Raleigh, N.C. — If you read my movie reviews a lot, you probably know that I have little patience for the Marvel Cinematic Universe or any other superhero movies. At this point, there’s very little any of those movies can do that I haven’t seen a million times before. And don’t tell me “oh you need to see Deadpool” or “You would really like Logan.” The only thing worse than predictable superhero movies are “adult” superhero movies.
We get it. The writers are aware of timely hashtags and memes.
The Guardians of the Galaxy franchise is different though. I like the first movie so much, that I had a lot of faith walking into my screener this week that Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 would not be another waste of my time. Dare I say, I was actually excited for a Marvel movie.
See, the first Guardians of the Galaxy is my favorite superhero movie because it isn’t a superhero movie. It is a clever, well-written comedy disguised as a story about a band of misfits that save the world. The movie has more in common with the original Ghostbusters than it does The Avengers.
Volume 2 opens with a fun, chaotic battle scene. Star Lord (Chris Pratt) and Gamora (Zoe Saldana) try to figure out the best way to defeat an octopus/slug monster, while Drax (former WWE superstar Dave Bautista) pulls out a pair of long knives and throws caution to the wind and Rocket (voiced brilliantly by Bradley Cooper) cracks wise. All this happens as Baby Grott (squeeeeeeee!) dances to ELO’s “Mr. Blue Sky.” From the first scene it’s clear that director James Gunn isn’t abandoning the formula that worked so well for the first movie.
Before we get back into recap, let’s talk about Baby Groot, because sweet fancy Moses, is that thing adorable! I am neither dumb nor naive. This character only exists for Disney to move product. But look at those big eyes!
Who’s the best tree monster?
Yes you are!
Yes you are!
If we’re doing a quick power ranking of adorable things in 2017 movies, Baby Groot is one top of that list and #2 isn’t even close. For the record:
- Baby Groot (Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2)
- Baby snow leopards (Born in China)
- Forever puppies (The Boss Baby)
- Robin (The Lego Batman Movie)
- Matt Damon’s attempt at an English accent (The Great Wall)
Alright, enough of that. Back to recap.
Rocket steals some kind of very powerful batteries and makes a race of gold aliens called The Sovereign very angry. As our heroes are trying to escape, Kurt Russell shows up to shoot the Sovereign fighters out of the sky. The Guardians crash land and Russell follows them to tell Star Lord that he is his long-lost dad.
Drax, Gamora and Star Lord do a pretty cool superhero walk set to Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain,” board Space Russell’s ship, and head back to his home planet with Space Russell and his pet/slave Mantis (Old Boy’s Pom Klementieff).
Enough recap! Let’s talk about what was good and not so good about this movie. First, you should know that there are way more sex and weiner jokes in Volume 2 than in the original Guardians of the Galaxy. So many in fact, that I felt actual shame in bringing my 5 and 7 year olds along to the screening.
Also, Sylvester Stallone shows up for no real reason. He plays a role literally any character actor could have played. His presence adds nothing, but we do get to hear Sly say made up alien words, and that is just the best kind of comedy!
Finally, director James Gunn uses Baby Groot sparingly. Like I said, we all know that character exists solely to be made into a stuffed animal, so the temptation to use him as a smart ass Disney Channel tween, popping in at the end of every scene to raise an eyebrow and deliver a cocky one-liner must have been overwhelming. Granted, Groot as a character is a one-liner, but still he is kept off the screen for long enough stretches that when he does show up, internally you’ll shout “Oh boy! Baby Groot’s back!”
Visually, the movie is stunning. It is interesting to see the lush, obviously computer generated landscapes of Kurt Russell’s home planet. They look great, but so obviously artificial. There is a reason for that I won’t spoil, but what struck me is that they are in direct contrast to Disney’s other space franchise, Star Wars, which has made an effort to return to real sets as often as possible.
There is so much about Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 that holds up to the original. The only misstep is the inclusion of Nebula (Dr. Who’s Karen Gillian). She was the bald blue bad guy in the first movie. She is also Gamora’s sister, who was brought back in this movie for some family drama that ends in a hug. It’s a lame story and more important than that, it goes nowhere. The movie clocks in at 136 minutes. Surely it would have been fine to cut this.
What makes Guardians of the Galaxy so unique in a world full of the same movie being rewritten over and over again for guys that fight crime in SCUBA suits is how well the movie uses music. Suicide Squad is a glaring example of what not to do. Too much of the wrong music hurts the movie. But the right movie can elevate the music. I’m telling you, you will never hear Jay and the Americans “Come a Little Bit Closer” the same way after you see Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2.
Superhero movies are a dime a dozen. This summer we get new entries from Thor and the solo debut of Wonder Woman. I can already tell you what will happen in each of them. And don’t get me started on the Justice League movie due out this fall. I mean, genuinely, who gives a crap?
Guardians of the Galaxy is a funny and exciting franchise. The perfect antidote to superhero monotony. Eventually, Disney's plan is to tie their story to that of the Avengers and I am genuinely worried that the Avengers are going to undo everything that is currently great about Guardians of the Galaxy.
Demetri Ravanos is a member of the North Carolina Film Critics Association and has reviewed movies for Raleigh and Company, Military1.com and The Alan Kabel Radio Network. He can be heard weekday mornings from 6-10 on "The Morning Show with Mike, Lauren and Demetri" on Buzz Sports Radio.