Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)
★★★ / ★★★★
If one’s expectation is simply to be entertained, then “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2,” directed by James Gunn, is a winner, but those expecting to be surprised a second time by the breakout series featuring unlikely heroes is equally likely to be somewhat disappointed. It isn’t that the film is more of the same. After all, it does travel into uncharted territory in terms of the lineage of our sarcastic central protagonist Peter Quill (Chris Pratt). However, such exploration comes across as superficial, cursory, undercooked, even forced at times. Subtle dramatic moments is clearly not the picture’s strong suit.
Humor is found in every pore of the film and it is most welcome when it breaks moments that are supposed to be dead serious. To me, this is the attitude that defines these characters, why they are worth following: they may be good at what they do but they never take their tasks one hundred percent seriously. There is almost always room for messing around, for jokes, for verbal sparring. And when there isn’t, they make room. The ability to laugh at themselves and at one another is in their DNA. Gunn never loses track of this idea.
The action sequences are heavily driven by visual effects. Although I’m still not a fan of its pavonine explosions and obviously computerized spaceships, notice how scenes never linger on the action. Instead, it makes the habit of showing what goes on inside of the ship as our protagonists respond to the turn of events. It gives the impression that the filmmakers are aware that dogfights in space is not their forte, but such a thing must be delivered because it is what the audience expect. At one point I wondered if one day we would ever watch an installment in which there is no space duel whatsoever.
The camaraderie and chemistry among the Guardians is the most exciting ingredient. We want to be a part of this group because they tend to say exactly what we might think given a set of information. One of the surprises in this film is it provides time for us to understand characters we did not get to know that much in its predecessor. Drax (Dave Bautista), the brawniest member of the group who is ever unable to detect sarcasm, and Nebula (Karen Gillan), Gamora’s (Zoe Saldana) angry sister and determined rival, stand out here. With a few simple lines but convincing performances, I was especially moved by Nebula and Gamora’s relationship. Gamora and Peter’s romantic relationship, on the other hand, is played out. I felt it didn’t go anywhere new or interesting.
“Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” takes the series in a forward direction because it attempts to make the characters grow in ways neither they nor we expect. While such efforts are not always successful, the dynamics of the group and the distractions they get into are so amusing at times that its flaws, in a way, come across as refreshing, even endearing. While big strides would certainly have made a better film, sometimes little steps is sufficient. I do hope, however, for “Vol. 3” to deliver a more defined, more formidable final villain.