Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is a superhero comedy film released in North America on May 5th, 2017. It was directed and written by James Gunn (@JamesGunn) and stars Chris Pratt (@prattprattpratt), Zoe Saldana (@zoesaldana) and Kurt Russell.
I’m a huge fan of the first Guardians of the Galaxy. It breathed fresh air into the superhero genre and was a great Hollywood debut for the Parks and Rec beloved Chris Pratt. The soundtrack was in my head for months and I adored the intro scene in the cavern set to Redbone’s “Come and Get Your Love,” which set the fun tone that carried all the way throughout the comedy space romp. But the same cannot be said for the sequel. The first film was so special and perfect in its own way, much like how awesome the first Avengers was, that there’s absolutely no way the sequel could live up. And just like how Avengers: Age of Ultron failed to recapture that original magic, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is a lacklustre sequel that feels messy, forced and, like the film’s five post credit scenes, entirely unnecessary.
Another Chapter in the Cinematic Snoozeverse
At this point in Marvel’s domination of superhero movies, it really feels like Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is just a building block in the company’s monopolization of the genre. It’s Marvel’s way of getting people back to the theatre for the next film. Marvel movies are less about telling a compelling story and more about sustaining the meta-narrative that guarantees more money when Thor 3 and Avengers 3 inevitably roll out.
There’s a lot of obvious references to what’s coming next, from Gamora and Nebula’s conversations about Thanos to the closing text “The Guardians Will Return,” ensuring you know that another $15 will be required to work your way closer to anything that resembles resolution. It really feels like Marvel is stringing me along, pretending to offer me something interesting but then pulling it back and asking for several more trips to the cinema before I can feel like Peter and Gamora’s story is finished.
Failing the Female Characters
The biggest issue with this film is its abysmal female representation. Beyond failing the Bechdel Test, there’s no development of the female cast outside of how they support or challenge the rest of the male cast and no effort to portray women in any way other than slender, sexualized props.
There are 3 women of consequence in this film who are all incredibly slender and sexualized. There’s Gamora, her sister Nebula and the verbal punching bag Mantis. You might be able to count the also slender and sexualized Ayesha, but she is only on screen for about 4 minutes in the whole film. First, at the beginning to make sex jokes with Chris Pratt and secondly at the end to throw a temper tantrum.
Mantis is the most disappointing of all. She appears to exist solely to have her appearance constantly mocked by Drax. She’s teased throughout the whole film and the punchline to the joke is that she doesn’t understand the judgements of her appearance but rather laughs along, oblivious to the obvious insults directed at her body. The “dimwitted, verbally abused woman” is a tired and overused trope that illustrates the complete lack of female involvement during the creation of this film. It’s in entirely poor taste and seems absolutely tone deaf to the very serious and persistent issue women face in judgements made about their bodies every day by men everywhere.
Gamora is presented as a strong and capable fighter in the first scene, but much like in the first film she is ultimately a heart to be won and swoons for Peter. She rejects his advances for the majority of the film, staying focused on the mission or straight up telling him “No.” But in typical Hollywood fashion she’s written to be in the wrong and made to realize how wrong she was and how much she wanted Peter this whole time. My eyes rolled so hard I’m pretty sure I got hushed in the theatre.
Just a Couple Guys being Dudes
The focus of the film is on Peter Quill’s relationship with his estranged father Ego, whose name might explain Peter’s cocky, self-absorbed attitude. It’s a tale of a father sharing his story and his power with his son and emboldening him to become a true man. Kurt Russell as Ego could not have played a better self-obsessed old man with a god complex. One major issue is that he is an extremely uninteresting character who I feel like I’ve seen in every other Marvel movie with men as the focus (ie. every Marvel movie).
Ego’s power fantasy quest for control of the universe is only made more groan-worthy by the jokes about sleeping with the universe’s many beautiful women. Writer James Gunn’s belief that male characters who have sex a lot are inherently more likable is an outdated mindset. Even what were supposed to be tender moments like Peter playing catch with his dad for the first time fell completely flat. Each scene with Peter and Ego failed to elicit any emotion in me other than a slight disinterest, only I was slightly more interested in their disappointing dialogue than I was hearing Drax pretend to throw up at the sight of Mantis.
“I am Groot” (trans. “I quickly become a tedious joke”)
Groot is really to this film what Puss in Boots was to the Shrek films, and I say that in every mean way possible. Big CGI eyes meant to elicit “awwwws” from the crowd and personality quirks that hinder the rest of the cast from being productive became irritating. How many times can Groot get in the way or mess up the mission before they just leave him on the ship? The answer is never too many times, apparently.
Much like how Groot became tedious, the wandering plot of this film quickly grows stale. While the final act does deliver a focused final fight, it’s a fight that is really familiar and stale after sitting through over 15 Marvel movies with climactic boss battles. There’s a lack of focus throughout the story and a copy and pasted finale that left me ultimately disappointed with the whole experience.
I think Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is my last superhero movie for quite some time. I’m done being dragged along as Marvel calculates how to best extract every dollar possible while failing to offer anything new in the way of an original story, score or really anything of sustenance that I can get into and enjoy. There’s not a whole lot of love for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 from this lapsed superhero fan, and I wouldn’t recommend the film to anyone who is looking for a fresh, interesting film to get lost in.