GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2 brings the fun you want and expect from James Gunn

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Let me get something off my chest right from the start: all reviews are not created equally. A boutique website like CriticalBlast.com is typically invited to attend a press screening 1 to 10 days in advance and our reviews are subject to an embargo until the day of release. I’m fine with that, for the most part. Sure the site would get more hits if we were among the very first to get our article up, but there’s a decent percentage of moviegoers who can be swayed by reviews and word-of-mouth buzz, to both the benefit and detriment of the film. The benefits are most obvious around Oscar time, when films nobody’s even heard of are suddenly everyone’s darlings, and the opposite effect is often seen when a mediocre film gets savaged in reviews and the director takes to social media like a petulant little…well, like Donald Trump. That last Fantastic Four disaster and the remake of The Lone Ranger stand out as films that were doomed by production stills, early footage, and failed spin on social media. However, there are certain outlets—your Yahoo News, your Rolling Stone, your Los Angeles Times—who, because of their massive readership, get certain perks, chiefly a free pass on any embargo. Why does any of this matter and what does it have to do with MARVEL’S GUARDANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2? Those advanced review outlets set the tone. When I have to read glib lines from Mara Reinstein of US Weekly declare, "For the sequel, writer-director James Gunn has doubled down on all his once-nifty novelties. Strip them away and what remains is a bloated semi-mess,” or Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times, "Though there are enough reminders of the first Guardians to make the sequel an acceptable experience, it's ended up less like itself and more like a standard Marvel production," well before anyone else’s reviews are available it makes me just shake my head in disappointment. I don’t know these writers, I don’t know where they come from, I don’t know what their experiences are. I can tell you that the late Joe Williams of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, a veteran critic, was very nice to me and very strong in his craft, but to the best of my knowledge never wrote a single positive review for a superhero movie. What I’m saying is, consider the source, and remember that being first doesn’t make anyone right. Hell, this review won’t be right for everyone, but if you heard that GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2 was a bloated semi-mess, I’m here to offer an alternative take: it’s friggin’ awesome, and I’m only using friggin’ because we’re an all ages website.

When we saw our heroes last time, they had just finished saving the planet Xandar from Kree jerkwad Ronan the Accuser, a pawn of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s big bad guy, Thanos. VOL 2 begins not long after, with the popular galactic heroes in the employ of a rather insufferable planetary collective called the Sovereign, ruled by Ayesha (Marvel comics readers would probably know her better as “Her” or “Kismet;” she’s portrayed by Elizabeth Debicki here). They were hired to protect very powerful batteries from an interdimensional monster. They prevail, but a certain diminutively statured member of the team gives in to his larcenous instincts and absconds with the batteries they were hired to protect. Just that quick, the Guardians go from being the most beloved superhero group in outer space to the most wanted. As they evade the Sovereign fleet, the team crash lands on a remote planet. There they are discovered by Ego (Kurt Russell), who is both Starlord/Peter Quill’s (Chris Pratt) father and the immortal alien essence of an entire planet. This is exactly the kind of plot device for which I’m thankful I don’t read or watch much information or videos regarding movie plots beforehand, because if someone would have told me that Starlord was the son of Ego The Living Planet and a mortal Missouri gal, I’d have said that there would be no way that director and writer James Gunn could make that idea even mildly plausible. I love it when I’m wrong! Drax (Dave Bautista) and Gamora (Zoe Saldana) accompany Peter back to Ego’s paradise home world where the meet Ego’s “pet,” the alien empath Mantis (Pom Klementieff). At the crash site, Rocket (Bradley Cooper) and Baby Groot (Vin Diesel) work on repairing Quill’s ship while keeping an eye on their prisoner, Gamora’s sister Nebula (Karen Gillan), which they had received in exchange for services rendered from the Sovereigns. And that’s about the time Yondu (Michael Rooker), Taserface (Chris Sullivan), Kraglin (Sean Gunn) and the rest of the Ravagers show up to collect the Sovereigns bounty and their stolen goods. The rest is a series of increasingly over-the-top hi-jinx and explosions peppered with one-liners and gags all set to the Awesome Mixtape Vol. 2 in Starlord’s Walkman. We’re talking “Brandy” from Looking Glass, “Lake Shore Drive” from Aliotta Haynes Jeremiah, “The Chain” by Fleetwood Mac and “Guardians Inferno” by The Sneepers featuring David Hasselhoff. Am I joking? No. I am Groot.

Some of the “important” critics panned Kurt Russell’s performance (it’s not easy playing a whole planet—only Orson Welles could have done any better), begroaned the sameness of the gags (it’s called continuity, something even comic book creators don’t really get anymore, but it’s important—would you rather VOL 2 have been more like SCHINDLER’S LIST?), or deem it merely “acceptable” and lump it in with the lesser successful Marvel productions, despite even the least successful Marvel films raking in around a quarter of a billion dollars. Get over yourselves! Put yourself in the mindset of your reader, who has a big bucket of butter with a few kernels of last week’s popcorn floating on their laps, a bladder-buster of Mr. Pibb in their left armrest cup holder that costs more than last month’s electric bill and a box of Junior Mints protruding out of their right side cup holder that they’re saving for the ride home and a rough night in their bathroom later. They’re wearing a “Make The Galaxy Great Again! Vote Groot!” tee-shirt, a Deadpool hoodie, and a pair of those obnoxious and completely unnecessary 3D glasses. They’ve just blown half a car payment on tickets and concessions and after the soul-crushing drudgery of a week at work all they want to do is be entertained. GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2 is a living planet-sized ball of fun, almost exactly in the same vein as it’s original, and it should be! Marvel Cinematic Universe honcho Kevin Feige and director James Gunn are giving the fans what they want—more of the same craziness and banter they loved about the first film. Why in the name of Stan Lee (he’s here too) would they do anything else?

If a critic wants to write about bloated messes, ask your editor to be reassigned to the White House press corps. You’ll run out of column inches before you run out of bloated messes to write about. Leave the blockbusters to us “amateurs” who care more about scanning the megascreen for Easter eggs like Howard the Duck (Seth Green) and Starhawk (Sylvester Stallone), Martinex (Michael Rosenbaum), Charlie-17 (Ving Rhames) and Lady Starhawk (Michelle Yeoh) than impressing people with your oeuvre of cinema snobbery. Excelsior, true believers!

Grade: 
5.0 / 5.0