... well, that would be telling . From beginning to end, I found the movie to be terrifically entertaining.
My only complaint about the movie was one particular scene that reminded me of some of the ridiculous cartoonishness of Green Lantern. I understood their desire to make the reference (since it was mentioned earlier in the film), but it really brought the movie to a grinding halt for a few seconds.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is a rare movie that not only lives up to the original, but honors the original by staying true to the characters, building on their relationships, and letting us get to know them better. It was terrific fun, and I highly recommend it.
And stay through the credits. There are quite a few extra scenes in there, and the credits themselves are fun to watch, too. Plus, the music is cool.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 gets a 9/10. Check it out. Get an extra-large popcorn.
(Of course, after writing all of this, I was thinking I could've just written "I am Groot" a whole bunch of times and made that the review. But I'm pretty sure that's been done already.)