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CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT:
GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2 (2017)
By Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares
(THE SCENE: The interior of a colorful spaceship, hurtling through space. L.L. SOARES enters and sees MICHAEL ARRUDA hunched over a console looking at something.)
L.L. SOARES: There you are! I thought we were meeting at the Star Wars cantina!
MICHAEL ARRUDA: Yeah, we were. Sorry. I got distracted. Come look at what I found.
LS (approaches): I’d rather you come look at what I found, a couple of beers down there at the bar!
MA: Just come here.
(MA moves aside to reveal standing on the console a miniature version of LS, a “Baby LL”)
LS: What the hell is that?
MA: It’s Baby LL
(Baby L.L. sticks both middle fingers up into the air.)
MA: Look, he takes after his father.
LS: He’s not really a baby. He’s more like a Mini-Me. Is there a Baby Michael somewhere?
MA: Not that I’ve seen. Baby LL probably did something to him.
LS: Good going, Lil’ LL!
Hey, they could make a whole line of toys based on him! I could be rich!
MA: He must be a tie-in to today’s movie, the highly anticipated GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, VOL. 2 (2017) which features, as one of its central characters, Baby Groot, voiced by Vin Diesel.
LS: Maybe Baby LL can give Baby Groot some acting lessons!
MA: You didn’t like Baby Groot?
LS: I don’t like Baby anything! What did you think of him?
MA: He was okay. A bit too cute for my liking. I don’t think Baby LL here has that same problem.
LS: That’s fine with me!
MA: So, shall we start today’s review?
LS: Of course. You start. I’m going to chat with Baby LL here.
MA: So, today we’re reviewing GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, VOL. 2 (2017).
Now, I loved the first GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY (2014), and it instantly ranked as one of my favorite Marvel superhero movies. As such, I was really looking forward to VOL. 2, and I fully expected to like it.
I did not.
(Sad music plays over the intercom)
MA: As GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2 (2017) opens, old friends Peter Quill—a.k.a. Star-Lord—(played by Chris Pratt); Gamora (Zoe Saldana); Drax (Dave Bautista); Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper); and newly born Baby Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) are busy saving the galaxy from bad guys, in particular taking on a giant monster in order to protect a civilization’s valuable commodity—batteries. They’re also busy arguing with each other, and their banter is certainly one of the more enjoyable parts of the movie.
LS: This scene kind of irritated me. The whole time the team is fighting that space monster, Little Groot is dancing around. It’s supposed to be cute, but frankly I don’t go to a Marvel movie for “cute.” Leave that to their parent company, Disney. The whole time Lil’ Groot is dancing, I kept wishing he was Big Groot again. And I kept wishing something would fall and squash little Groot, so we could get on with the damn movie! Really, the whole thing seemed like a commercial for the upcoming Baby Groot Plush Toy or something! It was all so sweet, I felt a little vomit come up into my mouth.
MA: You know, I can’t really disagree with you there. I felt the same way, except for the vomit part. I was still chowing my popcorn just fine. So, right off the bat, the film does not get off to a good start.
When Rocket steals some of the batteries they were supposed to be protecting, Queen Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki) sends an armada of ships in hot pursuit to get the batteries back. Our friendly neighborhood galaxy guardians are rescued by Ego (Kurt Russell) who claims to be Quill’s long-lost father. He’s also all-powerful and invites Quill and his friends to his own personal planet which he made himself to show his son what a wonderful life he had been missing.
LS: Ego, a cool character from Marvel Comics, so powerful he once fought Galactus! Now that would have been cool to see here, but I think Galactus still belongs to 20th Century Fox when they got the rights to the Fantastic Four. Not that they did much with him. Galactus would have been a nice addition to the Guardians of the Galaxy movies!
MA: Meanwhile, Yondu (Michael Rooker) has been shamed by his fellow traders because he had taken part in the buying and selling of children. Yondu decides it’s time he makes amends, and he seeks out Quill, who happens to be one of those former children. And the Guardians will need his help because things are not what they seem with Quill’s dad, Ego.
The biggest problem I had with GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2 is its story. The Guardians of the Galaxy are a fun group of wise-cracking, in-fighting misfit superheroes, but in this movie, their main adversary is Ego, and for most of the movie, they don’t even know he’s an adversary. For most of the movie, they are fleeing from and dealing with Ayesha, who really isn’t that interesting a character.
LS: Yeah, Ayesha and her race of golden people are kinda lame. They don’t even fight you up front and personal, they do it remotely, like they’re playing video games.
MA: Another subplot has Gamora dealing with her sister Nebula (Karen Gillan), another story that isn’t all that interesting.
LS: I liked Nebula. And I think her story would have been more interesting if they actually showed her and Gamora’s childhood, instead of just talking about it. But to do that, they would have had to show their daddy, Thanos, and Marvel is saving him for the next AVENGERS movie. Pretty dumb, if you ask me. Giving us more a glimpse into Thanos’s past would have helped make him a more three-dimensional character by the time AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR comes out next year. A chance at some good character development was blown.
MA: Then there’s the cutesiness of Baby Groot. Now, I had fun watching Baby Groot, but I thought the film went overboard with all the cute stuff.
LS: I thought the movie went overboard from the get-go. Twenty minutes in, I was already sick to death of Baby Groot. Put some Miracle Grow on him and let’s get Big Groot back already. Even though Baby Groot’s size does come in handy toward the end, I think the whole movie would have been better off without him.
MA: You would have loved the people sitting behind me, then. Every time Baby Groot showed up—which was a lot!—they’d croon “Groot!” and “He’s soooo cute.” Which did not help me like this movie.
LS: Aww, I would have hated that!
MA: In short, I love the main characters, the Guardians, and I still had fun watching them. But they’re stuck in a story here that absolutely bored me. And once more, as if it’s a mandatory part of the Marvel movie formula, there isn’t an intriguing or worthwhile villain to be found anywhere in the galaxy.
LS: Which is why Galactus could have been neat. Or maybe the Super Skrull! Oh, wait, he’s probably another character 20th Century Fox probably owns movie-wise, since the Skrulls also first appeared in Fantastic Four comics. Marvel needs to get those damned movie rights back already! 20th Century Fox is doing bupkis with these characters.
And don’t even get me started on the number one cosmic character of all time, the Silver Surfer, who should so be involved in any Marvel movie taking place in space. Another casualty of 20th Century Fox, dammit!
But there are so many other cool cosmic character who should pop up in the future, Adam Warlock and Pip and Firelord and Nova and Killraven, and even the Starjammers, oh wait a minute, those last ones are from X-Men comics, so they’re owned by 20th Century Fox, too.
MA: I have no idea what you’re prattling on about.
Anyway, Chris Pratt returns as Star-Lord, and he’s as handsomely charming as ever, but he’s in this flat story with his dad Ego, and the character suffers for it. Likewise, while I really enjoyed Zoe Saldana as Gamora once again, she too is hindered by her main story, the ongoing rift with her sister Nebula.
LS: The Nebula stuff isn’t that bad. It’s better than most of the boring Ego stuff.
Dave Bautista probably fares the best in his return as Drax, as he has some of the funnier lines in the film. But in terms of action, Drax doesn’t do a whole lot.
(There’s a shimmering image and then DRAX appears in the room)
LS: Drax the Destroyer! Hey, man!
MA: It’s Drax! What are you doing here?
DRAX: Scotty transported me here.
LS: Scotty? Isn’t that Star Trek stuff?
DRAX: Yes! I’m the new Captain of the Enterprise!
MA: Holy Moly! How did that happen? I thought the two franchises couldn’t intermingle.
DRAX: And I’m the Head of Starfleet now, too!
DRAX: And, guess what? I’m Luke Skywalker’s father!
MA: Wait a minute. How can you be all those things? And you’re crossing over into the Star Wars universe, too?
LS: It could happen. Disney owns both Marvel and Star Wars.
(DRAX starts laughing maniacally).
DRAX: This is called a practical joke! I got the two of you to believe my lies.
(DRAX laughs so hard he drops to the floor, holding his belly)
MA: It wasn’t that funny.
(DRAX shimmers and disappears)
LS: I dunno, I laughed.
MA: Anyway, back to the review.
Bradley Cooper is enjoyable again voicing Rocket, and then there’s Baby Groot. I have no problems with Baby Groot, but if the main story of this one had been stronger, I wouldn’t have found the cutesiness here with Baby Groot so grating.
LS: Yeah, I always like Rocket Raccoon, although don’t call him that to his face.
MA: I hear her prefers “Space Rat.”
LS: He’s still a great character, and he has some good scenes here. It was fun to see him actually bond with Yondu.
MA: Speaking of Yondu. Probably my favorite performance in the whole movie belongs to Michael Rooker as Yondu, in the largest supporting role in the movie. Yondu was in the first film as well, and the character is further developed this time around, and Rooker is more than up to the task of fleshing out this bright blue character.
LS: You don’t have to try to convince me that Michael Rooker’s great. I’ve known that for a long time. Since he starred in HENRY, PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER way back in 1986, and I loved him as Merle in THE WALKING DEAD. Hell, I like Rooker in just about everything. And he was also great in director James Gunn’s SLITHER (2006). I loved that Yondu’s back and that he has a bigger role in the plot this time around.
MA: And Rooker is helped here by the screenplay which actually gives some depth to his character. Imagine that! Writing a three-dimensional character! Why couldn’t screenwriter James Gunn do the same for the other characters?
Karen Gillan gets more screen time as Nebula as well, and a new character, Mantis (Pom Klementieff), gets to enjoy some fine moments, mostly when interacting with Drax.
LS: I like Nebula a lot here, and it’s nice to see Mantis in the movie, although here she’s pretty much treated like a joke character, which made me a little sad. Reminds me of the time in the comics when Mantis was involved with one of Avengers, the Swordsman. When are they going to put him in a movie? Anyway, despite that, Mantis and Drax have some great scenes together.
My favorite characters in the movie are easily Drax and Yondu. And they both have some of the funniest scenes. Dave Bautista is terrific as Drax, because just about everything he says is funny. And Yondu shares a joke with Peter Quill toward the end when they’re flying in the air that had me laughing out loud.
MA: But the villains fall completely flat here. I had been excited about Kurt Russell playing Ego in this movie, and there’s nothing wrong with Russell’s performance, but I found the character boring.
LS: Yeah, Russell is always good, but his character here is kind of so-so. Half-way through, I just stopped caring about him. Just another villain who’s so powerful, he’s boring. None of these supervillain guys seem to have any kind of imagination. And when he kept reciting those verses from the song “Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl)” by Looking Glass, I kept wondering “Why?” It’s not that good a song.
(An image shimmers in the middle of the room, and then becomes PETER QUILL and ROCKET)
QUILL: How dare you make fun of the song “Brandy!” I love that song, and so did my mother!
ROCKET: And who called me a “space rat” earlier (lifts a huge gun onto his shoulder)
(MA points to LS)
(Before ROCKET can fire the gun, they both get blurry again and disappear)
MA: Thank goodness for teleporter malfunctions.
LS: You said it.
MA: And Elizabeth Debicki did nothing for me as Ayesha. The biggest knock on these villains is their agendas are dull. Ayesha is just chasing down stolen batteries and looking for payback, and Ego is all about what his name implies. All this evil power, and nothing to do with it. What’s a villain to do?
MA: Sylvester Stallone shows up for about five seconds as Stakar Ogord, in a role that’s clearly a set-up for a future movie.
LS: A future movie I don’t think I want to see. (MA laughs) Stallone is lame here. I guess some people will be excited to see Stallone in a Marvel movie, but I just found it annoying, and I hope he doesn’t come back. In the comics, Stakar Ogord is also known as a character named Starhawk, by the way. He talks some smack to Yondu in the movie, but frankly Michael Rooker is way cooler than Stallone at this point.
Oh, and in the comics, Yondu is actually part of the original Guardians of the Galaxy team—originally none of the Guardians we know were part of it, they came in a later version of the team—and some of the “Ravagers” in this movie are other original members.
I also want to mention Sean Gunn, who plays Yondu’s right hand man, Kraglin. He’s director James Gunn’s brother, but he’s a funny guy (probably best remembered as Kirk on the show GILMORE GIRLS, for the three people reading this who watched that show, but he also have small roles in all his brother’s movies, including this year’s THE BELKO EXPERIMENT, which James Gunn wrote the screenplay for. Sean Gunn is almost always comic relief, and I like his character of Kraglin a lot, and he’s given more to do this time, which is cool.
I also really liked Chris Sullivan, who plays an ugly warrior named Taserface. He was a lot of fun, and his interactions with Rocket are priceless.
And the cameos. This might be my favorite cameo by Stan Lee yet! And we get another peek at Howard the Duck! I really hope Marvel is thinking of giving him a second chance in the movies and doing him the right way this time, the way Steve Gerber wrote him!
MA: James Gunn, who wrote and directed the first GUARDIANS movie, is back doing both again here in the sequel. He scores better behind the camera than at the keyboard. I thought the film looked great. I saw it in 2D, and it looked fine, although I wouldn’t have minded seeing it in 3D, but the times didn’t work out for me. The visuals are eye-poppingly colorful and cinematic.
LS: Yeah, the movie looks great, especially Ego’s planet. I saw it in 2D, too.
MA: The action scenes are so-so. While fun and lively, none of the action scenes here blew me away. Some went on too long and made me yawn.
LS: Especially the big battle at the end. Snoozeville.
MA: Again, the biggest knock on this one is its screenplay, by director James Gunn. The story did nothing for me, and the villains were disappointing. Ego has all this power and ability and he seems to know nothing about what to do with it.
LS: You know what that reminds me of, GREEN LANTERN (2011). I know Green Lantern is a DC character, not Marvel, but it illustrates a point about most superhero movies. They just don’t have enough imagination.
MA: You’re right. They are very similar.
LS: In GREEN LANTERN, Hal Jordon gets this ring that make anything he imagines into reality, and he never once imagines anything remotely interesting. Same with a villain like Ego. Sure, his planet looks pretty, but there’s nothing all that incredible about any of it. We need characters (and writers) with BIGGER IMAGINATIONS!
MA: And the film’s theme, that they are more than friends, that they are family, has been done to death already and didn’t add anything fresh to this sequel.
LS: Yeah, if I want to hear that kind of cliché stuff, I’ll go see a movie in Vin Diesel’s other franchise, THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS.
MA: As expected, the film does have another awesome mix as a soundtrack, so there are no complaints here.
LS: I really liked how classic tunes like ELO’s “Mr. Blue Sky,” and Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain” were used here. Decent soundtrack, even if I think the one for the first movie was better.
MA: Like other Marvel movies, there is an after-credits scene. No, wait, that’s not quite accurate. There are several after credit scenes, so you if you want to see them all, you have to wait till the very end of the movie. That being said, to be honest, I didn’t like any of these after-credit scenes. It’s a case where more doesn’t mean better, which is a nice microcosm of the entire movie.
LS: I kind of liked them all, because they were either funny, or added something to come. For once, I didn’t mind sitting through those stupid Easter eggs.
MA: GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2 brings our entertaining squabbling guardians back to the big screen, and they are certainly fun to watch, but they’re placed in a dull storyline that doesn’t do them justice.
You’d think the writers could come up with a story more worthy of these characters.
In the case of GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2, apparently not.
I give it two knives.
(LS laughs loudly)
MA: What’s so funny?
LS: You knew right away that I’d hate Baby Groot, and so the review starts off with me complaining, and yet, despite all that, I still like this movie better than you do. You and I both gave the original GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY a score of four knives. This one is not close to being as good. It’s got a weaker story, a mediocre villain, and a baby version of Groot, and yet, I still had a great time. Why? Because there are so many great characters here regardless of its flaws. I love Peter Quill and Gamora and Rocket and especially Drax…
TINY VOICE: Every time Drax laughs, an angel gets its wings.
(Raucous DRAX laughter)
LS: Mantis and Nebula are nice additions. And I always dig Yondu. And all of these characters and the way they interact is the heart of what makes a GUARDIANS movie so good. So even though it wasn’t as good as the first one plot-wise, I still liked it a lot.
I give it three knives.
MA: Wow. You had a great time? I certainly didn’t. But you’re probably not alone. I know the large audience I saw it with was enthusiastic about it. I was kinda bored. And while I agree that those characters you mentioned are all cool, this movie wasn’t. If this was a TV series, this would have been a weak episode.
So we’re done here?
LS: Yes, I would say so.
MA: Bye! (MA teleports away)
LS: How did he do that?
(A blurry image appears and focuses into BABY GROOT, who starts dancing around the room).
LS: Do your stuff, Lil’ LL.
(The tiny version of LL runs over to BABY GROOT and punches him right in the face, knocking him across the room)
(LS laughs maniacally)
© Copyright 2017 by Michael Arruda and LL Soares
Michael Arruda gives GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2 ~ two knives!
LL Soares gives GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2 ~three knives.