Uninspired, contrived sequel lacks originality
THE SANTA CLARA
May 11, 2017
Sequel season is upon us, and instead of masquerading as just another summer blockbuster, “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” decided to present itself as some sort of stretched-out sitcom. You may be thinking, “Oh great—I love sitcoms! ‘Seinfeld,’ ‘Arrested Development,’ ‘30 Rock;’ what’s not to love?!” But “Guardians Vol. 2” is no “Seinfeld.” No, no—think hackier, less inventive and less funny. Think “The Big Bang Theory”… minus the laugh track and plus a $200 million budget.
Perhaps it’s my fault. Perhaps I had unreasonably high hopes for this film. After being pleasantly surprised by the first “Guardians of the Galaxy,” I believed writer-director James Gunn could deliver the goods again. But that was not the case as I exited the theatre. Similar to when I order a salad as an entree at a restaurant, I left feeling unsatisfied.
The point of entry into this film is actually fantastic. Set to Electric Light Orchestra’s “Mr. Blue Sky,” the opening battle/title sequence features Baby Groot adorably dancing whilst his fellow Guardians arduously slay a giant, tentacled blob monster (to use the technical term). The scene is a nice mix of cute and cool, and really captures the essence of what the first film was all about.
From there, things get a little out of whack. Instead of adhering to the the typical A plot, B plot sitcom structure, Gunn decides to add a few more letters of the alphabet to his already overstuffed feature. Eventually, the film confuses itself with its subplots—effectively shooting itself in the foot. But by the time “Guardians Vol. 2” reaches the 90-minute mark of an excruciatingly long 138-minute run time, a bullet in the foot actually seems inviting. Hell, at least it’ll distract you from the pain of your CGI-induced migraine.
Like any sitcom, “Guardians Vol. 2” lives and dies with the jokes. I’m sorry to say this death is a slow and painful one—each joke lamer and staler than the last. Comedy in this film consists of an occasional Peter Quill quip, Baby Groot repeating “I am Groot,” Drax relentlessly and unironically insulting a woman’s appearance (to be fair, she does have antennas) and a constant barrage of contrived, tension-breaking moments. This last one really bugs me. The button on nearly every scene involves someone announcing their plan to move the events of the film forward, only to have their dramatic moment “humorously” broken by some faux pas, non-sequitur or crude comment. Sure, it’s funny the first few times, but it grows tiresome—especially when it’s the end to every. single. scene.
Staying true to sitcom tropes, “Guardians Vol. 2” also decides to add a couple of guest stars—most notably Kurt Russell as Quill’s father and Sylvester Stallone as some guy who looks and sounds an awful lot like Sylvester Stallone. Both actors do the most with what they’ve got, but what they’ve got are two characters who are so self-serious that they destroy any semblance of fun or humor in the film.
Besides, Russell’s subplot smells an awful lot like the subplot of another famous space movie that explored a father-son dynamic. But that film did it in a way that was much more interesting, poignant and believable. It’s actually quite an accomplishment on Gunn’s part when you consider that, in a film filled with space monsters and intergalactic travel, the least believable part of the story is the relationship between father and son.
And this all brings us to the classic sitcom love story (or lack thereof ) between Chris Pratt’s Peter Quill and Zoe Saldana’s Gamora. Gunn takes his two beautiful, talented leads and, instead of aiming for sexually-charged moments of tension, settles for an “unspoken thing.” It doesn’t even qualify as a “will-they-won’t-they.” If anything, it’s “they-won’t-and-I-don’t-care.” Of all the letdowns in this movie, the Quill-Gamora relationship might take the cake.
All in all, “Guardians Vol. 2” is what appears to be a confused and desperate answer to our capitalist nation’s demand for more Marvel movies. At best, the film is ambitious. At worst (and most likely), the film just has nothing to say and takes an awful long time to tell us exactly that.
Look: was it entertaining? Yes. As far as popcorn pictures go, it’s an excellent diversion. In addition to the opening credits, there are a handful of dazzling sequences—all of which are set to rock hits of the 70s. And like any sitcom, the main characters are what we truly care about, as opposed to the actual story. So on those grounds, I can make a recommendation.
But let’s call a spade a spade. This is a middling Marvel movie that will hopefully set up a greater Marvel movie. Let’s just pray that greater Marvel movie isn’t light years away.
Contact Jimmy Flynn at jflynn@ scu.edu or call (408) 554-4852.