Box Office Democracy: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is an amazingly charming movie. The characters they’ve constructed over these two movies are each a delight. There’s an infectious camaraderie that makes it feel like it must be the best movie set to work on the there ever was. The infectious joy and prodigious joke density easily carries a slightly disjointed script through the murky bits. I don’t need everything to make sense or even be particularly important as long as I’m having fun and the rest of the theater is having fun. There aren’t many movies more infectiously fun than Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.
There are two separate stories being told in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. In one Star-Lord meets his father, Ego the Living Planet (Kurt Russell), and goes to his home planet (or his self? There’s nothing in the MLA rules about this) along with Gamora and Drax. Why do Gamora and Drax come with him? It would appear to balance the crew between the two stories because both of them barely interact with this story from the time they land on the planet until the third act. In the other story, Rocket Racoon and Groot are captured by Ravagers and are going to be turned in for some sort of bounty involving stolen batteries. This storyline is mostly about making baby Groot jokes and having people mistake Rocket for another kind of rodent. It eventually hooks back up with the rest of the crew— not because it needs to, but more because they’re done. These plots are not grand adventures in storytelling but rather a frame for character moments and jokes and they’re just fine for that, but I think they deserve to be called out for being a bit sparse.
The Guardians are such wonderfully distinct characters though. Drax’s laugh is the glue that holds the first half of the movie together. It isn’t what I thought would happen to the Drax character on the big screen, but he’s basically all comedy at this point with little action in sight. Bradley Cooper is never going to get any recognition for this, but he’s doing fabulous work as Rocket. He imbues a lot of humanity in to a character it would be so easy to not take seriously. Rocket has a tearjerker of a line near the end that could easily fall flat. The best scene in the whole film is between Gamora and Nebula talking about their familial relationship. I never thought it would be believable to transition Nebula to the side of the Guardians after all the bad blood in the last movie and they accomplish it in three lines. It’s the best scene between two women in any Marvel movie and I understand I’m not setting a particularly high bar. It’s high now.
James Gunn has made a great looking movie. There are so many shots with so much going on and they’re especially fun to take in in 3D. There’s this concerted effort to have stuff going on in the background of shots and it’s a great way to sneak stuff in. It looks an awful lot like a 1970s cosmic comic book. I wouldn’t say Kirby-esque, I think we’re too liberal with Kirby-esque, it doesn’t look like Jack Kirby drew it but it looks an awful lot like Walter Simonson and that’s no slight. The sequence that caps off the Rocket Racoon plot is the best of the whole film, it’s a great bit of elaborate camera work and fun violence. The climax of the main plot is a little less impressive if only because there are a lot of supposed to be dramatic moments of people facing down grey goo. Grey goo is not that scary.
Go see Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. It’s a great time. Get a big popcorn and a smaller drink (it’s a very long movie) and just enjoy being in an air conditioned room with other people having a good time. My wife remarked that the emphasis on family and reforming some former adversaries makes this Guardians feel like a step toward transitioning to a sort of Fast & Furious in space thing. I agree, and there’s nothing I would rather see from Marvel than something that leans so in to that kind of joy and absurdity. I hope they can do it.