By Zach Berman
Everyone who grew up in the 60’s or early 70’s remembers where they first saw Star Wars. Until 1976, space operas were unheard of, and were soon deemed revolutionary after George Lucas took the world back to a time long ago and a galaxy far, far away.
Time passed. The world needed a new space franchise to love like Star Wars, but who would have expected that the next Star Wars would star talking trees and raccoons? Not me, of course, but that’s exactly what’s in James Gunn’s 2014 smash Guardians of the Galaxy. Sure, you’d never heard of the comic that spawned the film, but by the end of 2014 you had memorized the funny quips and all the lyrics to Blue Swede’s “Hooked on a Feeling”.
I saw Guardians of the Galaxy in a dirty multiplex in Brooklyn, about a month after its’ release. Empty theater, but I laughed out loud and cheered like it was a Comic-Con premiere. This turned out to be the movie that turned me into a movie person, this was my calling card, the one that influenced me the most. So of course, I had to get my butt out to the theater ASAP to see the sequel, Vol. 2.
But first, expectations. Most sequels tend to be not as good as the originals, and even Marvel Cinematic Universe sequels are not exempt from that. I still remember how disappointing Avengers: Age of Ultron was, and because of that movie in particular, I went into Vol. 2 with about the lowest expectations that I had ever had for an MCU film.
So how is it that I walked out of the theater, knowing that this was A: better than the first Guardians? and B: possibly the best MCU movie of the bunch? Let me explain.
Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume 2 is currently the best MCU film (at least until Spider-Man Homecoming drops in July). Right when cynics started to believe that big-budget entertainment was becoming nothing more than money-sucking and soulless features, along comes this big, goofy, sloppy kiss of a movie.
`This is everything you could possibly ask for from a summer blockbuster; action packed, filled with compelling stories and characters, colorful, hysterically funny, emotional, I could go on and on.
So here is what you need to know. Director James Gunn is back at the helm (he wrote the screenplay as well) and he seems to know his characters better than himself at this point. Everybody is written so impeccably, from leading lad Peter Quill (the charming, snarky, perfect Chris Pratt) to assassin-turned-team player Gamora (Zoe Saldana, who never disappoints) to God-knows-what-he-is Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista, proving that athletes can still be great actors).
And then of course, you have the CGI players, headlined by the foulmouthed and condescending Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper), and if you thought that Vin Diesel was awesome voicing the talking tree, Groot, just wait until Mr. Diesel cranks up his helium consumption (I think?) to voice a younger version of the character.
The supporting cast is just as sparkling in this one, but the stand-outs are easily the blue-skinned, arrow wielding Yondu (Michael Rooker) and Ego (the reliable Kurt Russell), who claims to be Peter’s dad.
Now to get into the plot, which if I had one tiny criticism, takes a touch too long to get going. There is just a bit too much time spent quipping and making the audience pee in their pants laughing while they have no idea where the movie is headed. However, once you find out the direction that the movie is actually going in, everything makes sense and all is forgiven. Just another cog in Mr. Gunn’s master plan. It all starts with a creatively staged dancing Groot scene to the tune of ELO’s “Mr. Blue Sky.”
Then it involves stealing batteries, and planet hopping, and daddy issues aplenty, and you know what? That’s all I’ll say. Some things are just better left unsaid. Just have the first one fresh in your mind.
What I can tell you is that everything you loved about the first one is back in full-force. The colorful visuals and great effects, the laugh-a-minute script with jokes that almost always land (I can count on one hand the jokes that didn’t), and oh, the soundtrack. Or as Peter lovingly calls it, “Awesome Mix Vol: 2.” You have so many great hits that fit this film so well, and artists all over the fame spectrum are featured, with some of the more famous ones being Fleetwood Mac and Cheap Trick.
The music is used everywhere, for comedic and emotional effect, and it works so well every time. It gives the film such a different feel than any other type of movie, and just the combination of the nostalgic references (Pac-Man! David Hasselhoff! Mary Poppins! Cheers!) and great music make it just incredibly enjoyable. And of course, this is the MCU, so stay ‘till the very end.
Now, for the score. This is not an Oscar contender, but in terms of pure enjoyability, I can’t give this any less than a perfect score. This is the third straight movie in the MCU that I have given a perfect score. To really explain it, all I have to say, is when Marvel finds a way to stop knocking my socks off with these movies, I’ll stop finding ways to give them perfect scores. It’s as simple as that.
5 out of 5 stars