Reviews and entertainment articles by Dave Simpson
With so many people eagerly awaiting the return of the Guardians and a couple of captivating trailers doing the rounds for Spider-Man and Thor, it looked like the bigwigs at Marvel Studios were set to hit a homerun with the movies being released under their banner this year. And while that undoubtedly will be the case when it comes to box office returns, unfortunately the freshly forged fifteenth instalment in the ever expanding MCU is one of the company’s most mediocre offerings to date.
Written and directed by James Gunn, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 opens in the wake of Ronan’s defeat on Xandar and sees the titular team attempting to unravel the truth of Peter Quill’s parentage. On paper, this appears to be an appropriate avenue for the sequel to explore considering the extent to which its predecessor accentuated the enigma of Quill’s ancestry. However, an overreliance on juvenile jokes coupled with a distinct lack of character development prevents the movie’s main narrative from having any real emotional resonance.
Despite the fact that Quill’s quest to discover the specifics of his origins is the impetus of the plot, the self-professed Star-Lord spends the majority of the movie standing around doing very little and doesn’t demonstrate any genuine growth as a character. As far as Chris Pratt’s performance goes, the Parks and Recreation star utters the occasional one-liner and gets to shoot a gun every so often, but he seems extremely disinterested in almost all of the scenes in which he appears and by the time the credits roll, there’s no evidence that Quill’s experiences have affected him in any meaningful way whatsoever.
Star-Lord and Gamora’s much mentioned “unspoken” love for each other is also incredibly poorly developed. As in the original movie, we aren’t offered any actual reason as to why these two should be a couple other than the fact that they’re the male and female leads, resulting in one of the most forced and ineffective romantic subplots I’ve ever seen in a comic book movie. Gamora’s strained relationship with her adoptive sister is at least mildy more interesting than her romance with Star-Lord thanks to the intensity with which actress Karen Gillan imbues the part of Nebula, but like Pratt’s portrayal of Peter Quill, Zoe Saldana’s performance as Gamora is largely dull and listless.
To his credit, former WWE star Dave Bautista is clearly having a blast being back in Drax’s shoes. However, the script plays up the character’s proclivity for taking everything at face value to the point that all the redoubtable alien does is laugh loudly and make obnoxious comments at the most inappropriate of times. This quickly becomes monotonous and ultimately ends up sapping the poignancy out of a lot of scenes that are obviously supposed to be touching.
After spending most of the last movie dealing with his anger issues and learning to function as part of a team, Rocket actually seems to regress as a character here. The genetically engineered raccoon routinely displays unwarranted outbursts of rage and acts like a jerk to all those around him, the only discernible justification being that the director wanted to contrive a connection between Yondu and one of the original team members other than Star-Lord.
Speaking of which, Michael Rooker’s irreproachable performance as Yondu is by far the best thing about Guardians 2. The blue-skinned Ravager is the only character who’s given a genuinely gripping arc and his actions in the third act actually succeed in packing quite a powerful emotional punch. The narrative may revolve around the relationship between Quill and his father, but Yondu is the true heart and soul of this story.
The movie’s only other saving grace is, perhaps unsurprisingly, the amount of charm that Baby Groot manages to bring to the table. From inadvertently dancing his way through danger during the opening title sequence to the pivotal part he plays in the climactic battle, the undeniably adorable anthropomorphic tree is definitely the most fun facet of the film.
Then there’s Kurt Russell’s role as Quill’s father, Ego, who, despite being intriguing at first, is left feeling two dimensional and underdeveloped due to the jarringly abrupt turn his arc takes in the second act and its even more sudden resolution.
Character criticisms aside, the special effects are unquestionably stunning and all of the action is characteristically colourful and quirky. However, most of the major space battles are completely devoid of tension and suspense by virtue of the fact that they’re largely facilitated by Sovereign ships which aren’t affiliated with the movie’s main antagonist.
Other than asserting that Nebula upstages her sibling, Yondu and Baby Groot are enjoyable to watch and the CGI is well-rendered, there really isn’t a whole lot I can compliment about Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. Its humour is badly balanced, its protagonists are poorly developed and its set-pieces are all style and no substance. These issues combined with an uninspired narrative and perfunctory performances from Pratt and Saldana results in a decidedly insipid chapter in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
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