2017-05-18 / On the Town

Just a boy and his dad —in outer space

Robert Gibbons

The summer movie season kicked off May 5 with the hotly anticipated release of “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.” The sci-fi sequel, predicted to be the summer’s biggest blockbuster, has earned more than $246 million in just two weeks.

What we have here is a movie overstuffed with attitude, mayhem and family values. At times out-of-control with silliness, at times bogged down in seriousness, this movie is, at its heart, just a tale of a boy and his dad.

If you’ve seen the original, you’ve met many of the characters and may even remember some of their backstories; if not, don’t worry, you can still enjoy this one. James Gunn, who directed and co-wrote both movies, will quickly catch you up and tell you all you need to know.

Led by Peter Quill/Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), the Guardians are a ragtag band of mercenaries who bicker and battle their way across the galaxy, handling miscellaneous cleanup jobs for hire. Here, they begin by helping the Sovereign rid themselves of the Abilisk, a space octopus. In return, they’re given the prisoner Nebula (Karen Gillan); she’s the sister of Gamora (Zoe Saldana), who’s already one of the Guardians.

As the Guardians depart, Rocket—a gun-toting, genetically enhanced raccoon voiced by Bradley Cooper—steals some of the Sovereign’s precious batteries and High Priestess Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki) sends a fleet of ships after them. In trying to get away, Quill and his misfits crash land on the planet Berhart where Quill meets his long-lost father, Ego (Kurt Russell).

As we learned in Vol. 1, and are reminded several times in Vol. 2, Quill’s mother died of cancer and he was raised by Yondu (Michael Rooker). Now we learn that Ego has spent several decades searching for him. To make things more interesting, Ego is a living planet, an astral body who can also take human form. So Quill has a dual nature.

For the remainder of the movie, the plot will strive to answer these questions: Can the Guardians escape the Sovereign? Can the different members of the Guardians work out their personal problems? Can Peter and Ego solve their daddy issues?

In other words, can these two families—the Guardians as a whole, and Peter and Ego—survive pressures from without and from within?

This movie is the most fun when the whole band is together badgering and berating one another, but that’s mostly in the early part of the film. Gunn’s script distributes the humor among the cast and they each have fun with the dialogue and one another.

Russell and Pom Klementieff (as Mantis) are good additions to the cast and Baby Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) brings a childlike sense of wonder and dancing fun. Pratt retains his sense of arrogant cynicism, but he’s less a “legendin his-own-mind” than he was in the original and Zaldana has less chemistry with him than he believes and she pretends.

The spaceships are imaginative, the washed watercolor backgrounds beautiful, and the battles impressively staged. There’s great ’80s music, enjoyable mocking mayhem and some important morals, but the middle of the movie feels too talky, too serious, too slow.

The original “Guardians” had a vibrancy, a freshness, a sense of innocent energy that made it part Western, part swashbuckling adventure, part screwball comedy. This volume simply feels like a sometimes-zany space epic.

The summer film season is young; there may still be more impressive movies to come.

Return to top