REVIEW: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
It’s been such a long, dreary summer at the movies that it’s hard to believe the season started with such promise in early May with the release of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 which was a well-deserved box office smash.
A good sequel preserves the best of the original but expands the mythos, explores something new and enhances the experience. A bad sequel merely repeats the original’s beats and goes through the motions. Thankfully, Marvel Studios understands the difference and works to make each installment in a franchise something fresh.
In the case of James Gunn, he saw early on how special and different Guardians of the Galaxy was going to be and knew how to go further with the sequel, reportedly beginning writing it before the first opened. Gunn brought the disparate members — Star Lord (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax (David Bautista), Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper, motion capture by Sean Gunn), and Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) – together and turned them into a family.
Family weighs heavily on the team as we pick up months later in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 as Star Lord gets to meet his father, Ego (Kurt Russell), Gamora is hunted down by her foster sister Nebula (Karen Gillan), and Drax laments the absence of his daughter, opening up for the first time. The film, out now from Disney Home Entertainment, balances these threads against the galaxy once more hunting them down.
After all, the team is found taking jobs to pay their debts including rescuing extremely valuable batteries. However, their pay this time was not money but the surrender of Nebula. When Rocket steals property belonging to the Sovereign People, its leader, Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki), sends her army after them. The space battle results with them landing on Berhert, hunted by Yondu (Michael Rooker), now on the outs with the Ravagers. There, they meet Ego and Peter Quill finally can learn of his past.
What he finds is at first fascinating until he comes to recognize that his father may be powerful, but the eons of isolation also made him quite mad. Then comes a final revelation that pits father against son setting up the cosmic climax.
Everyone gets something to do and shows off how capable they are on their own, but of course, we see how much better they are when together as this is now their chosen family. We get to meet Ego’s “ward” Mantis (newcomer Pom Klementieff), an empathic innocent who forms an odd bond with Drax. Baby Groot, when not stealing every scene he is in, is another sort of innocent, eager to please, but still learning how to make the right decisions and with Rocket as his mentor, that’s not always a good thing.
In addition to Ayesha, we also get a glimpse of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s version of the original Guardians, here a band of Ravagers led by Sylvester Stallone’s Stakar Ogord; Michael Rosenbaum as Martinex, Ving Rhames as Charlie-27, Michelle Yeoh as Stakar’s female counterpart Aleta Ogord, Krugarr, and Mainframe (voiced by Miley Cyrus).
The humor and action quotients are high with the latter somewhat prolonged beyond necessity but overall, the film is very entertaining and a satisfying entry. It ends with some hints of the team’s eventual connection to next summer’s Avengers: Infinity War, but it stands strongly on its own.
The movie has been released in the latest iteration of the popular Combo Pack, now boasting 4K Blu-ray, Blu-ray, and Digital HD. A featureless DVD version remains available. The Blu-ray transfer is superb with sharp colors and retaining the rich rainbow of worlds and effects seen in the theater. Word elsewhere is that the 4K/HDR UHD, presented at 2160p is amazing. The Dolby Atmos soundtrack is equally impressive.
The Combo Pack comes with a 1970s’ style mini-poster that plays off one of the better special features. We get Gunn’s Visionary Intro (1:39) then the four-part Bonus Round: The Making of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2: In the Director’s Chair with James Gunn (8:36), Reunion Tour: The Music of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (7:37), Living Planets and Talking Trees: The Visual Effects of Vol. 2 (10:44), and Showtime: The Cast of Vol. 2 (10:41). Like the film itself, it is lightweight designed more to entertain than enlighten.
The highlight is the Guardians Inferno by The Sneepers(3:35) as David Hasselhoff and the cast remake a 1970s-era music video with cheesy edits, costumes, and video tape editing tricks that nicely recreates the feel. Clearly the cast, notably, Gillan, is having a blast. Look for the fun cameo at the end.
There’s the Gag Reel (3:41) and Deleted Scenes (5:04), featuring Adolescent Groot Extended, Memorial to the War on Xandar, Kraglin and Quill Talk Tunes, and Mantis and Drax Feel the Sadness Extended.
Finally, there’s Gunn’s Audio Commentary.