I've said countless times already that I don't hate the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In fact on some level I have enjoyed all of the movies from Iron Man all the way to Doctor Strange. I was even working on a blog post recently to explain my position on the franchise and it was going to be called "Why none of the MCU movies are actually bad."
After watching Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, I can't write that blog post anymore. I mean, I could but it wouldn't be true. Not now. Not after......that movie.
I'm really going to try to be diplomatic and open-minded about this because I am usually very forgiving about movies in general, but it's no easy task for this one because of just how I felt watching the movie in IMAX 3D, to a non-sellout crowd I might also add, one that spent the whole evening laughing at just about every joke and one-liner delivered in two hours and fifteen minutes while I sat there with an incredulous look on my face the whole time. Seriously, I was beside myself.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is an action comedy movie, there's no denying that, but instead of that comedy being subtle and well-timed like it largely was in the first movie, it's relentless and overly blunt. Out of the two hour and fifteen minute runtime of the movie maybe 10 minutes of it is without jokes, and that's not even including some of the more somber, emotional scenes that actually work in the movie here and there. This movie almost feels like the dialogue is largely ad-libbed, or comedic for the sake of being comedic. Is it possible to have too many jokes in an action comedy movie? If so, Guardians Vol. 2 takes the cake for sure.
The plot of the movie, without giving away any big spoilers is pretty simple. After inadvertently double-crossing and earning the scorn of an alien race that now wants them dead, the Guardians crash land on a random planet and run into Star-Lord's dad Ego, played by Kurt Russell. From there, the movie picks up as Peter Quill(Chris Pratt) tries to build a relationship with the father he never knew at the behest of Gamora (Zoe Saldana) while the others try to repair the ship.
To be fair, the movie does effectively pick up where the first one left off as far as where the Guardians are and what they are doing as "mercenaries for hire" and all of them are true to the characters they established in the first movie. Pratt's Star-Lord is still stuck on the 70's and 80's music and pop culture references, Saldana's Gamora still doesn't know what he's talking about with any of them, Dave Bautista's Drax is even more devastatingly literal this time around and Bradley Cooper's Rocket Raccoon is somehow more of a jerk than he was before. Oh, and there's Baby Groot who runs around like a tiny baby the whole movie just to make the audience go "aww" every two minutes. Literally.
Kurt Russell does what he does in the role as Peter Quill's father but when you really look at his story arc in the movie, there's something creepily misogynistic about the whole thing. That's all that I'll say about it without spoiling it, but I can't imagine that no one will pick up on it. That's not the only misogyny in the movie either. Drax is......well horrible to a new character in this movie, Mantis played by Pom Klementieff. His insults to her are played for laughs the whole movie but considering the nature of what he says and the fact that pretty much no one else checks him on it, it was somewhat uncomfortable to watch when it happened. For a franchise that has been criticized for its lack of female representation at times, you would think the MCU would steer clear of blatantly misogynistic jokes toward a female character. Alas, that's not the case here and it really didn't work for me one bit.
In fact, Drax was the most annoying character in the movie for me. Between too many laughs at......anything that happened in the first hour of the movie and his own slew of jokes and ill-timed comments throughout, I was anticipating moments when he wasn't on screen, which wasn't the case at all in the first movie. Speaking of the screen itself, am I the only one that got the feeling that most of this movie was shot in a giant green room instead of on practical sets? I know that's done quite a bit in big budget movies these days, but it seems like Guardians Vol. 2 is loaded with more green screen work than was even in the first movie. Not every set has to be completely CGI, you know.
I know it seems like I'm just bashing this movie, but let's talk about the GOOD that it had going for it. Karen Gillan was awesome as Nebula the second time around and she got some really good scenery to chew in some solid scenes with Gamora that dig deeper into their relationship as daughters of Thanos. You really see and in some cases feel her anger toward Thanos and Gamora in this movie than you did at all in the first Guardians film. Michael Rooker also gets credit for Yondu being the second best character in this movie behind Nebula. He's got some solid emotional scenes as well that ring pretty strong at times.
In addition, there are some jokes in the movie that do definitely work, but they are the ones that play on subtlety and solid timing to be effectively funny. A few of these are Baby Groot scenes and for a few moments I did join the audience in laughing at them, but they were few and far between unfortunately. The 10 minutes or so of the movie that don't contain jokes and actually provide emotional context are also good and really display the glimpses of promise that this movie had but just didn't fully deliver because it was too busy trying to be funny. It really feels like the heart and soul of the Guardians largely gave way to the humor and hijinks and while the audience loved it, I wasn't impressed. I wanted something more like the first movie and that's just not what this is.
I know that based on social media reaction and a 15th straight "certified fresh" rating from Rotten Tomatoes that I'm going to be in the minority on this one, but I want you to understand how much I stand by this opinion. I like a lot of MCU movies that many people consider to be terrible, like Avengers: Age of Ultron, Iron Man 2 and 3 and both of the released Thor movies. I even like Thor: The Dark World more than I like the first Thor movie. The first Guardians of the Galaxy movie in my opinion is the second best MCU movie to date behind Captain America: The Winter Soldier. That means that I put it ahead of The Avengers and Captain America: Civil War, both movies considered by many Marvel fans to be the best of the bunch.
So understand that I don't say any of what I have said about Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 lightly. I went into the movie hoping to really like it and for the first time ever in my history of watching MCU movies, I left the theater very disappointed. There was a very small smattering of claps at the end in my theater, but no rousing applause as I have seen happen in other MCU movies I've watched at the theater. Nonetheless, it seemed that most people there really enjoyed it and of course that is what matters at the end of the day, right? I just wish that I could have joined them this time as I did with each of the previous 14 MCU movies. I don't know if I was expecting too much from it or if the movie just didn't take the story as seriously as I was hoping it would and I won't rule out that my opinion on it could change down the road after another viewing or two, but for now it is for certain the first "clunker" from the MCU that I have seen to this point and I hope that Spider-Man: Homecoming and Thor: Ragnarok are both vastly better than this film was. That's just my opinion on it.
Oh, and yes there are five end credit scenes. Stay until the very end.
GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2 - 2 out of 5 stars - In theaters as of May 5, 2017