Nick Cabelli for Cinetalk.net
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is a swashbuckling PG-13 fantastical science fiction adventure, starring Chris Pratt [Jurassic World, Parks and Recreation] Zoe Saldana [Avatar, Star Trek], Kurt Russell [um this guy’s been in movies since the 195Os, let’s say The Thing, Captain Ron and Death Proof] and an ensemble cast of dancing trees and talking rodents, written and directed by James Gunn [Guardians of the Galaxy, Dawn of the Dead]. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 delivers on its faux-mix tape title, giving audiences what they want in a film which can be considered either as an expansion on the characters and themes of the first movie or a total rehash. Either way, the result is a sparkly, glistening 3D-enabled space romp adventure with more personality than a dozen big grim movies.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 relies heavily on characters and story arcs established in the first film, and a newcomer to the franchise TM might be left in the dark if indeed the details of the earth-life of some sassy quipper named ‘Star Lord’ are all that relevant to the popcorn munching experience. A wafer-thin plot is armature to hang big action set pieces and moments of humour between interesting characters, and in its self-aware, ironic tongue-in-cheekness Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is a charming sci-fi adventure in the vein of a 198Os Saturday morning cartoon show [which the Disney/Marvel pre-movie trailers will remind you, actually now exists.]
It may be a matter of taste, but for my money Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is an altogether overly violent, overly dramatic affair. Moments of genuine charm between a wonderful assortment of strange space-fantasy characters are drowned out by endless shootouts and slow-motion space murder, pre-murder posing or post-murder flexing. Dramatic tension is superficial, arbitrary and unearned. ‘Emotional’ moments are awkwardly stapled onto the thin plot, and are almost laughably tone-deaf, describing character arcs through intensely dumb dramatic, expositional dialogue. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 would have been immeasurably better had it left the emotional drama to Terrance Malik and stuck to blue pirates and super-smart squirrels engaged in witty banter. It is also a long film, dragging for the last 4O mins or so, mired in pointless action and tone-deaf emotions.
Ultimately though, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 has so much personality, charm and does so many things right that it’s hard to be down on it. Yes, it participates in the very core of the takeover of cultural production by some ungodly triangulation of nostalgia, postmodern self-reflexivity and the transition of commodity capitalism to the experience economy; and yes, at the same time it represents the apex of the transmediated cultural product, at once remake, sequel, prequel, and the source of so many action figures, pop cultural expressions and licensed objects-to-be, and if I was between 10 and 15 I’m sure I’d want Guardians of the Galaxy bedsheets. For 2+ hours Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 creates an immersive and spectacular experience, and so far as entertainment goes that’s a fine thing for a flick to do.