There’s always one May blockbuster to officially kick off the summer movie season.
This time around, it’s the sequel to one of Hollywood’s most unexpected smashes. “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” should make Hollywood bean counters very happy this weekend. It’s already Hoovering up money overseas and should smash the $100 million mark via U.S. theaters. Experts predict that tally could reach $160 million.
That doesn’t mean the film itself is good, mind you. Those fiscal predictions measure pre-release hype, affection for the 2014 original and our raging superhero worship.
The sequel turns out to be a crushing disappointment. Why?
1. Forced Nostalgia
The original “Guardians” trotted out a killer gimmick. Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) loves late 20th-century pop music. So, armed with a trusty cassette player (Google it, millennials), he cranked up the tunes. In the process, a killer soundtrack was born.
Using “Vol. 2” for the sequel’s title cleverly played off that spirit. And then Team Guardians went overboard. Every scene demands a classic pop hit from ye olde days. Not only are the selections weaker this time around, it’s more obvious than ever what the filmmakers are up to.
There might as well be an Amazon link to the soundtrack on the screen.
2. Fourth Grade Humor
Franchise guru James Gunn set the scene early in the first “Guardians.” Pratt’s Star-Lord does that infantile gesture where you crank up your hand to reveal the middle finger.
It was silly. Juvenile. And, in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, a breath of fresh air. That’s an oddly tough act to follow. To do so, Gunn and co. trot out nipple jokes, vomit jokes and the like. Now, it feels desperate, especially since the rest of the movie is just so … lifeless.
3. Too Many Wink-Wink Moments
Peter Quill references the classic NBC sitcom “Cheers” in the middle of the movie. Why? He’s looking back at the sexual tension between Sam and Diane, tying it to his bond with Zoe Saldana’s Gamora.
Only no one in Peter’s world knows about Sam. Or Diane. Or “Cheers,” for that matter.
The screenplay is trying to trigger our nostalgia circuits. Yet the results are just dispiriting. We’re taken out of the scene, and out of the movie, in the process.
Too many other moments reflect that wink-wink desperation. A running gag involving David Hasselhoff is the very worst example.
4. Tone Deaf Storytelling
Tone is everything in films and TV shows. Get it wrong and you can feel it. Sense it. Nail the proper tone and audiences will thank you for it, even if they don’t quite understand why.
It’s that subtle … and fleeting.
“Vol. 2” is a tonal mess, veering from turd jokes to extended soliloquies for the deceased. It’s all over the map, frankly, and it doesn’t nail any of the requisite tones well enough to compensate for the film’s other flaws.