We have been, as noted elsewhere, pretty burnt out on this whole superhero thing. We don’t even want to go see good superhero movies, particularly. But The Boy had gone to see this with His Girl, and possibly her parents, and reported positively on it, and The Barbarienne is easily the most into the superhero thing of all the kids, so we ambled out four months after its release to go see it. I mention that because it’s still playing, and may actually complete a five-month run if it hangs just one more week. (Note: It did not make it.)
Movies don’t generally play that long any more. Wonder Woman will enter its fifth month next week, and it’s also still playing. Even for the #2 and #3 movies of the year (Beauty and the Beast is #1 and looking like it’s unlikely to be unseated), that’s pretty remarkable in the 2010s. But 2017 is different, and bereft enough that, believe it or not, The Emoji Movie is also still playing. Granted, that’s only a two month run, but even a spectacular failure like that may finish out in the top 40 for the year.
But rather than go on a rant about how the superhero thing may finally, really, be coming to an end, we should talk about Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, which is actually better in every way than its (very good) predecessor, except in the soundtrack.
In this episode, we’re focused on Peter Quill (a.k.a. “Star-Lord” but just barely) discovering his real father (Kurt Russell!), or rather his father discovering him, while he’s fleeing from the Reavers (again). Turns out Yondu (Michael Rooker) was supposed to deliver him over, but kept him, apparently, because he was small and could fit into spaces they couldn’t. (Because a galaxy full of fantastic creatures does not support a single “small humanoid” species, I guess.) Yondu’s got his own issues, we discover, because of a longstanding feud with the rest of the Reavers brought on by trafficking in children, resulting in a throw-down with the Reaver “king” (or whatever), played by Sylvester Stallone.
Hearing Stallone’s cadence and pronunciations has a similar effect to hearing John C. Reilly’s in the original. Somewhat jarring at first, but also kind of refreshing. We could use less bland and generic science-fiction voices.
Meanwhile, green-girl is working out issues with blue-girl sister—I’m sorry, this is way easier than using their names—and raccoon-guy is fighting with Yondu (arrow-guy) but mostly because they’re so much alike, and Tattooed Muscles is hitting it off with a new character, Bug-Girl (completely not in that way because she’s so gross), and Groot is running around like an idiot because he’s basically a twig of his former self, and a combination of a little “young”, a little dumb and (as a tree) somewhat inscrutable.
(Groot’s name, of course, is easy to remember because all he ever says is “I am Groot.”)
So, hero and demiurge Dad are hanging out, and we discover that Dad has a world which contains his essence and gives him both immortality and some degree of creative powers. I don’t mean like “He can write a song” but more like “He made the body he’s living in.”
But all is not as it seems!
I hope that’s not a spoiler. It shouldn’t be. What’s sort of funny, for me, is that in the opening scene of the first movie, when Peter’s mom is dying, I exactly anticipated the cause of her death, which is revealed in this film. (This isn’t canon, and I never read Marvel anyway, so it’s not like I had foreknowledge. But it’s not the first time I’ve seen this device used.) It’s not a big deal, really: The what is secondary to the why, and that I didn’t see coming.
Anyway, lotta good action. It’s a bit much at the end, as modern superhero movies seem to require. Writer/director James Gunn seems to respect the characters (which I think are not quite like their comic book counterparts, but I don’t know). There’s a lot of good laughs: Baby Groot is a terrific device for comedy and even pathos, and grownup Groot is kind of problematic since he’s basically magic. Gunn seems to take things just seriously enough so that the ridiculously high stakes don’t seem like a sham, but not so seriously that it’s not fun. He also seems to cleverly avoid a lot of the worn-out superhero tropes by dealing heavily in space opera—a field which, right now, is cinematically limited to Star Wars, I guess.
It’s all you could ask for in a superhero ensemble film. If you’re in the market for a superhero ensemble film. We liked it all right. The Barb loved it, natch.