Ever sit there wonder where all the original ideas are in Hollywood? Are they just not ready yet or in a place to be discovered? Certainly it can’t be money given all the low-budget sensation films that get awarded come Oscar time. I mean, most people reading this never saw the highly acclaimed “Hidden Figures” which made nearly $230 million at the box office last year. That’s pretty good, so what is it that has so many producers opting for the “safe” sequel or prequel? These are the questions I find myself asking when I see a film like “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2” come out. It can’t be all about the money, but seeing these sequels get released every other week has almost become a norm. That’s sad and rather annoying as I sit here trying to come up with something positive to say about the latest piece to the never-ending Marvel Cinematic Universe puzzle. Yup, we are barely into Phase Three and I’m finally starting to grow tired of this. I didn’t expect to, but sometimes you just don’t need another film. Sometimes there isn’t enough there and that was certainly the case with “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2,” a sequel that should have remained on the shelf a little longer.
A few years ago when the original came out, I was in awe at what writer/director James Gunn had done. I couldn’t wait for another one, but as I look back, my excitement got the best of me. This was never a story that should have kept going. There’s not enough there and while it sounded good in theory to find out more about Quill (Chris Pratt) and his father Ego (Kurt Russell), seeing it play out on the big screen proved to be a big letdown. Maybe I’m not enough of a nerd to get into the whole god-like Celestial concept, but it just wasn’t all that cool. And the worst part is, there’s too much time spent around it leaving less time for all the characters we love to do their thing. That’s a big miss given what these same character’s meant to the story the first time around. I get you can’t always go down the same road, but don’t change what worked so well. I nearly fell asleep during the first half of this film given how slow it was. That’s ridiculous, making me wonder what Gunn was trying to accomplish. I can get on board with wanting to bring in some new elements and building characters like Yondu (Michael Rooker) up, but don’t let go of what worked in the original. Even in this universe, there has to be balance and unfortunately it felt like it was thrown together. The humor was almost nonexistent and there was far too much Ego (Kurt Russell) for my liking. You never get a chance to enjoy some of the ‘little things’ due to how deep Gunn was going with some of the characters emotionally.
Looking back at the first “Guardians of the Galaxy,” it succeeded because of how well the cast worked together within the script. In the sequel, you almost feel they all have their own mini-movie happening simultaneously. Nothing is static and that’s an issue given the talent involved. There are just certain films that don’t need as extensive of a background and that’s where Gunn mismanaged this. Again, its fine to bring in more of where Quill / Star-Lord came from in, but I felt like I was watching some jacked up version of “Empire Strikes Back.” But to Chris Pratt’s credit, he was able to distract you enough with his natural comedic ways so that you enjoyed what he was doing despite everything else. That was big and needed quite frankly given how much time was spent on his story here. I like where Pratt is going in his career though and while this role isn’t something you find during Oscar season, it’s still one that allows him to grow. Especially when you are acting opposite Kurt Russell, who despite some of his questionable roles over the years is still good at what he does. I just never expected his role to be as prominent as it was given the limited time we had with others like Gamora (Zoe Saldana). She is such a strong character by look and feel to this series, yet Saldana has not been given the chance to go deeper. Sure, we were able to maybe see a little into her past when her Nebula (Karen Gillan) showed up, but it’s not as much as you might have hoped for. That was kind of the theme though with this film; a lot of coulda, woulda, shoulda. Even Baby Groot (Vin Diesel) and Rocket (Bradley Cooper) were not as involved as you would have expected. Sure, they had moments, just like Drax (Dave Bautista), but it wasn’t enough in the end. It’s like Gunn wanted to make this so different than the original, he forgot about what made it so much fun to begin with.
For a film that Gunn himself wanted to be more emotional and allow the audience to connect to the characters, he barely gave them time and instead brought in Sylvestor Stallone of all people. I don’t get it and while many will dismiss this piece in favor of the limited humor and action this film does actually possess, I won’t. At a certain point, there has to be some accountability and while the box office won’t suggest anything is wrong, the true fans will see right through it. This film was not up to par, no matter what ridiculous standard we are holding it to. And that’s too bad because I really wanted to like it.