“Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2″ bursts with colorful characters and even more dazzling scenery, but fails to organize it all into one cohesive film.
The movie retains striking dichotomies that made the first installment of the franchise so memorable: futuristic metropolitan worlds paired with hit songs from the ’60s and ’70s, as well as pop culture references – such as a brief cameo by David Hasselhoff – that freshen up the science fiction genre.
The imaginative technological landscapes boast endless guns, gadgets and giant explosions, infusing the movie with engaging surface-level excitement.
What is missing, however, is the progressive character development that should come from a ragtag group of criminals who have to deal with their conflicting personalities.
The sequel is bloated with so many action shots and generic plotlines that it fails to reach any satisfying emotional climax.
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The reunion of protagonist Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) and his father Ego (Kurt Russell), a celestial godlike figure who takes Quill to his home planet, drives the main plot. The guardians are separated, as the anthropomorphic raccoon, Rocket (Bradley Cooper), and the infantile Groot, amusingly still voiced by Vin Diesel, are left to deal with the vengeful Yondu (Michael Rooker) – the same indigo-skinned space pirate the group bested in the previous film.
On top of old grudges, the guardians confront a sibling rivalry of astronomic proportions and the impending attack of an entire galactic race.
If the overloaded narrative seems like a lot to take in, it’s because it is.
Granted, Marvel movies are supposed to be a spectacle. They’re meant to look cool and play into action movie tropes like the culminating final battle, but the first movie still manages to evoke a genuine sense of personal growth and unity among the characters by slowly chipping away at their differences.
This time around, the moments in between the special-effect-heavy scenes are filled with mindless bickering that does little to drive the plot forward. Most of the characters end up right where they started, with the exception of one.
Rocket is the heart of “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2,” the savior that the film almost misses. His emotional evolution from derisive loner to sincere friend is believable throughout his explosive antics and sarcastic quips, his hidden insecurity peeking through his computer-generated facade.
After meeting Yondu, an outcast just as bitter as he is, Rocket’s expression softens as he realizes how truly sad it is to be lonely. The trigger-happy creature ironically saves the movie from becoming just a montage of explosions.
Small, intimate moments like Rocket’s self-reflection build up to instances of genuine connection, but the interactions are eclipsed by an excessive amount of action. In another scene, Quill and his father play catch with balls made out of cosmic energy, but the scene is quickly forgotten among the film’s numerous fight scenes.
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The distracting commotion makes any return to emotional nuance seem awkward and contrived. The film’s subversive humor clashes with its cheesy, rehashed plot devices, bluntly interrupting impassioned monologues such as Nebula’s vengeful soliloquy, which gets cut short by a fellow crew member’s oblivious response.
Despite the effort to push sentimental moments between the characters, the attempts mostly seem forced. Quill and hardened fighter Gamora (Zoe Saldana) address their romantic feelings in one scene as they dance together on a balcony, only to never revisit their relationship again. Instead, the stoic space warrior becomes preoccupied with battling her vindictive sister.
The film is simply too busy tying up predictable plotlines and resolving unnecessary conflicts to allocate enough energy to its characters.
“Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” is a passable action flick that mirrors the charm of the first film. Behind the witty dialogue and retro soundtrack, however, the fragmented character development simply doesn’t have enough spirit to make the movie soar.