[Like the "10 for 10" series but a little longer. It's my endeavor to clean the backlog slate (with some things watched well over a year ago now) this month with 20 reviews written in 20 minutes (each) over 20 days. My backlog is vast and my memory is shit, we'll see how it goes.]
2017, d. James Gunn
That the first "volume" of Guardians of the Galaxy was a hit was a genuine surprise, largely because the characters are (or, rather, were) pretty small time in the Marvel Comics. I mean, you have a talking raccoon and an anthropomorphized tree as main characters. Studios typically underestimate an audience's ability to buy into such weirdness. Likewise, the director was not very widely known, and what he was known for was some pretty weird, small-budget, genre-flavoured stuff, so to plunk a 100 million dollar movie into his lap was quite a gamble. But the combo of weird plus weird equaled gold, and propelled Star-Lord, Rocket, Groot, Gamora and Drax into the big-time, jumping up from the D-list to the A-list of Marvel superheroes.
A second go around was hotly anticipated but there was almost no chance that another film wouldn't disappoint in some way. The first Guardians was a tight movie, giving all the main characters their due (the villain and some side characters were may a little short-shifted), and leaving enough mystery to tease the audience and desire a second film. The main tease was Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), aka Star-Lord's parentage. It was noted that Peter was something more than human, and his kidnapper/role model Yondu (Michael Rooker) described Peter's dad as a dick...or an asshole...one of those two. You get the gist. It was obvious the story of Peter's dad would be the thrust of the second film.
No surprises there.
Enter Ego, the Living Planet (Kurt Russell). Yes, Peter's dad turns out to be an entire planet, one who sends spores across the galaxy who look like handsome celebrities of the native planet, mate with the locals, spawn an offspring so that Ego can find not so much an heir, but an accomplice.
The film splits the team off into groups, with Gamora (Zoe Seldana) having captured her adopted sister, Nebula (Karen Gillen), while Rocket (Bradley Cooper) and Yondu find themselves in prison with Baby Groot (Vin Diesel). All the while the team is being chased by both the Reavers -- who have ousted Yondu as their leader for his lack of desire to bounty hunt the Guardians -- and the Sovereign -- an alien race of golden people who act all erudite but turns out they're a society of juvenile frat boys and stuck-up frat girls -- who the Guardians (well, Rocket) screwed over on their last mission.
It's not the movie I was expecting. The fact that the team spends so much time apart gives it more room to explore the characters individually, to deepen them as characters. But as good as that is, it was the team dynamics of the first film that drew people in, and the film is the lesser for having less of it. It's still a thoroughly enjoyable romp, with a talented cast, amazing special effect, more than a handful of eye-popping scenes, and a bouncy 70's soundtrack that is only slightly the lesser of Volume 1. There's plenty to enjoy but it truthfully doesn't quite live up to the original.