Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Will it rise above clichés?

It’s official: I’m a sucker. I convinced myself that, after watching the trailer for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, it would be an above-average comic-book-themed movie. I didn’t think it would be a film classic like Citizen Kane, but I thought perhaps it could be the Citizen Kane of movies based on Marvel Comics.

It could also just be good-guy-fights-bad-guy , things explode, good guy wins. And I’ll be a sucker again.

After all, the first Guardians of the Galaxy showed promise in establishing a hodgepodge of outcasts who band together, earn each other’s trust, and form a semblance of a family. Where Suicide Squad failed miserably to rise above clichés and stereotypes in its portrayal of a similar group of unlikely heroes, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 1 paired eclectic characters with quick wit to create something fresh. Led by awkward thief Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), the Guardians also consist of otherworldly Gamora (Zoe Saldana), literal-thinking behemoth Drax (Dave Bautista), foul-mouthed, weapon-loving raccoon Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper), and a mighty, muscly tree named Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) who can only speak the words “I am Groot.”

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 even suckered me in its beginning, delivering a unique first 20 minutes. At the end of the first installment, Groot sacrifices himself for the greater good of his newfound family and starts his life over as a baby tree. The second movie opens with the Guardians completing a job of trying to slay an alien monster. We hear explosions and screams and see out-of-focus, flailing body parts in the background while Baby Groot stands in focus, dancing. The focus off the action was a good variation on the obligatory opening action scene, and watching a baby tree dance is cute (rhymes with Groot).

Even as the action progressed, the movie showed some creativity in its approach to an intergalactic chase scene. When the Guardians try to escape a new foe, they blow up the vessels following them, only to realize that the enemy spacecraft are unmanned vessels controlled miles away by people sitting in a pod that serves as a virtual reality arcade game. The Guardians must control their ships while worrying about injury or death.

As the movie progresses, however, it runs out of original tricks. Peter encounters his father (Kurt Russell), which leads him to a new planet and down a predictable path. While the movie resists clichés for the first 20 minutes, it suddenly settles into the all-too-familiar-and-tired formula of blowing things up and trying to portray callous violence as comedy. Maybe it is because I have a rude raccoon pretty much living in my backyard, but Rocket is a grating character. Just because a fuzzy animal is involved doesn’t mean that automatic weaponry is any more cute or tolerable. Whether he’s bickering with Quill, insulting strangers, or concocting an explosive device, Rocket overstays his welcome in pretty much every scene. Rocket is fine when he shares screen time with his pal Groot, whose sweet naiveté overshadows Rocket’s rude glare.

The last 10 minutes of the movie does repair a bit of the poorly written damage from the hour before, but it doesn’t do enough to save the movie from mediocrity. At almost two hours and 20 minutes, Guardians drags along. Whittling down 20 minutes would have made the film sharper, and no character or plot development would have been lost.

Before the movie started, the audience sat through six previews, including two other Marvel Comics movies: yet another Spider-Man reboot, and the third installment of Thor. Spider-Man: Homecoming actually looks decent, and I will consider watching it. I know, however, that I should temper my expectations. It could be good. It could also just be good-guy-fights-bad-guy, things explode, good guy wins. And I’ll be a sucker again.

2 out of 4 stars. Rated PG-13 for violence, including excessive violence by a raccoon.


All reviews express the opinions of the reviewer, not necessarily the views of Third Way.