Take 2, a collective of two American cinema lovers, first surfaced on Hollywood Hegemony to deliver a film-by-film analysis of the Oscar Shorts nominees earlier this year. Now, Amy Peterson and Diana Nakelski are back with Volume 2 of their movie review segment.
Rating: Close, but no ciggy
Let’s start off by establishing that the movie is worth seeing. Especially if you are a die-hard Chris Pratt fan, or in any way a fan of muscles in tight T-shirts. The characters blossom a bit more in this sequel, and the relationship dynamics are maintained solidly. However, that’s where some of the problem with the writing begins. The character’s are fairly predictable–Rocket steals some shit he shouldn’t, Drax takes everything quite literally, Gamora is angry for no reason, and Groot is a stage-hog—with one deviation: Peter Quill now has daddy issues instead of mommy issues.
Problem 2: the writing lacked cohesion. The most painful example of this was a heartfelt moment when Quill is reconnecting with his estranged father and has a moment of clarity when he asks, “If you loved my mother so much, then why did you leave her?” That moment is carelessly followed by a quick cut to another part of the galaxy where Rocket is battling rogue ravagers. Why ask the question if you don’t have the time to answer it?
This segways well into my 3rd critique: this was a boy’s movie. A young man must kill his father in order to become a man himself. The audience is expected to root for the goofball who relentlessly pressures the cold hottie into admitting her attraction to him. It is not lost on us that Peter is, in fact, the star of the story and being the center of the story is to be expected. However, our real critique about the male-centricity of the movie is that the conflicts with the female characters lack even the forced depth that Peter Quill grapples with in reconnecting with his father. The writers attempted to placate female audiences by continuing the sibling rivalry between Gomorra and Nebula, but this was really more of a faintly veiled excuse to watch two alien hotties fight in tight clothing. Let me drive this point home by informing you that there were 11 credited writers for this film, none of whom were female.
Problem 3.5: The plot in and of itself was weak and unoriginal. A father re-enters a young man’s life 30 years after he abandoned him and his mother for no reason (supposedly they were madly in love) and expects son to carry out his legacy. Everything seems perfect to Peter Quill, which is exactly why everybody else around him is suspicious. And to no one’s surprise, dad quickly turns into villain and must be vanquished. The father’s legacy is essentially to kill everybody in the universe, but the explanation or rationale for this is completely lacking.
And that brings us to Problem 4! Marvel villains overall are weak. There is never motivation for their evilness. They simply are evil—with the exceptions of Thor’s Loki and X-Men’s Magneto (who eventually gets turned into a “good guy” in later films). The world is black and white. Villains have no redeeming qualities or tragic upbringing that leads them to do bad things. Their lack of character development makes it easy for Marvel to crank out film after film because they can throw in any old yahoo to create conflict and be vanquished by our beloved hero.
Okay, back to this movie. Our final critique, sadly, goes back to the writers again. The dialogue, emotions, and comedy all felt incredibly forced. The sarcastic humor that worked so well in the first movie felt cruel in this second attempt. One scene painfully subjects Baby Groot to bullying and torture for no reason relevant to the plot as he is left to roam the ship unsupervised in the next scene. In fact, they milked baby Groot for all he is worth. (Not that we minded. He is SO cute.) Attempts to make the audience laugh were prompted by Drax’s hyperbolic laughter in several scenes. And are we really supposed to feel anything but embarrassed for Quill when he starts playing ball (made of “the light” from within him) with his father as grown man?
All that being said, this movie was redeemed by the quality of the cast. The actors’ embodiment of their characters’ motivations and emotions felt genuine despite lack of creativity from the writers. We particularly appreciated Yondu in this second film. Michael Rooker seemed to do the best job of transcending the predictability by just being damn good at selling it.
To the writers’ credit, they simply attempted to write a sequel that would give the audience exactly what they want. Karen Gillan returns as Nebula, Quill and Gamora continue their unrequited romance, and groot gets plenty of adorable screen-time. There are a handful of juicy cameos as well. Should you see it? Yeah, it’s fun. But don’t expect the same feeling of bad-assery that you got from the first.