Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017) ☆☆☆(3/4): A little less awesome this time

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“Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” is alternatively exhilarating and exhausting in its overstuffed mix of SF fantasy, action, and comedy. Like the previous film, the movie works best when it focuses on its colorful rogue characters, and there are a number of hilarious moments which elicit big laughs from me and other audiences around me in the screening room. However, it is also a bit tiresome due to its rather overlong plot and predictable narrative turns, and that aspect sometimes distracted me during my viewing, though I enjoyed the movie enough for recommendation.

Since their first adventure in “Guardians of the Galaxy” (2014), Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax (Dave Bautista), Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper), and Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) have been widely known as a team to hire for any big planetary/galactic problem, and the main title sequence shows them in the middle of their latest job. They must protect a bunch of precious energy batteries in a planet called the Sovereign, and their frantic battle with a gigantic monster effectively sets the offbeat tone of the movie with “Mister Blue Sky” by Electric Light Orchestra played on the soundtrack. Rather than focusing on the battle, the movie puts Groot’s cheerful dancing in the front to our amusement, and we can clearly see that the movie is willing to go for something different compared to many other run-of-the-mill superhero movies.

While their job is done well in the end, our main characters soon get themselves into a big trouble thanks to Rocket, who steals a few energy batteries before leaving the Sovereign. Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki), the haughty leader of the Sovereign, is certainly not so pleased about this thievery, and we accordingly get another busy action sequences featuring heaps of drones attacking the spaceship of our main characters. (The operation system of those drones is another amusing touch to be appreciated in the film, by the way).

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Not long after they manage to survive this attack and the subsequent crash on a nearby planet, they come across a mysterious guy who turns out to be none other than Quill’s father, who left Quill and his mother many years ago. Ego (Kurt Russell) wants to take his son to his planet where he lives alone with his sole companion Mantis (Pom Klementieff), and Quill surely wants to go there for getting to know more about his father.

Accompanied with Drax and Gamora, Quill goes to Ego’s planet, which looks like a galactic version of Shangri-La with its grand, wondrous sights including a huge palace where Ego and Mantis reside. Ego reveals to his son that he is a powerful ancient alien who is virtually immortal, and, as implied by the prologue scene between him and Quill’s mother, it looks like he wants more than a heart-to-heart conversation between father and son.

Meanwhile, Ayesha hires Yondu (Michael Rooker) for catching Quill and his comrades although there is a long history between Quill and Yondu. As depicted in the previous film, Yondu kidnapped young Quill for taking him to Ego, but he chose to have Quill under his protection instead of sending him to Ego, and, though Quill willfully left him and his bunch of alien outlaws later, Yondu still cares about Quill more than he admits on the surface.

From time to time, the screenplay by the director James Gun suffers from its uneven storytelling. The part involved with Ego’s planet does not have much surprise as being pushed to its obligatory climax sequence as expected, and I must point out that the father and son relationship presented in the movie is less complex and engaging than a similar relationship observed from Ang Lee’s underrated “Hulk” (2003). Fortunately, the other parts of the movie are more compelling in comparison for good reasons I will not reveal here, and they serve us with not only more humor and excitement but also the surprising depth shown from some characters in the film.

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It is constantly fun to see the comic interaction among the main characters of the movie, and the main cast members keep the movie bouncing via their undeniable chemistry on the screen. Since his breakthrough turn in TV sitcom series “Parks and Recreation”, I have appreciated Chris Pratt’s amiable screen presence, and he wields it with gusto as letting his co-stars having each own fun around him. While Zoe Saldana is effective as a no-nonsense counterpart to Pratt, David Bautista shows more of his comic talent as looking droller than before, and Bradley Cooper goes all the way for getting good laughs for us. In case of Vin Diesel, his voice performance is less substantial this time, but he will probably be more amusing in the next movie, considering one of the teaser scenes shown during the end credits.

In addition, the movie provides enough space for several notable supporting performers. Michael Rooker, whom I always remember for his chilling performance in “Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer” (1986), enjoys every juicy moment of his in the film, and his scene with a character played by Sylvester Stallone may remind you that they once played together a long time ago in “Cliffhanger” (1993). As he recently did in “The Fate of the Furious” (2017), Kurt Russell exudes his own B-movie sensibility which surely fits well to the film, and Pom Klementieff has several humorous scenes as a character who does not have much social skill despite her exceptional empathic talent. As Gamora’s resentful sister, Karen Gillan has more interesting things to do this time, Elizabeth Debicki is also solid during her few scenes while raising some expectation from us.

In my inconsequential opinion, “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” could be better. Its action sequences could be less choppy and frantic, and I still think it could be shortened further for more efficient storytelling. The overall result is a little less awesome than the previous film, but its cheerful spirit remains mostly intact at least along with the effective use of various pop songs from the 1970-80s, and I will not deny that I walked out of the screening with good feelings. To be frank with you, I am looking forward to enjoying the third volume now.

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