Let’s start with the obvious: I did enjoy the highly anticipated sequel to 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 1 directed by James Gunn….even if this review may not reflect that.
There really is no term more accurate to describe this review than ‘nitpicking’. I hate to be “that guy” who looks for flaws in a movie that delivers so much. There’s something to be said for just enjoying a movie for what it is. But at the same time I feel like nitpicking is essential in this case, especially if you compare this movie to it’s predecessor. And you don’t nitpick something you despise; you do that with something you respect and appreciate on a fundamental level.
OK, my disclaimer and long-winded semantics are out of the way. Like Mulan, let’s get down to business.
Two things are universally loved in this modern day: Marvel movies and tacos. When I relocated to San Diego almost two years ago, I was introduced to a whole new level of tacos. I live 20 minutes from the US-Mexican border, so it’s understandable that the access, variety and quality of tacos have exceeded my wildest expectations. The same can be said for super hero movies.
Just, stay with me. This is going somewhere, I swear.
How to Construct a Perfect Fish Taco
A friend of mine introduced me to one of the great gems of fish taco trucks in San Diego. I won’t mention them by name because I don’t want you people ruining it. Completely understated, their ‘OG Fish Tacos’ were a revelation at the reasonable price of $1.75. Each ingredient was so fresh and delicious on its own, but the synergistic assembly resulted in unexpected delight. Do you see where I’m going with this?
My experience, watching Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 1 mirrored my emotions from eating that first OG fish taco. The Ingredients:
Beer Battered White Fish = Star-Lord (Peter Quill)
The star of the show. The fish had perfectly fried batter exterior and flaky-fresh fish in the interior. We all knew Chris Pratt was a great comedic talent, but this was the first time we saw him lead a movie and carry it on his shoulders. He nailed the dramatic and the comedic. You really bought him as a hero, and a leading man.
Cole Slaw = Gamora
The crunchy, cool, fresh texture of the slaw was the perfect foil for the deep-fried battered fish. Do I think Gamora is the greatest stand-alone character? No, I do not. I don’t know that anyone does. But I do believe that she pairs up well with Peter Quill and their onscreen chemistry is undeniable.
Cilantro = Drax the Destroyer
Much like cilantro, Drax is a polarizing character with mixed reviews. Some believe he enhances the movie, while others probably feel indifferent towards him. And others still think he adds some much needed “spice” or “flavor” that enhances the rest of the movie.
Pico de Gallo = Rocket Raccoon
Looking for some flavor? Need a little pop? Rocket brings the right combination, with his wise-cracking mouth and ship-wrecking weapons. Sweet tomatoes and biting onions, Rocket is a damaged little Trash Panda, but he cares.
White Sauce = Groot
Can you please explain what the heck White Sauce is? It’s a mystery. All I know is that as simple as it seems it is fucking great. Did you overlook the giant tree with limited vocabulary? Most people would. I didn’t think I needed white sauce. Now, I’ll never order another taco without it. You can’t have the Guardians without Groot.
Flour Tortilla = Soundtrack in Space
James Gunn did a masterful job building the galaxy with graphics that came straight out of a Jimi Hendrix acid trip. From the opening scene to the end credits, the movie is blanketed by this amazing soundtrack that has 15 year olds today listening to Blue Swede and Redbone. The visuals are stunning and set a great foundation for the next stage of Marvel’s foray into the cosmic.
How to F*ck Up the Perfect Fish Taco
That was awesome. What do we want from the sequel? As an audience our expectation is for the movie to deliver the same experience again. As a director do you follow the same recipe? Well, you can’t make the same movie but you can try.
On a fundamental level, I was satisfied with Vol 2. I got my action packed, comedy with unbelievable special effects and killer soundtrack. That’s what I came for and they delivered it. I can’t fault them for that. Here is where the nitpicking starts.
Too much batter, not enough fish
We forget how much we loved Chris Pratt as Star-Lord now that he’s big time. I thought that the plot of the movie pulled Peter in too many different directions and didn’t allow his character to shine through the way he did in the first movie. His relationship with Gamora, his feud with Rocket, dealing with the revelation about his mother, and dueling father figures in Ego and Yondu all crammed in one movie. I felt like I needed more self-assured, wise-cracking Star-Lord and less teenage Peter Quill.
That’s a lot of watery cabbage…
I believe that Gamora is the perfect foil for Peter Quill. She’s a balance to his goofiness in her grounded realism. But she’s not so rigid that she can’t indulge his idiocy or scoff at her teammates from time to time. with loving exasperation like a caring older sister. All of the scenes of Gamora and Nebula working out their actual sisterly issues felt superfluous to me. I didn’t particularly care for their relationship. Maybe that was partly because we don’t know much about Nebula as a character. Or that we’ve never seen any of the events that would have established why the dislike each other so much. It’s like finding out the coleslaw has raisins or apples in it. WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT?!
My man, that is WAY too much Cilantro…
I’m sensing an “overdoing it” theme here. Drax’s inability to understand irony and uncompromising honesty were great ingredients in the first movie. That doesn’t mean every other line has to be a terrible joke pointing out the obvious in every situation. Drax had purpose in the first movie. He was literal, but also motivated. It almost felt like he was just hanging out this time around. No real character development, unless you want to believe his acceptance of Mantis was development. They went Spinal Tap on that bitch: THIS ONE GOES TO ELEVEN.
What the hell? Why is my pico on the side?
One of the great lines in the movie is when Peter derisively calls Rocket a trash panda. And then the two subsequently separate for most of the rest of the movie. I didn’t necessarily need more Rocket but I certainly needed more Rocket-Peter interaction. This is a team movie. Splitting up the team for that long could never be good. The final battle scene when they’re arguing about tape for an atomic bomb while a man who is LITERALLY a planet threatens to destroy the universe is pure gold. Why Rocket was away from the Peter for the previous 90 minutes is beyond me.
They changed something in this sauce. It’s still good, but it’s different…
Baby Groot was its own character, completely independent from original Groot. I loved it. I thought it was great that they’re able to re-introduce the same character with a completely different personality.
Awesome Mix, Vol.1 vs. Awesome Mix, Vol. 2: Corn vs Flour Tortilla
Both great tortillas, not complaining about the quality. But any human being on this planet is going to have a preference for one over the other, as slight as it may be. I’m a flour guy Corn is flimsy, falls apart when it gets wet and is kind hard to chew. I’m someone who enjoyed the soundtrack from the first movie better. Jackson Five, Blue Swede, David Bowie. Right up my alley. But I certainly wouldn’t judge someone because they liked Vol. 2 better. The visual effects for the second movie were superior but it was almost too much for my eyes and brain to handle. There was a LOT going on. That being said, the final battle scene when Peter goes full Celestial against Ego to the soundtrack of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘The Chain” almost made “pull a trifecta” and pass out (Look it up).
Holy mother of God, I am so full
It’s hard to qualify a movie like Guardians of the Galaxy as subtle and understated, but that’s exactly what it is compared to Vol. 2. The original didn’t rely on the amazing visual effects, soundtrack, one-liners for its success. It relied on its charisma and chemistry between this group of misfits. The sequel had too much going on and I kept looking at my watch as every scene seemed to drag just a little too long. There were way too many characters with stories to track: Yondu, Nebula, Mantis, Kraglin, The Sovereign, Taserface (Fucking Taserface!!) Even Sly Stallone had screen time. I’m exhausted just reminiscing.
There are days when you want to just go to TOWN on a Chipotle burrito. You know you’ll feel bloated afterward, but you want Mexican food and that’s around. And other days, a simple fish taco from the truck by your office hits you right where you need it.
Sometimes less is more.
The car Ego drives in the opening scene has the same color design as Peter Quill’s ship, the Milano.
Peter’s radar tracker is a refurbished/re-purposed 1980’s Mattel Electronic Football game.
During the opening credits, Groot dances while his teammates fight. Much like the end of Vol. 1, he always stops whenever Drax looks directly at him.
Howard the Duck can be seen partying and chatting up two ladies in the bar on Contraxia, the planet where we first hook back up with Yondu & the Ravagers.
Stan Lee’s cameo appears to confirm that he is either a member of or a reporter for The Watchers – a group of omnipotent beings who oversee all life in the universe, but are forbidden to interfere.
Ego briefly changes into David Hasselhoff while demonstrating his form shifts. Hasselhoff also sings the film’s end credits theme “Guardians Inferno” and was the first actor to portray Nick Fury on screen.
When bringing items to help break Rocket and Yondu out of prison on the Ravager ship, Groot brings back the robotic eye Rocket requested in Vol. 1.
Yondu has his trademark mohawk-style fin after escaping from the prison with Rocket and Groot.
When under Ego’s influence mental influence, Star-Lord whispers “Eternity”, most likely a reference to the omnipotent Marvel entity that comes to represent all time and space in the universe.
There is a strong cancer theme throughout Ego’s characterization. Ego also placed a tumor in Peter’s mother’s brain, killing her. The plants Ego placed on each planet to help him spread throughout the universe metastasized and behaved like tumors. To defeat Ego, the Guardians placed a bomb at the core of the planet, a metaphorical tumor on Ego’s brain.
Ego’s final transformation to take on the form of his entire planet is a nod to his comic book appearance as a literal living planet.
Peter Quill’s grandfather can be seen narrowly escaping the approaching blob threatening to consume the Earth in the film’s ending battle.
During his funeral, Yondu’s funeral pyre is adorned with all of his knick knacks from the previous film, including the troll doll and crystal frog.
Sylvester Stallone plays Starhawk, an original Ravager in the movie continuity. In the comics, he is a member of the original Guardians of the Galaxy along with Yondu. The team is fully reassembled at the movie’s conclusion with Starhawk, Aleta Ogord (Michelle Yeoh), Charlie-27 (Ving Rhames), robotic Mainframe (Miley Cyrus), the crystalline Martinex (Michael Rosenbaum), and Krugarr, an associate of Dr. Strange in the comics who can be seen performing magic in the end credits.
Fans had been discussing for months what would happen when the Guardians returned to Earth to participate in Infinity War, and how Peter Quill would react to iPods. James Gunn took that into his own hands. After Peter’s Walkman is destroyed, he discovers that Yondu left him a new device for his music – a Zune.
The end credits scene features the Sovereign’s leader Ayesha, often known as “Her”, and a giant cocoon containing a being to destroy the Guardians. She states she will name “Adam”, a setup for Adam Warlock, one of the most powerful beings in the Marvel Comics’ cosmic universe. He is also referred to as “Him” and has wielded the Infinity Gauntlet, defeated Thanos in 1:1 combat, and eventually becomes the sole protector of the Soul Gem.
The Grandmaster – played by Jeff Goldblum and appearing in the upcoming Thor: Ragnarok – dances through the end credits sequence.
There is a portrait of Cosmo, the Russian dog cosmonaut first seen in the Collector’s museum in Vol. 1, at the conclusion of the end credits. Cosmo serves as “the guy in the chair” for the Guardians in the comics.