February 26, 2018

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)

Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Kurt Russell, et al

It's a Catch-22. I can't imagine anyone would watch this sequel without watching the first Guardians of the Galaxy, yet anyone watching this sequel after watching the first one must invariably be disappointed. It's not the writer's fault, I suppose. It's almost impossible to follow up a well-loved original. You have to retain everything people loved about the first movie while somehow trying to create new development.

What generally makes a movie successful is one (or more) of three basic things: good character development, exciting plot points, or some kind of twist the audience didn't anticipate. The first Guardians of the Galaxy had all three: we liked each of the characters (though none more than Groot, really), exciting adventures, and a lot of humor thrown in at just the right time. This second movie tried hard on points #1 and #2, but the element of surprise humor was sorely lacking. Instead, it seemed like we got a paler version of the first movie. A lot paler.

There was a giant gaping hole in the form of Groot. Sure sure, he's a baby tree now and he's adorable, but that only goes so far. And they stretched it much further than he could handle. Babies are cute; they can't serve as half the jokes in a movie. This isn't Look Who's Talking. And while the addition of Nebula added some dimension to Gamora's character, the addition of Ego seemed to do the opposite for Peter. Chris Pratt lost most of the charm he spent the first movie building up and when you're the main character, that's a blow to the entire movie. He was completely shown up by the supporting characters--I found myself wishing they'd cut away from his storyline so I could see more of Drax and Mantis.

In my review of the first movie, I mentioned that I'm able to overlook a predictable plot and cliche scenes when the rest of the movie is good enough. The rest of this movie was not good enough to warrant the same graciousness. Even Kurt Russell couldn't change that.

Final word: This is our life now. Franchises of mediocre movies that provide just enough entertainment to keep the masses from boycotting and demanding better quality storytelling.

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