HOLLYWOOD—When “Guardians of the Galaxy” arrived in theaters in August 2014, it defied the odds; frankly put, it surprised the hell out of a lot of people with gargantuan numbers close to $100 million during its opening weekend. It was the surprise hit of the year, holding its reign at the top spot of the box-office for several weekends. One would argue it brought a new flair of superhero to the multiplex.
With the success of that flick, it was only a question of when a sequel would arrive. Fast-forward to May 2017, and “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” has dawned for moviegoers to digest. However, the big question of the hour is rather the sequel is better than the original. Well, not quite, but the movie still offers plenty of exciting times.
The sequel reunited the kooky clan of intergalactic heroes saving the galaxy from threats unknown. Back in the driver seat are Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax (Dave Bautista), Rocket (voice of Bradley Cooper) and Baby Groot (voice of Vin Diesel), with a fun opening that proves the flick is not trying to take itself too seriously, before it actually begins to take itself too seriously.
Note of caution for superhero flicks looking to divert from the trajectory: if you want to be foul-mouthed be completely foul, if you want to be action-packed be action packed, if you plan to be serious, be full-blown serious. Trying to balance comedy, action and serious drama very rarely meshes well, and sometimes things get convoluted. “Vol. 2” tackles a heavy theme of the importance of family and relationships, and in the process seems to suck out some of the hilarity that audiences have come to expect from the characters and the movie. Two of the biggest plot points involve Peter aka Star Lord meeting his long-lost father Ego (Kurt Russell) and Gamora, dealing with her strained relationship with her sister Nebula (Karen Gillan).
While fun watching the family dynamics play out, it places things on the backburner for one of the scene stealers in the entire movie: ROCKET! This character has to be the most fun I’ve seen in a comic book franchise in years. He has a pouty-mouth, plenty of heart and delivers comic one-liners that audiences will absolutely fall in love with. His character, just like Yonda (Michael Rooker) take a backseat to most of the dramatics until the third act in my opinion, which heightens the explosive action.
Supporting players Pom Klementieff, Elizabeth Debicki, Sean Gunn and Chris Sullivan bring a few more fresh faces to the mix that showcase, not all superheroes or villains have to be at the forefront at all times. I think the biggest problem this sequel faces compared to its predecessor is its villain. The first time around, there was a level of menace, a threat that seemed unstoppable for our heroes, but we don’t get that this time around. The villain, who is a bit of a surprise to say the least, never offers that sense of impending dread or fear that our heroes might not be able to pull off the win like the audience expects. Director James Gunn does have that magic behind the camera to capture some out of this world fighting sequences and visual effects that quite frankly seem too far-fetched in any other franchise, but work flawlessly in this franchise.
While I was entertained by “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2,” the movie did not exceed the expectations I had considering how awesome the first movie was. Perhaps the constant exposure to the TV spots spoiling some of the big jokes that you come to expect in a movie of this magnitude were already spoiled. I expect a third chapter in the franchise, and I’m hoping the writers will go back to the roots of the franchise and bring back that element of surprise, authenticity and comedy that made the first flick a thrill-a-minute.