Main Cast: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana
Director: James Gunn
I have been told that I will be well enough to return to Chateau Maine by the end of the week. My roiling insides have been tamed by take out from The Ivy and Pink’s hot dog stand and all my little lab numbers are coming into their proper relationships. The particularly noxious food poisoning from which I have been suffering has been beaten back. I have a sneaking suspicion that the source was a fruit basket and bottle of Gewürztraminer courtesy of that witch, Angela Arden, who had been my co-star in a recent theatrical project. I am not going to dignify it with a name after reading the review in The Pacoima Herald. It declared Ms. Arden a shimmering star in the theatrical firmament and lauded her performance with praises that should have been mine. Ah well, that’s show biz and I’m sure a new and even more exciting project will soon drop in my lap.
As if on cue, Leah, head of my consumer products division, came by with a basket of mail, faxes and memos that had come in while I was indisposed. Most of it was pure dross. No matter my recent gastric distress, I am not becoming the celebrity spokesperson for Tuck’s medicated pads. I’m also going to turn down the invitation to be the warm up act for some sort of torchlight parade being organized by some group called alt-light or some such. MNM is always, to coin a phrase, the Maine Event. I was pleased, as I got to the bottom of the pile, to notice that the sales figures for Lesterene beauty products have had solid increases over the last three quarters. There’s enough money flowing through the business at the moment to redo the sales website out of its current Myspace host into something a bit more up to date. Leah’s going to get right on finding someone tech savvy to make that happen.
I was feeling a bit fatigued so I left the scripts for a later perusal and then decided what I needed to regain some energy was a film with an awesome mix tape soundtrack, so Leah poured us a couple of sloe gin fizzes out of the flask she had cleverly strapped to her thigh (the nursing staff can be such sticklers for rules) and we put on the DVD for Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 which Normy had brought me off the New and Notable rack from the A-V department of the local Pic and Save. I had enjoyed the first film quite a bit so I was looking forward to the further adventures of Star Lord, Rocket Racoon, Groot, and the rest of the gang. I was not disappointed.
Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 opens with the courtship of Peter Quill’s parents, Meredith (Laura Haddock) and the alien spaceman later to be known as Ego (Kurt Russell aged down 35 years or so thanks to some great CGI work by the special effects team). We then fast forward to present day where Peter (Chris Pratt) and the rest of his Guardians gang including Gamora (Zoe Saldana covered in green body paint), Drax (Dave Bautista covered in latex scars and blue body paint), the little sproutling Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel), and the genius raccoon Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) are trying to rescue Gamora’s sister Nebula (Karen Gillan in Avatar blue body paint) from a planet of gold plated video game players led by Elizabeth Debicki, who seems to be channeling a combination of Tilda Swinton and Gwendoline Christie. There’s some plot about stolen batteries, a battle with a large space monster that spews space body fluids everywhere and eventually our gang is on the run, crash landing their ship on a nearby planet. All seems lost until they are rescued by the sudden appearance of an unknown ship, crewed by the powerful being Ego (Kurt Russell) who, as we have already been told, is Peter Quill’s long-lost father along with his companion, Mantis (Pom Klementieff), who appears to be the result of a cross between human and slug DNA. Meanwhile, Yondu (Michael Rooker in more blue body paint – there must have been a special), the head of the Ravager group that raised Peter to adulthood after the death of his mother and has since fallen on hard times, heads after Peter at the behest of the gold-plated people in hopes of monetary gain. Sylvester Stallone shows up in an extended cameo as another Ravager leader for no particular reason. Peter heads off with his new-found dad to his home world while Rocket stays behind to deal with the Ravagers. There are more battles, revelations as to the nature of Ego, and eventually Peter begins to learn the nature of what it means to be a father and the responsibilities that come along with the role as the Guardians gather together to battle evil and save the universe.
Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 has been made with great care and the positives outweigh the negatives. As it’s a sequel (and a third is promised in a few years), it doesn’t have the capacity to surprise the way the first one did with its highly improbable crew of heroes. We come into this film knowing that Rocket Raccoon is a genius and that Yondu actually has a good heart under his general bad-assery. Fortunately, writer/director James Gunn doesn’t fall into the usual trap of making the same film again, only with bigger explosions and more exaggerated laughs. He extends his universe, allows his characters to grow and mature in different ways and uncovers new motivations that make sense given their overall arc from the first film through this one. Star-Lord must grapple with who he actually is and what his parentage means. Gamora and Nebula must deal with their half-sibling rivalry. The best choice was leaving Groot, who was destroyed and resprouted at the end of the first film, as a baby seedling. He becomes comic relief with an edge. (The ultimate payoff is in a post credits scene so be sure and stick around for it). Gunn also paces the film well. It never flags and he makes sure it ricochets off in a new direction any time it feels like it might start running out of gas.
While Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 is part of the Marvel cinematic universe, it feels removed from most of the superhero franchise, given its outer space sci-fi milieu. The swagger and panache and somewhat goofy humor that pops up makes it a closer relative to Star Wars with its over the top aliens, non-human side kicks and Peter Quill is sort of a Han Solo manqué. The characters are being integrated with the more earth-bound superheroes in a forthcoming Avengers film but I’m not sure how well it’s going to gel. The world this motley crew lives in is futuristic and visually inventive (and the set design, art direction and CGI departments more than earn their salaries with their incredibly detailed aesthetics and their over the top settings for their over the top characters.) Will these characters work in a more mundane world or will they seem out of place? We’ll have to wait for Infinity Wars which is due out this next May.
I left Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 interested in where the franchise might go next and hoping that the next one escapes the curse of the trilogy where the third installment is often the weakest. In the meantime, if the Guardians need a new member with a killer triple time step, someone let James Gunn know I’m available.
Remote control arrow. Grasping space tentacles. Asteroid field chase. Gratuitous Howard the Duck. Short carpet. Lavish palace. Forest booby traps. Gratuitous Ben Browder. Belly laughing Drax.