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Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)

Action/Adventure Rated PG-13

Overly long and unnecessarily complicated, visually bombastic and callously violent, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 seems determined to squash its own admirable idiosyncrasies. By nature a small movie, whose strength lies in humor and character, the film instead insists on trying to wear big-boy blockbuster pants. It’s an ill fit.

The original crew from Guardians of the Galaxy returns, led once again by Peter Quill (Chris Pratt). If some of the chemistry seems slightly off (the antagonism between Quill and Rocket, a genetically enhanced raccoon voiced by Bradley Cooper, seems forced; the close relationship between Rocket and a walking tree named Groot, here a sprout, is almost forgotten), there is still a fair amount of witty repartee on hand. (Dave Bautista’s comic timing as a hulking warrior who takes things very literally remains impeccable.) And at first, it seems that returning director James Gunn is going to focus on personality and comedy: a battle with a monstrous space beast during the opening credits is relegated to the background, while Baby Groot obliviously dances in the foreground.

The movie seems determined to squash its own admirable idiosyncrasies.

From then on, however, the grace notes are few and far between. The main narrative involves the discovery of Quill’s long-lost father (a game Kurt Russell), but considerable attention is given to side plots involving other characters who aren’t even part of the guardians: Nebula (Karen Gillan), a leftover villain from the first film; Yondu (Michael Rooker), the scavenger who kidnapped Quill from Earth; Mantis (Pom Klementieff), an “empath” who can sense emotions via touch. The guardians proper often get lost in the shuffle.

Then we have the final 20 minutes or so of the film, a colossal fight scene that takes place in meaningless CGI space and—once again for a Marvel movie—puts the fate of the universe in the balance. It’s chaotic, relentless, and punishing—especially for a picture that is at its best when indulging in comic asides and staying light on its feet. Add at least three closing-credits “bonus” scenes, meant mainly to feed the Marvel machine, and I left feeling less entertained than condemned. It was as if a judge had issued me a sentence: “You will serve one more Guardians movie and two Marvel projects to be named later.” I don’t think this review is going to get me time off for good behavior.