The Guardians are back! This time they are focused on saving one of their own, Rocket. In fact, I think Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) says “let’s go save our friend” about five times. So there’s no missing the storyline here.
But first, director James Gunn takes us back to Rocket’s origin as a scientific lab raccoon “89P13” caged under the maniacal High Evolutionary who is trying to create the perfect species. 89P13 finds himself among other animal experiments that appear as talking oddities reminiscent of Toy Story’s mutated collection. There’s a friendly otter type thing, a huge walrus and a very scary looking white bunny with red eyes. The foursome get each other through their violent imprisonment, laughing and connecting as friends while dreaming of their release. There are touching moments in their evolution that demonstrate their individuality, especially when they pick their own names. Now the name Rocket means so much more.
Once you get through all of this sentimentality, you bounce back to the present to watch Quill and the other Guardians plot to save Rocket who needs a passcode to be able to heal. I love all of the Guardians characters, especially Drax (Dave Bautista) and Groot (Vin Diesel), but expected more laughs. I took note that it was an hour into the film before I laughed out loud, and it was just at a comedic face plant. Most of the attempts at humor disappointingly fell flat. Mantis (Pom Klementieff) suddenly talks a LOT, and she’s very shouty. Nebula (Karen Gillan) is too. In fact, the entire crew seems to shout their lines at one another, everyone seems so angry. I mean, I guess they’re on an urgent quest, but where is the love? It might be a set up for the team going their separate ways.
Of course, the music is outstanding. Guardians of the Galaxy is known for its energetic soundtracks along with Quill’s iconic walkman. My favorite fight scene blasts a Beastie Boys No Sleep Til Brooklyn track that hits every blaster and stunt sequence perfectly. The editing is on point, slowing down hero moves and technical pivots providing a blood-pumping orchestrated display of CGI action. This is when the movie is at its highest peak of fun and feels and looks like a Marvel movie.
The visual effects are impressive, from the meticulous character animation to the realistic environments that our heroes inhabit. Just considering the technicality of it all it is overwhelming, down to the perfect tiny details of debris in Rocket’s fur that react along with his movements. In concert with the overall misfit/maverick vibe, the costumes and the prosthetics of the background characters are full of outrageous curiosity and disturbing details. Gunn has certainly created a wild and entertaining world here, but still it dangles far away from the collaborative feel of the MCU’s Endgame.