Friday, May 5, 2017

“Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” - And the streak is no more (or, It’s a Trap!).

Well, it had to end sometime. Marvel was on amazing streak of great movie after great movie, but nothing goes on forever. Kind of like United States’ good standing in the world, but that’s a discussion for another time. Back in 2014, we all wondered how a movie featuring a raccoon and a talking tree could possibly be anything more than childish, mindless entertainment, and we were shocked to find out how much fun that could be with just the right mix of chemistry, writing, and directing. Everything in that movie clicked. Three years later and expectations are through the roof because we’ve been spoiled. Dance, acting monkeys, DANCE! But you’re not worried, right? We were wrong to be suspicious of the first Guardians of the Galaxy, we were wrong to be pessimistic of Ant-Man, and Doctor Strange? Pshh. It had Benedict Cumberbatch and Tilda Swinton, let’s not be absurd; that movie was a tee-ball. By now, we’re Atlanta Braves fans in 2006. Fourteen years in a row making the playoffs and the division is a joke. Of course they’ll make the playoffs again. Like I said, all streaks end.

I don’t know if it’s just because Marvel got cocky or complacent, especially with DC continuing step all over itself, but everything that went right in the first Guardians failed miserably in Volume 2, and it’s very easy to find a culprit because nearly everybody returned for the sequel. James Gunn directed both, Kevin Feige produced both, and all of the actors are back. The difference lies in - surprise, surprise - the writing. The first flick was co-written by James Gunn (also directing both movies) and Nicole Perlman, whereas the second is only credited to Gunn. Considering both movies feature big action and juvenile comedy, but only the second feels like an episode of the Three Stooges featuring SpongeBob Squarepants, I’m going to go out on a limb and blame Gunn for this lousy sequel. It felt like two hours of dudes fucking around on a film set for two-plus hours and calling it a movie.

Son - do you want to have a catch?

(SPOILERS, not that it really matters. Nothing of consequence is in this movie. I’ll explain.)

The big trap to avoid with sequels is to not rehash the first movie or overdo or exaggerate elements that made the first movie great. Think every comedy sequel you’ve ever seen. Other traps to avoid are retconning your characters (like when Jobu-worshipping, chicken-sacrificing, scowling Pedro Cerrano in Major League inexplicably became a happy-go-lucky Buddhist in the sequel) and telling the same jokes. Guardians 2 belly flops into all of those traps, stands back up, then falls on the traps it missed the first time.

For starters, the movie doesn’t propel the Infinity Wars storyline at all. AT ALL. There’s one tiny reference during the end credits, but it’s so obscure that only uber-comic book nerds would get it. This movie’s plot is “hey, remember when Yondu said Quill’s dad was a prick at the end of the first movie? What if we made a whole movie about that, but stop writing any more than that because we can just throw music and dick and poop jokes out for the rest of the film?” What’s worse is that you will spend most of the movie wondering when they are going to get to anything resembling a point. For roughly ninety minutes, it’s just Peter Quill’s (Chris Pratt) dad, Ego (Kurt Russell), trying to bond with Peter while the rest of the characters bicker and occasionally fight with something or someone while Drax (Dave Bautista) loudly laughs at everything and baby Groot wanders around being cute. It’s funny because he’s a baby. Baby Groot. Get it? If you were eight years old you’d get it.

Awwwwwww. Look at the wittle bittie Groot.

Of course, during that entire ninety minutes, you’re waiting for Ego to reveal how much of a dick he is because the last movie already told you as much. And that’s a long time to wait, so here’s what you have to put up with. For reasons that have nothing to do with creativity, Yondu (Michael Rooker) and Nebula (Karen Gillan) are heavily featured. What’s that? You loved those characters; what’s wrong with them being in the sequel? Well, like Maleficent and the Wicked Witch of the East, they’re really good guys, they’re just misunderstood and had bad childhoods. Fuuuuuuck. Why can’t evil characters just be evil? Not everyone is misunderstood. Yes, I know Yondu revealed a slight soft spot in the first film, but do you really want to see him near tears because another Ravager shunned him? Besides Yondu, you can watch Drax and Gamora (Zoe Saldana) rarely use their fighting skills and Drax over-laugh at everything while simultaneously insulting people because he doesn’t understand metaphors. Remember how funny that was in the first movie? Double-down on that four, Mr. Blackjack dealer.

But don’t worry! Baby Groot, everyone! You loved him dancing in that little pot at the end of the first film, so here’s a truckload of baby Groot’s YouTube channel while you watch Nebula bear her soul about just wanting a sister (as she sheds a single tear) and Peter and Ego playing catch with a ball of light on Ego’s planet (a planet that looked like Willy Wonka’s fever dream after a hit of bad acid). Oh my god, folks, the Champ is down.

You're mailing it in. No, you're mailing it in.

My friend described the movie very well as “slap-sticky”, and I agree with that assessment. My other friend said he was entertained, but would not defend the movie. But more than that, the charm and heart of the first movie wasn’t just missing from this sequel, but ripped out of its body and laughed at because Drax said it looks like a penis. Or a turd. I can’t remember which, but they did talk about those two things a lot in the movie. I also think the actors knew this movie sucked. All of the chemistry was gone and they looked like they were mailing everything in, content to let Kurt Russell Wyatt-Earp his way through his scenes. It was almost as if every character/actor was really a doppleganger created by the aliens from Galaxy Quest after they watched the first movie.

You might think I hated this movie, but you’d be wrong. What I am is severely disappointed. The movie isn’t terrible, but it also doesn’t have any redeeming qualities and gets very tedious at points. It doesn’t even do a good job of using music (or even using good songs) like the first movie did. Mostly, it’s just uninteresting. It’s a movie aimed directly at eight-year olds and selling you baby Groot dolls…and that is why the streak is over.

Rating: Ask for eight dollars back and don’t act so smug, DC fans, your streak is still intact. You’re oh-for-three with three embarrassing whiffs so far.

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