By Jim Scroggs
May 8, 2017
@JHScroggs on Twitter and Instagram
Showtime, A-Holes!!! Your favorite band of misfits from across the galaxy are back so let's not waste a second and dive right into what they have to offer in Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume 2
What I liked
Chris Pratt seemingly gets better and better with every second of screen time he gets. He really is the leader of this team and whether it's the chemistry with Gamora and their almost kiss or the tense situation he had with Rocket as they were getting away from The Sovereign, which caused them to crash land onto a planet, he's really a major piece of the entire MCU and I can't think of anyone else who could have done this role justice. There are 2 other major spoilers regarding Star Lord but those will come later on in this review.
Gamora had a much better arc in this film with her sister Nebula than in the first and that's what I was hoping to get. They pick up Nebula from The Sovereign as a reward for a job they did in the opening credits and I already thought Nebula was going to be a thorn in the side for the team when I walked in but I was pleasantly surprised when she really opened up about her sisterly rivalry. As we all know, Gamora is a warrior and extremely competitive so when Thanos would have them fight each other, Gamora always won. But what was a surprise to me was that Nebula would get dismantled, body part by body part and it was never enough to beat Gamora. Gamora was trying to win and all Nebula wanted was a sister. That was exactly what I wanted in trying to get to the back story of those two and I'm glad Zoe Saldana and Karen Gillan delivered in their performances.
Drax, played by Dave Batista, had a really great partner in this film to work off of and that was Mantis, played by Pom Klimentieff. Both of them were the perfect match for each other, especially when Drax would describe how he met his wife, his daughter and how he really felt on the inside. Pom really did a great job of channeling those emotions as she was playing an Empath and I really felt like she sold those emotional changes that the characters were going through. I think Drax was trying to flirt with her at one point, calling her ugly on the outside, but much like my flirting skills in high school and college, they weren't that effective. There's a scene during the final battle and Drax is clearly trying to save her from being swallowed up and he really sold his feelings toward her at the end of the film when he called her beautiful. It was really heartfelt so I hope they develop that relationship more in the next film.
Rocket really had a great dynamic with Yandu, which started when Yandu tried to capture the team to prove that he was the true leader of the Ravagers. They both ended up captured after Yandu gets his fin shot off by Nebula and watched some of his ravager friends be killed by Taserface from being exposed to the elements of space. In fact, that was a really pivotal scene to set up something that I'll get to in a second. Rocket and Yandu spend a little time together in a cell, get to know each other and once they get out, that leads to a great scene with the sounds of "Come a Little Bit Closer" from Jay and The Americans involving Yandu using a new fin and taking out every single ravager with his arrow. Before they escape the soon to be exploding ship, Rocket and Yandu have an argument about why Rocket does what he does. Yandu then points out that they are the same and it's a very tense and emotional moment. We've all had that experience when someone calls us out like that and both actors performed it amazingly. Later on, when the final battle is taking place, Rocket knows that Yandu is about to take one for the team and you can see it, even in the CGI eyes of the raccoon, that he really cares for him.
Kurt Russell as Ego was better than I thought. His chemistry with Chris Pratt really sold me that they could be father and son so kudos to the both of them for delivering a great performance between the two. I liked how simple they made the connection between Ego being a life force or a God if you will that was able to manifest himself into any form he chose. Peter asked him why he left his mom but Ego's response was when I went back, I knew I'd have to leave so it was too painful. They even had a "catch" by using a ball of light, which did cause me to think of Field of Dreams for a second but after that scene, I was sold completely about how good of a guy this character was and even thinking he really cared about Meredith Quill. Turns out, I was wrong. Gamora sensed something was off and in fact, walked in on Mantis almost telling Drax the truth of Ego's plan. Ego's plan was to evolve and use as many different species as possible across the galaxy. All of the previous attempts failed, except for one and that was Peter. He knew he needed Peter to help with his plan so in order to get him away from his mother, Ego gave Meredith the tumor that killed her. That was the first time I've heard a gasp that loud in a theater before. Peter in a fit of rage, shoots Ego multiple times and Ego tries to calm him down by morphing into David Hasselhoff. I know, I was just as shocked as you were. Once Ego has Peter in his energy grasps, Ego destroys his Walkman.
Baby Groot really was as adorable as I thought he would be. The two moments that really got me were when Rocket and Yandu were trying to get out of their cell and they send him to try to get Yandu's bigger fin. That leads to Groot bringing back underwear, a desk and even someones thumb. We all saw when Rocket was trying to explain how the remote worked and how Groot ran away. We were all expecting him to set the bomb off immediately but he actually hit the right button so I was actually somewhat surprised and that shows you how into this movie I was. At the same time, the team is fighting Ego and when everyone is in some sort of predicament, Yandu yells to Peter for some inspiration and that leads to rock formation Ego flying at a Pac-Man formed Star Lord. It was just as awesome as you'd think it was but once the bomb goes off and kills Ego's core, he dissolves and everything around the team. This is what surprised me. Yandu grabs Peter, tells him to hold on and flies off of the surface. As they get higher and higher, my mind gets sent back to the ravager mutiny and how all of them died in space. It's at that moment, and when Peter did too, that I realized that Yandu was about to die. Peter lost his helmet earlier in the battle and he couldn't do anything about it. Yandu tells him that Ego may have been his father, but I was your daddy. Scenes of them from the last 25 years or so flash across the screen and it's a great performance from Michael Rooker in that moment with his son. The funeral of Yandu includes him being decorated with little trinkets from his control console, Chris Pratt giving a great send off speech, the amazingly bright ravager funeral/celebration of his life and Sean Gunn has a nice little tribute moment to his captain. Stallone's first scene with Yandu hinted at him not being worthy for a true ravager funeral but he did come back to honor his fallen friend. During that funeral, Drax finally opens up to Mantis, Baby Groot acts like an actual baby being passed around the group in a sweet fashion and Gamora might have realized that Star Lord is the person she's supposed to be with so I really hope they continue that in Volume Three.
I noticed something early on when the film started in Missouri and was dated 1980 with Ego and Meredith Quill. We see Ego driving around the Missouri countryside with Meredith singing "Brandy and after that sequence, "34 years later" flashes on the screen and that got me thinking. This film probably takes place during the events of Avengers: Age of Ultron. I don't think that's a huge plot hole going forward with Infinity War but that's where I'm placing the events of this movie.
The post-credits scenes were a mix of fun and advancing the Guardians story. The first one is of Kraglin trying to control Yandu's arrow with his fin and he ends up stabbing Drax with it. Peter walks into now teenage Groot's room while he's playing a video game of some sort and telling him to clean up his room. That was a really nice touch. Sylvester Stallone gets another moment and it appears his rounding a new group of ravagers, which includes Ving Rhames, so I really hope he's in the next film. We see Ayesha completely distraught that her people were defeated by the Guardians that she has a plan to create a super being/weapon to take down our favorite group. A pod is shown and she say she will call it, Adam. That's a reference to Adam Warlock, who was confirmed to appear in the Volume 3 by James Gunn a few days before the film's release. Finally, we see Stan Lee in a space suit talk to The Watchers as they walk away. He says that he's got so many stories left to tell.
Some other little things that should be mentioned are an appearance from Howard the Duck who is played by Seth Green, Kraglin gives Peter a gift from Yandu which was a Zune. Yes, you read that right and a bit of a confession, I had one for a short time so whatever credibility I have is officially gone. There was even a Thor Easter Egg with Jeff Goldblum in the credits of the very disco song which featured David Hasselhoff.
Not so much
This is going to be short because there were only a few things that I would have done to change it. I don't think the soundtrack was as great as the first film.I feel like the opening sequence with the team fighting the squid monster but more focusing on Baby Groot was a tad off. It seemed to drag on at a time or two and yes, having him interact with Gamora, waving like an innocent child was pretty funny but compared to the amazing sequence that Chris Pratt had in the previous film, this was a tad underwhelming. I thought TaserFace wasn't as imposing as a villain because all he really did was lead a mutiny and he basically was an opportunist to what Sylvester Stallone's character pointed out early to Yandu. He took a ship over and killed some of the ravagers which did help the story but I feel like he wasn't that imposing, especially when Rocket and another member of the Sovereign laughs in his face at his name. I also feel like some of the jokes didn't land or maybe a few things could have been shorter. One that comes to mind was when Baby Groot was handed a patch by Yandu as a hint to find his fin. Groot could reacted sooner to giving it back to Yandu but it's so small that it doesn't take away how I reacted to the sequence.
Overall, I think this was just as good as the first film and in some ways, a little bit better. I'm glad that we saw the relationships among the team evolve, especially in life or death situations. I've only seen it once but I will probably remedy that very soon. I can't wait to see how this group is brought over into Avengers: Infinity War and even past that into Volume Three but I definitely put this is the tier of Iron Man, Avengers, Guardians, Captain America: Winter Solider and Civil War.
Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 is in theaters now