'Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2': I am the fox you've been waiting for
Seeing as how the the last time I reviewed a Guardians of the Galaxy movie, I spent an inordinate amount of time talking about biases, it's only fair that I cope with the fact that I might have had a bit of a bias against this movie.
I don't know if people are aware of this fact, but I really like foxes. Like, a lot. Just letting you know.
Now, the thing is, Guardians of the Galaxy features the character of Rocket, who is a raccoon, and not a fox. So, you see where I might have a problem. It's not a big deal; raccoons are cool and all, but they're not, well, foxes. This is a personal hangup, I try not to let it affect things too much, but full disclosure here. I mean, science has proven foxes are magic. Just saying. I watched a YouTube video and everything, so you can take that to the bank.
But the thing is, this movie features a running gag in which the character Nebula (Karen Gillan) keeps mistakenly referring to Rocket as a fox, which is funny, I guess, if you're not a vulpephiliac who is constantly being reminded how much more awesome this movie would be if featured Rocket the fox instead of Rocket the raccoon. I mean, this is a deep ditch the movie has to dig itself out of for this reviewer.
After that revelation, if you feel you can't take this reviewer's opinions on this movie seriously, well, I understand. But, if you're willing to give me the benefit of the doubt, by all means, please enjoy the following review of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. II.
This movie features the titular band of cosmic superheroes known as the Guardians of the Galaxy; Peter "Star Lord" Quill (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax (Dave Bautista), Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) and Groot (voiced by a heavily synthesized Vin Diesel). Who they are, how they got together and ended up being called the Guardians of the Galaxy was established in the first movie; if you haven't seen that movie yet, you should get on it. Seriously, like right now; it was spectacular. It should be noted that the Groot in this movie is both essentially the same character, and essentially different; he's listed as "Baby" Groot in the credits.
Joining this group are three new members; two are returning from last movie, where they had supporting roles. Nebula (who was never a member of the comic Guardians) is the adopted "sister" of Gamora; they were both trained to kill by arch villain Thanos (who doesn't actually appear in this movie) as his "daughters". Having escaped from his clutches last movie, she's still got a grudge against Gamora, and begins the movie as the Guardians' prisoner. Yondu (played by Michael Rooker, Yondu is the only "classic" comic team member; all other characters come from the more recent "rebooted" comic team), is a member of the space pirate group known as the Ravagers; he originally abducted Peter from Earth, which means he is actually not welcome within in the larger Ravager community, as kidnapping children is frowned upon in that group's code. Nebula was an outright villain last movie, while Yondu occupied a morally grey area; however, redemption from near or outright villainy is a running theme throughout both movies, so they soon find common ground with the Guardians, and vice versa.
The third new member is Mantis (Pom Klementieff), an alien with antenna and very wide pupils, as well as the ability to empathically read other people's emotions and even manipulate said emotions, though in practical terms, this means she has the ability to put people to sleep. She uses this ability to help another new character who winds up being very important; Ego the Living Planet (Kurt Russell). Though not a new member of the Guardians, he is Peter's biological father. He's also, in his own words, a god. Small "g". But a god.
Rather than outlining the plot, which gets very easy to spoil very quickly (the whole "Kurt Russell is Chris Pratt's father" thing is revealed in the first scene, so don't get angry about that, spoiler-phobes), and is also pretty predictable in the wide swaths (in the details, not so much), I think it's better to just go into themes.
Director and writer James Gunn has a trick of making movies way less cynical than they first appear. In one earlier movie, a couple is introduced consisting of an older, richer man and his young, attractive wife, and then a scene where the protagonist speculates the obvious, only to find out the couple is together because they love each other. This is not a throwaway bit, either. The movie's plot hinges on the fact that their love for each other is genuine. Likewise, in the first Guardians movie, we are led to believe Rocket's relationship with Groot is based on the smaller but smarter Rocket taking advantage of the big dumb Groot for use as "muscle" in his criminal enterprises. Seeing as how in this movie, the much reduced Groot is now the one who perches on Rocket's shoulders, it is clear that the cynical take, like in his earlier movies, is not necessarily the correct one.
Family is stressed repeatedly. At one point or another, all of the major Guardians are revealed to have lost families, suffered monstrously at the hands of parental figures, or both. They are shattered as individuals (literally, in at least three cases), but together, they're a family. Drax says this. And, if you remember the first movie, he doesn't do metaphors. So, it's bit blunt, but it's there.
In case you somehow were unaware, the Guardians of the Galaxy movies are a part of the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe. This movie is pretty disconnected from that, however, which is to it's advantage. 2014 was pretty much the high water mark; between the original Guardians movie and Captain America: Winter Soldier, it's all been downhill. Ant-Man has been the best MCU movie since. That's a problem. But, ironically, the sequel to Winter Soldier, Civil War, was the nadir; a movie about "heroes" who hate each other so much they can't even go through an entire movie without violently trying to kill each other. Who wants to watch that?
The characters in Guardians of the Galaxy are really messed up, yet they learn to work together and save not just the galaxy, but the entire universe this time. The characters in Civil War are Olympian ideals who can't even save their own world because they're too busy trying to punch each other in the face. The Marvel universe is a world of gods and monsters; this movie reminds you how little that "g" can be.
And to thank the big "G" for the monsters, sometimes.
A few notes and summations, before I go. This movie has an odd sense of humor. I have tried to hint at that humor with that odd introduction. If that worked for you, the movie's humor should work.
I saw this movie in 3D as the regular was sold out. 3D is terrible. Do not see this movie in 3D. The plot, characters and humor will pull you through, but the visuals (which are also great) suffer.
Finally, the weird title is a song lyric from The Runaway's Cherry Bomb that was played in the first movie. It's also a play on the fact that this is the first review I've done since returning to Flayrah, and is therefore has little to do with this movie, and more to do with my ego.