The Guardians of the Galaxy are back. Following the mega-success of the August 2014 debut, Marvel launched plans for a sequel to serve as the lift-off of the 2017 Summer Movie Season. But like The Avengers with “Age of Ultron”, “Guardians” can’t hit the high notes a second time, due to a less than compelling story and action scenes that aren’t nearly as exciting or entertaining as in the original.
The “Vol. 2” in the title is not a nod to Quentin Tarantino’s “Kill Bill” or Jay-Z’s “Hard Knock Life” – but, of course, because of main character Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) and his Awesome Mix Vol. 1 cassette tape that played a major role in “Guardians”. The compilation of 70s hits included “Hooked on a Feeling” – which I’ve not been able to get out of my head since. This time, Quill has moved-on to Awesome Mix Vol. 2, made-up of 80s songs that dominate, and I mean DOMINATE the film.
In fact, just about everything that was good or great in the original “Guardians” is way too overdone in this sequel, from the screen time of supporting characters Drax (Dave Bautista) and Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper), to the inclusion of music in nearly every single scene. 10 minutes into the film and 4 songs on the soundtrack have already played. It’s as if the goal is to sell downloads and CDs instead of making an entertaining film.
The attempts at humor are forced and unsuccessful. I don’t think I laughed once during the entire 2:15 of “Guardians Vol. 2” (including the five closing credits bonus clips). The dialogue that was natural and edgy last time is so stagy and mean-spirited here. The arrogance level throughout the first two-thirds of this movie is nearly intolerable. Obviously returning writer/director James Gunn felt he could simply amp-up everything that worked the last time and that would work again. Success clearly got to his head.
As for the plot – it’s all kinda sci-fi been there/done that. Kurt Russell plays Ego (not surprising considering the tone of this movie). At one point he tells Peter, “I Am Your Father”, and that pretty much sets the uninspired story in motion.
So, what did I like? The makeup. The sound effects. And Sylvester Stallone joins the cast. He only has about two minutes of screen time but makes the most of them. I want to see him headline an action movie again. I wanna see Zoe Saldana, who returns as Gamora, get away from her trio of tentpole franchises (“Avatar”, “Star Trek” and “Guardians”) and do more dramatic roles.
And I wanna see Gunn direct an indie again. There are a couple of deliberate shots here that give you that vibe. However, he’s already announced he’s signed for “Guardians Vol. 3”. Guess it’s hard to resist a big budget and big paycheck.
On The Official LCJ Report Card, “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” gets a C, as the Summer Movie Season gets off to a sputtering start.
Running Time: 136 min.