‘Guardians II’ A Great Kickoff To Summer Season

‘I’ On Culture

The question about Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 should not be whether it’s better than the first movie but whether you will have a great time. And the answer is a resounding yes.

We had a great time, and the audience in the packed theater laughed and cheered throughout and applauded at the end. Which reminds me, there are extra scenes added as the credits at the end roll; stay for them. This is the first real summer movie, and moviegoers are already seeing a great start.

After a marvelous set of opening credits as we watch Baby Groot (voice of Vin Diesel) dancing right through the middle of a battle with an intergalactic beast, we turn to the daddy issues of our hero Peter Quill, also known as Star-Lord (Chris Pratt). He probably has the biggest of those issues since Oedipus.

Chased by a gene-engineered group because Rocket (voice of Bradley Cooper), a cyber raccoon and key team member, has stolen priceless batteries from them, they finally meet Ego (Kurt Russell), Quill’s father. He is a Celestial, an immortal who is millions of years old, a seemingly great guy who wants to get to know his son.

Gamora (Zoe Saldana), the slinky female whom Quill adores, is certain something is wrong but gets ignored. To help things out, she has a half-sister Nebula (Karen Gillan), part cyborg, who has real issues with her. Huge Drax (Dave Bautista) winds up trying to deal with a new character, Mantis (Pom Klementieff), a somewhat buglike being, who is an empath.

In the meantime, Yondu (Michael Rooker), the blue villain from the first movie, is having trouble with his fellow Ravagers, led by Stakar Ogord (Sylvester Stallone), for kidnapping children. He and his men capture Rocket and Baby Groot, but his unwillingness to simply kill them leads to a mutiny.

Everyone winds up descending on Ego’s planet: Nebula to kill Gamora, Yondu because he’s being chased by the Sovereigns. Along the way, he begins to bond with Rocket. Ego reveals the real secret of the universe to Peter, who completely rejects him. And the battle goes on, with everything eventually hinging on whether Baby Groot can remember instructions. And a great time is had by all!

The story is really about family, just as the first one was. In that one, for those who missed it, our heroes began as competitors and eventually became a family. In this one, Peter and Gamora both explore the meaning of family as both realize that biology does not really create families. This allows the redemption of several characters and the growth of our leads.

This is not a film that requires great acting from the cast. After all, two major characters are computer-generated. But Bradley Cooper’s dialogue is often hilarious. It is easy to forget that the raccoon is not a real… well, “person” would not fit, but he seems very real.

And Baby Groot steals the film whenever he appears. He behaves like my favorite 2-year-old, my grandson Alex, and steals everyone’s hearts. But there were a few standouts. Karen Gillan’s Nebula becomes a very real person in relatively few scenes. In the last movie, she was just a minor villain. Here she quickly establishes herself as a troubled woman with really good reasons for it. Several of her scenes with Saldana were marvelous.

Michael Rooker’s Yondu came close to stealing the first film in the series. Here, as a fallen hero, he finds redemption. He has always been a really good actor in key parts, very seldom as a hero, but he manages to be a strong, sort-of hero. His final scenes with Pratt were quite moving.

The best scenes, though, are between Drax and Mantis. He has almost no social skills, being of a species that is both literal and painfully truthful. Yet she has even fewer skills and accepts his views as being correct. They actually contrast physically in the great tradition of Laurel and Hardy, although science fiction-wise we might say C3PO and R2D2.

This is a great sci-fi film, and a perfect one for those who don’t really care for the genre. The laughs are there along with the action, and they work wonderfully well together.

Is this as good as the first? Who cares! It’s a great time for everyone who sees it. Start your summer off with a bang and a laugh.