Review of "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (DVD)"

published 13/11/2017 | afy9mab
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All of my DVD reviews are film only, so do not include pricing information. If you have time, please read and rate my Batman V Superman review.
Super
Pro A great cast, lovely production design and a lot of laughs.
Cons It gets bogged down in daddy issues and there are some iffy effects.
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"Groot Expectations"

FILM ONLY REVIEW

Now known as saviours of the galaxy, Peter Quill and the crew of the Milano are hired by the powerful alien race known as the Sovereign to protect their precious batteries. But when their employers discover that Rocket Raccoon has stolen the items the team was meant to protect, the Sovereign dispatch their armada to retrieve them. While on the run, Peter discovers the truth about his parentage.

I loved the first “Guardians of the Galaxy” film, so going to see this one was a no-brainer for me. But one of the great things about the first movie was that it came with no expectations or preconceptions attached. The same is not true for the sequel, which has an awful lot to live up to. James Gunn does what many directors do in this situation – he opts for the “bigger is better” approach. So there is a bigger cast, in a bigger universe, with bigger battles and bigger effects-heavy sequences. The worlds presented on screen could have been ripped from the front cover of a 1970s’ science fiction novel. Ego’s home planet in particular is a candy-coloured cavalcade of kitsch that I wanted to reach out and touch. The Sovereign’s whole design aesthetic seems to have been based on the gilded lifts of Trump Tower, while a seedier world, inhabited by lowlifes and robot prostitutes is a hodgepodge of hastily cobbled together castoffs and glowing neon. The quality of the effects varies greatly. While a digitally de-aged Kurt Russell is uncanny to behold and baby Groot and Rocket are seamlessly inserted into their surroundings, there are other instances where you can clearly see the joins between reality and CGI. It seems an odd oversight in such a big budget production. The action sequences are slickly choreographed and performed, although the most memorable of them are those that employ comedy to puncture the seriousness of the events, such as Baby Groot obliviously dancing around to “Mr Blue Sky”, while the rest of the team fights a giant space squid behind him.

The storytelling suffers from the cinematic equivalent of “difficult second album syndrome”. It starts off well enough with hints about Star-Lord’s origins and a sarcastic smackdown with an inter-galactic octopus. But once Peter’s father is properly introduced, the film gets bogged down in everyone’s daddy issues. Splitting the team up into smaller groups also wastes the great dynamic developed in the first movie and causes the pacing to stutter a number of times, as we bounce from one pairing to another. The central plot thread about Star-Lord and co being chased across the galaxy by a race of snooty aliens, after stealing a random doo-hickey gets lost in the mix. There is still plenty of beautifully timed comedy, although the director has taken things to the extreme in places, when characters laugh at their own jokes or literally wink at the audience and a few gags go on far too long. Some of the nostalgic pop culture references can also be more miss than hit. However, the tone is less manic overall and sometimes lurches into navel-gazing and sentimentality. This would have been given short shrift in the first film, but is generally taken seriously here, leading to some weirdly syrupy moments that feel out of place. The way Gunn uses music in this film has also changed. In the original “Guardians of the Galaxy”, he often used 1970s rock as a humorous counterpoint to the action, but here he uses more obvious (and often slower) choices to underline the events, which can take some of the fun out of them or push them dangerously close to sentimentality.

Overall, I think the director is guilty of self-indulgence, from production design to celebrity cameos and the running-time, which feels a bit bloated at a-hundred-and-thirty-six minutes. He even goes as far as having not one, but FIVE end credits Easter eggs.

Gunn’s screenplay starts with a pretty simple premise (Rocket steals something he shouldn’t and the gang find themselves being chased across the galaxy by the object’s owners), but science fiction stories have hung on less. However, it then rapidly diverges into a story of people with damaged childhoods and unsuitable father figures. I understand the writer-director’s urge to make the film more character-driven because in general, the better the audience knows the characters, the more they care about them. But, this approach has the tendency to put the brakes on the anarchic action and frivolous humour, which is what made the first movie so much fun to watch. Gunn is also guilty of hammering home the idea that family is who you choose to make your life with rather than whose biology you share. Thankfully he doesn’t do it quite as clumsily as in the “Fast and Furious” movies (where someone seems to bellow the word every five minutes), but he does labour the point. The story also loses steam in the third act, before picking up again for the finale.

The characterisation is solid. Peter Quill/Star-Lord is a wannabe Han Solo, who is neither as cool, nor as smart as he thinks he is. In fact, he’s overgrown manchild, still haunted by his mother’s death and desperate for the father he never knew. He is completely led by his ego. But in spite of all of his shortcomings, he somehow manages to be sympathetic. Gamora is a kick-ass heroine, who doesn’t care what people think of her. Although she is Quill’s second-in-command, she feels a bit side-lined by the script in this outing. The Rocket and Groot partnership has shifted from that of best friends and partners in crime to that of ersatz parent and child, as Groot is now a mere stripling. Rocket is still wisecracking and devil-may-care, but he spends more time bonding with Yondu than plotting with his little twig friend. Baby Groot, meanwhile, is adorable and his frequent misunderstandings create comedy. Drax provides much of the comedy because of his shaky grasp of what is socially acceptable. Gamora’s cybernetically-enhanced half-sister Nebula gets a better crack of the whip this time round, as the villain in an uneasy alliance with the Guardians. As the name suggests, Ego is a cocky, self-absorbed kind of guy, who does what he wants whenever he likes, without ever thinking about the consequences, so it seems like Star-Lord is a chip off the old block. Mantis is a super-sensitive empath, who can read people’s feelings just by touching them. Yondu has more to do this time around, as he has to team up with the heroes. The Sovereign meanwhile are a bunch of gold-plated humanoids with a huge superiority complex. The dialogue is smart-mouthed and often snappy, although occasionally heavy-handed.

I like Chris Pratt as Peter Quill/Star-Lord because he combines charisma, but isn’t afraid of making a fool of himself, so he comes across as cocky but likeable. Zoe Saldana is a convincing action heroine as Gamora, although I felt she was short-changed by the script and didn’t have quite enough chemistry with Pratt. Dave Bautista steals the show as Drax – alternately deadpanning and hamming his way through the role of a man without irony coming to terms with social conventions. Bradley Cooper wisecracks his way through the film as the voice of Rocket. Baby Groot is adorable – acting in the unselfconscious way of a toddler, while still being voiced by a digitally tweaked Vin Diesel. A magnificently hirsute Kurt Russell plays Ego with an appealing twinkle in his eye and shares a decent dynamic with his on-screen son. Karen Gillan is marvellously dark as Nebula, with her head almost permanently cocked at a creepy bird-like angle. Michael Rooker gets a couple of decent memorable scenes as Yondu. Pom Klementieff is wonderfully naïve and childlike as Mantis. Elizabeth Debicki plays token baddie Ayesha as a glacial and imperious supremacist.

The original music by Tyler Bates features a lot of sweeping strings, soaring brass, epic choral arrangements and insistent percussion. It’s exactly what you’d expect from the score of a space opera. I absolutely adored the soundtrack for “Guardians of the Galaxy” (it still gets played on a regular basis in our house) as much for the way the music was used, as for the range of styles and performers. It combined big hits and lesser-known numbers to startling and often hilarious effect. But the latest mixtape-style collection features a lot of low- and mid-tempo tracks, which just didn’t entertain me in the same way. The likes of “Lake Shore Drive” by Aliotta Haynes Jeremiah, Glen Campbell’s “Southern Nights”, “Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl)” by Looking Glass, George Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord” and “Wham Bam Shang-A-Lang” by Silver all have a certain camp appeal, but don’t make me want to dance around or sing along like the tracks from the “Awesome Mix Vol 1”. There is also one of the most literal uses of Cat Stevens’ “Father and Son” I’ve ever seen. For me, the standout track was the upbeat “Come a Little Bit Closer” by Jay & The Americans because it was so different from the other musical choices. It isn’t a bad soundtrack by any means, but it didn’t quite live up to the first film.

For all of my niggles and complaints, I liked “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2”, but I didn’t love it. The direction is apt to be a little self-indulgent and the writing gets bogged down in daddy issues at the expense of fun. It also mistakes character development for personality, which is what made the first movie so much fun to watch and re-watch. I liked the performances, although some characters were inevitably side-lined by the script. I guess the clue is in the title – it’s more of the same, but lacks the freshness or originality of the first film. If you’re already a fan of Star-Lord and co, it’s worth a watch, but don’t expect it to knock your socks off.

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Comments on this review

  • siberian-queen published 20/11/2017
    i love this film and the previous one - Groooot!
  • jb0077 published 18/11/2017
    vh
  • ryeb published 15/11/2017
    Great, sorry to be E less
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Product Information : Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (DVD)

Manufacturer's product description

Product Details

DVD Region: DVD

Production Year: 2017

Classification: 12 years and over

EAN: 8717418510251

Director(s): James Gunn

Video Category: Feature Film

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Listed on Ciao since: 17/05/2017