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In an all-too-true case of ninety-nine percent perspiration and one percent inspiration, Marvel Studios brings us Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, the follow-up to one of the most surprising, clever and entertaining hits in their cinematic universe.

Hailed as heroes after standing up to Ronan the Accuser and saving the universe, Star Lord, Gamora, Drax, Rocket Raccoon, and the literal offshoot that was/is Groot, have more or less gone on the straight and narrow.  Now as heroes for hire, they take on dangerous tasks across the galaxy for healthy rewards.  While they may have gone marginally legit, their ramshackle, all-in, brawling style of combat hasnít changed, which is what we find them in the middle of at the start of our film, improvising wildly as a pointy-toothed space octopus gives them more arms than they bargained for. 

Their ad-hoc teamwork barely manages to keep them alive, but only momentarily, as in the claiming of their reward, Rocketís propensity for thumb-nosing giggles manages to offend Ayesha, leader of the appropriately-titled Sovereign race; a people who put respect at a premium and think very highly of revenge, too.  The teamís flight from sure death reveals some cracks in their once-united front, as they all seem to be getting on each otherís nerves, lately.  Good thing the hero who rescues them from Ayeshaís pursuit has a planet of unimaginable beauty for the crew not only to hide out on, but to catch a little R Ďn R and maybe heal some psychic wounds.  Some deeper wounds are ripped open when itís revealed that their saviour is not just some random do-gooder, but is the mysterious unnamed father that Star Lord has wondered about all his life.

Ego is aptly named.  Quite simply, heís a god.  Heís a planet. Heís Ego the Living Planet.  A maker of worlds and observer of lesser beings across the universe, whose travels achieved two important things:  His first true understanding of love after meeting Ė and mating - with Peterís mother, and his theory that the universe is peppered with life forms so low, ignorant and self-destructive, that it would simply be best to start over and replace those failing planets with versions of himself.

Peter is so overjoyed by the discovery of his daddy that his crew feels out of place and unwanted now that heís found a new home.  What did the team really mean to each other all this time?  Will Peterís fascination for his new father and the seemingly perfect world Egoís built blind him to the strange goings-on around the planet and Egoís troubling methods?

Guardians 2 made me long for the days when sequels werenít a given.  When the announcement of a follow-up to your favourite summer film was a pleasant surprise.  Between the Pavlovian policies of Hollywood film companies and Marvel Studiosí painstakingly mapped out trajectory for its features as Tetris pieces in some grand, interconnected, overarching saga, there must be horrible pressure on filmmakers to come up with something Ė anything - to fill in their assigned space in the roster.

The main ĎStar Lord finds his daddyí plot of Guardians 2 really isnít grand or theatrical enough to hold up a full film in its own right.  Peterís paternity was presented as an interesting curiosity in the last movie and certainly worth the audienceís time, as we have come to care about Star Lord and all the other Guardians, and his background is really where the initial story began.  However, it seems of rather small note compared to the encroaching extragalactic challenges ramping up across the universe, what with the Infinity Stones gaining more prominence across several series, and with them, the various threats to Earth from outer aggressors.

Thereís a lot of lather, rinse, repeat with Vol. 2, and even more extrapolation of things that were funny the first time that donít quite hold up when hammered over the audienceís head, repeatedly.

Strangely, many of the qualities that were endearing in the first movie are just plain shrill and annoying in this new chapter.  Ad nauseum repeats of Drax laughing maniacally at someone elseís embarrassment, get tired, real quick.  This time Drax is a downright chatterbox, with a veritable abundance of dialogue from the muscleman, compared to the limited, but effective minimum of repartee in the first flick. 

Despite having turned his life around and claimed by a family he knows cares for him, Rocket Raccoon is irksomely emo; picking fights with Peter and needling anyone around him for no discernable reason other than plot demands.  This gives him a kinship with the space pirate Yondu later in the film, but heís been so irritating and obnoxious since frame one, we donít really care.  

Gamora isnít given any real shine time (Outside of hoisting an enormous gun at one point, even though, as Peter points out, swords were really more her thing.).  There is flirting with Peter that feels far more forced and awkward than it did in the last film.  Much of her screen time is dredged down by her sibling rivalry with the eternally gloomy Nebula.

The family theme is hammered upon us throughout the movie and seems meant to take the place of an actual narrative.  We have Peterís discovery of his biological father and his possible abandonment of the family he made with the other Guardians.  We have Gamoraís tortured ties to her adoptive sister, whose goal in life is to bring her down.  Thereís Drax mourning his family, as elucidated for the audience by Mantis, an empath who can read the depths of the warriorís losses.  And we have the odd coupling of Rocket and former enemy, Yondu, after the crabby fuzzball becomes as a sort of second surrogate son for the original surrogate son Yondu lost after Peter went his own way.

Ironically, despite the overdone, cheesy family schmaltz; overall, the entire Guardians team was written much less sympathetically, and I came away not liking them very much at all, compared to my feeling in the first movie, but I particularly kept hoping Rocket would get run over by a space truck while crossing a road, somehow.

Of course, there is lots and lots of Baby Groot, who is quite rightfully adored by all who meet him.  Some of the purest laughs come from the toddling, big-eyed sapling - who has an unexpected feral streak - doing his best to try to help his constantly endangered family.  Still, despite the charm offensive of Baby Groot, the sentimental family ties theme is artlessly flogged over and over again and very little else in the film gets done. 

You canít build a movie on nothing but clichťs and the audienceís regard for the previous chapter, Marvel, it will not hold up.  Even the humour, which so enriched the original film, doesnít go far beyond the adventures of the anthropomorphic twiglet and some fairly predictable retro-hip pop culture surprises.  As such, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is merely treading water, not really going anywhere or saying anything.  This movie is a blown-up filler that would have been a good short, or home video add-on, rather than a full feature.  Vol. 2 is not satisfying in any way other than for fans to crane their necks looking for in-jokes and connections to more significant events and characters yet to be seen in the Marvel universe.  And there, at least - at last - the movie does not disappoint, throwing in some doozies, with five - count Ďem Ė five Easter eggs before, during, and after the end credits.  They really didnít want the audience to leave til the rating placard popped up.  One Easter egg seemed promise that more substantial times will be ahead for the Guardians than this tiresome fluff, with the allusion to a new presence that brings the focus back to the Infinity Stones storyline.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 survives mostly on our affection for the characters we got to know in the first film, but without that introduction, itís a charmless slog with precious little of the freshness or audacity that made the original such a standout.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is not good, and itís not bad, but I wish it has been something.


~ The Lady Miz Diva

May 5th, 2017



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