Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 ★★★★

► Gonzo's Top Ten Films of 2017: #5

Marvel Cinematic Universe Rankings

Is it good?

Better than the first movie?
In certain aspects, most notably in fleshing out it's ever-growing band of lovable misfits. It's also much bigger and a lot funnier. The original, however, gets the edge for being the more focused of the two.

Where would you rank this among the rest of the films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to date?
I'd rank it above Ant-Man and behind the first Guardians (which is still king), Civil War, The Avengers, Iron Man, and The Winter Soldier.

Do I need to see the first Guardians of the Galaxy and/or the other hundred films in the MCU?
No. But for optimal enjoyment, watching the first movie is a must. I mean, come on, that's like, one of the greatest comic book movies ever. You have to see it at least once.

How's Pom Klementieff as Mantis?
Perfection. An alien empath raised by Ego (Kurt Russell), MCU newcomer Mantis is pure, awkward, and naive, and Klementieff plays the character to a tee. Her delivery and facial expressions—aided by those big, innocent bug eyes—really make you believe this chick is both otherworldly and sheltered, and she does so to adorkable levels that it's hard not to become an instant fan. Paired together with Drax and you got a formidable megazord of cluelessness; a lethal combination and a comedic gold mine that just keeps on giving—and hopefully, will keep on giving. (A prime example: the hysterical feelings scene aboard Ego's ship.) A breakthrough performance and a character I'm sure fans will hope to see more of in future installments.

How's Kurt Russell as Ego?
Are you seriously asking that question? Kurt Russell is always awesome. Next.

What are the best parts?
The gang and their chemistry with one another. The light, fun, infectious vibe. The non-stop, killer quips and banter. The vibrant colors—or should I say every freaking color known in the galaxy. The weird visuals. The soundtrack, Awesome Mix Vol. 2. Drax and Mantis, bless them. Rocket and Yondu. Gamora and Nebula. Chris Pratt's under-appreciated display of range. Dancing Baby Groot. Mad Baby Groot. Sad Baby Groot. Confused Baby Groot. Sleepy Baby Groot. The opening. Drax singlehandedly killing the space monster from the inside. "Harbulary batteries." Turds. Sensitive nipples. "Trash panda." "Old lady" Drax. The feelings scene. Acknowledging (and repeatedly rubbing in) the lameness of Taserface's moniker. "It's not ripe." "It's too adorable to kill!" Finding Yondu's fin. The escape. 700 jumps. "I'm gonna make some weird shit!" Nebula's revelation of just wanting a sister. "I learned I'm a pet and I'm ugly!" "Hello, jackass!" (Talk about callback!) "Soup! Soup!" Mary Poppins. "Mantis, look out!" Groot and the bomb. "He might have been your father, but he ain't your daddy." Kraglin. Zune. "So are you... on the inside." The cameos. "Father and Son..." So, yeah, lots to love here. But out of all of that awesomeness and shenanigans, the best thing that writer/director James Gunn does in this sequel is that he pulls off something many blockbuster films envy, and more often than not, fail to accomplish (I'm looking at you, Rogue One). He does the impossible and juggles nine(!) protagonists, and yet, he somehow manages to give each one of them their own time to shine, and in the process, he endears his audience to every single one in the team, from Star-Lord to Kraglin. Through learning from the first go-around and taking what works and what people respond to, Gunn seems to have developed a clear understanding of the importance of camaraderie within an ensemble as well as mastered the deceptively simple art of cinematic joy and levity. Gunn gleefully embraces the weird while grounding this intergalactic adventure just enough to make the characters' conflicts and adversities universal. He's well aware of the boundless playground that has been handed to him which is the Marvel Cosmic Universe. But he's also very much mindful of the individuals in that playground, whom he each gives their own set of quirks and flaws as well as their own varying levels of buffoonery, which, at the surface, may seem like a means to get out as many laughs as possible, but what it really does is make these characters—these ragtag rejects—vulnerable and sympathetic to the point of veneration. These are just ordinary dorks in an extraordinary place doing extraordinary things, and what Gunn, Pratt, and company do is win the audience over with their winning personalities. They make you want to be and be with these guys. The Guardians may be of different species, but in the end, they're all very much human. In the end, they're all just a bunch of a-holes who love to laugh and dance. They're... us.

What's not so good?
I think most would agree that the biggest knocks on the sequel are the pacing and the plot. While the subplots such as the Ravager mutiny, the Sovereign's pursuit of the Guardians, and Gamora and Nebula's sibling rivalry pay off satisfyingly and make good excuses to split up the crew, the main plot involving Peter and his estranged father Ego unfolds rather predictably to have been the central focus of the film. I see what Gunn is going for thematically, but the whole Ego stuff has essentially been done to death countless times before to devote most of the runtime and character development on.

Tell me, does Cosmo the Spacedog finally join the team?
Nope. Sorry, no telepathic, spacesuit-wearing retrievers in this.

Are there any extra scenes after the movie?
Yes, five.

Mhmm, five, and they're all awesome.

So, what's the bottom line?
I'll keep it short and sweet. If you enjoy having a good time, and you need to have a good time, well... here is one damn good time. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 comes recommended.

The Scorecard:
Direction: ★★★★½
Acting: ★★★★½
Writing: ★★★½
Editing: ★★★½
Visuals: ★★★★½
Sound: ★★★★½
Entertainment: ★★★★½
I Am Groot: I Am Groot
Overall Rating: ★★★★

Spoilers and random thoughts:

► So... is Kraglin, like, a legit Guardian now? I sure hope so.

► I love that Jeff Goldblum's debut in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is a blink-and-you'll-miss-it cameo of him just dancing.

► Now that Peter's mask is broken, it would be really awesome if he replaces it with one closer to his look in Annihilation.

► Who the heck were those guys in the end with Stallone, you ask? Well, those Ravagers were the comics' original Guardians of the Galaxy, which Yondu was once a part of. Stallone plays Stakar and the Hela-looking woman is Aleta, played by Michelle Yeoh. Stakar and Aleta are husband and wife, and together, they merge into Starhawk. For DCTV fans, just think of them as Marvel's version of Firestorm, except instead of fire, their power is light. Rounding up the team are Martinex, the crystal dude played Michael Rosenbaum, Charlie-27, played by Ving Rhames, the red, CGI alien, Krugarr (who, if you pay close attention, does some Doctor Strange shit with his hands), and Mainframe, the talking robot head voiced by Miley Cyrus (yes, that was the Miley Cyrus), whose delivery immediately brought to mind Plankton's computer wife Karen in SpongeBob Squarepants. Up next: Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 3000?

► I wonder if the cinematic version of Mantis is purely an empath or if she has a few as-of-yet undiscovered abilities, because if she's got them plant powers, imagine all of the cool Groot stuff they could do versus Thanos. Giant Groot tag-teaming with Giant Man? Or a horde of adorable Baby Groots, swarming the Mad Titan like Squirrel Girl and her squirrels? The possibilities...

► I'm pretty sure that dude they cut to during the first scene with Stan Lee is none other than Uatu the Watcher, which is pretty significant. Other than the cool—and now canon—fact that Stan Lee has been a Watcher (or an informant) all along, Uatu's rights are known to have been tied to the Fantastic Four which belong to Fox. So... if Uatu and the Watchers are now part of the MCU, and Infinity War is coming, and the Silver Surfer plays a huge part in the Infinity Gauntlet story arc, is it possible—is it possible—that Disney has secretly (and finally) acquired the rights to the Fantastic Four?! Could this be what Feige meant when he said that some big names will be showing up in the near future?!

Adam Warlock has got to be David Hasselhoff. (I'll also take Kevin Bacon, but it really has to be the Hoff.)

► I can't wait for Tony Stark to make fun of Peter's Zune.