“Out of the way, dumber smaller Groot!”
Guardians Of The Galaxy is the rarest of blockbuster beasts: a Marvel Studios blockbuster that caught viewers by surprise and felt like the product of a distinct filmmaker. Only the deepest of Marvel zombie nerds cared about the property and even then not many of them could even name all of the obscure characters who were part of the Guardians team over the years. Yet thanks to the delightfully twisted brain in James Gunn’s skull, the blockbuster proved to be a charmingly wacko space adventure that went on to be the highest grossing film of the year. Now it was sequel time. Expectations were high. Things could have gone wrong. Thankfully they didn’t and Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2 proved to be an equally nuts and crowd-pleasing. A weird bit of pop art writ on the largest possible scale.
The plot goes all Empire Strikes Back on us, splitting up the established Guardians team into smaller groups and exploring their differences. The central story concerns Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) discovering that his father is a planet/god played by Kurt Russell. You know, that old story. Surprisingly enough, it proves to be an oddly moving ode to what it means to be a father, that theme’s emotional core is just explored through a man-planet that somehow redeems a kidnapping space pirate (Yondu, played by the reliably twisted Michael Rooker). The film is surprisingly emotionally complex for a goofy space opera with starship battles and a living baby tree. That shouldn’t be possible, but that’s James Gunn for ya! He’s a guy for whom trashy genre cinema is a personal playground.
That’s not to say that the movie is profound or perfect. Nope, it’s still ultimately a romp. The effects are gorgeous. The universe looks like a drugged out 70s album cover brought to life and the soundtrack is a glorious mix tape from that era. It’s funny and exciting and moving and silly and serious. A mix that’s hard to pull off and sometimes it does indeed fumble. The sprawling cast aren’t all equally served, with Gamora (Zoe Zaldana) in particular feeling forgotten at times and Kurt Russell given more screentime than many will appreciate. Still, the fact that so many oddball motivations and elements come together at all is something of a miracle.
Obviously Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2 doesn’t have the same level of surprise as the original. You know what you’re getting into and Gunn sticks on brand, even while getting a more personal. A sci-fi comedy epic about the joys and pains of fractured families is just not quite as satisfying as a team-building blockbuster for wide audience. It’s more of a film for weirdoes and the fact that James Gunn found a way to mould a massive Marvel blockbuster around those motives is impressive. Plus the movie delivered the best David Hasselhoff cameo of a summer that actually boasted a Baywatch movie. Kudos to everyone who made that happen.
First things first, Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2 looks absolutely gorgeous on Blu-ray. The neon day-glo sci-fi aesthetic provides so many bright colors and deep details to explode off the screen and the disc delivers. It’s beautiful eye-candy from first frame to the last and a perfect test to see what your HDTV can do. The lossless soundtrack is also fantastic, filled with explosive action scenes, bizarre sound effects, and a catchy pop soundtrack to work your sound system in every way possible. Simply put, this is a damn fine technical presentation. Probably one of the best for a Marvel movie to date.
The special features section is also pleasingly robust for the hungry nerd audience. Things kick off with a 37-minute documentary about the making of the film. It’s obviously a puff piece from Marvel Studios, but a good one. There’s plenty of footage from the set and back slapping interviews. The motivation behind almost every song in the soundtrack is discussed, as are the design of Baby Root, the strange new planets, and the personal themes. It’s all pretty surface level, yet better than most EPK docs. Predictably, James Gunn gets a little more candid in his audio commentary, speaking a mile a minute and dipping in and out of everything from his deep personal connection to the material as well as taking side swipes at Michael Rooker (he always does). Gunn is one of the few directors who seems to still love recording commentary tracks, so it’s a treat for anyone who wants a more detailed exploration of the making of the film.
Next up are a collection of deleted scenes and outtakes. The five minutes of deleted scenes are mostly just extensions to existing scenes or improvised bits with unfinished effects, so they don’t add much. The outtakes show just how much everyone in the film seems to like each other and for that reason probably played better at the wrap party than on the disc. The best feature on the disc is an absolutely hilarious fake disco music video for the end credits song sung by The Hoff. It was clearly made with a love for late 70s cheese featuring the entire cast in various embarrassing costumes and poses and would have been a nice treat for fans were it not for the fact that it debuted on YouTube two weeks ago.
Does this deserve a spot on your Dork Shelf?
This is a fantastic Blu-ray release for a film that will likely only be more beloved as time goes on and hype wears down. James Gunn made a surprisingly personal film within this franchise space opera and some day that will resonate as much as the stunning effects and endearing one-liners.