When I walked out of this, the word that came to me was “joyless.” I didn’t love the first one, but I liked, like everyone else, it’s looseness, humor and general wackiness. All the wackiness here is forced, the humor is canned, the chemistry is unconvincing, and all the pop music now just seems like an affectation. And overall it’s very long and very overstuffed, and doesn’t create much involvement and emotional—or visceral—excitement.
The main plot is that Peter’s dad is a creative force, not a human, and has created a planet, made of himself, as well as planting “seed” all across the galaxy. This is both literal (a plant) and figurative (babies). One of these babies is Peter, and, just by amazing coinkidink, he is the ONLY one with whatever special power dad needs to enact his plan, which is that all of his seeds will expand exponentially (it looks like scenes from The Blob. Not kidding), for… some reason? And then he’ll… do something? Bad?
The film spends an inordinate amount of time trying to have rich characters and emotional stakes, but the thing is, all of it is so disconnected from any sort of human circumstance, all the emotions ring flat. I mean, your dad only really wants you in order to enact his plan to expand exponentially throughout the universe? Umm, I can’t really relate. You’re fighting with your sister because your father forced you to become the universe’s most deadly assassin? Not something I’ve been through. You have daddy issues because aliens stole you from Earth when you were just a boy? The film wants us to have emotional reactions to these things, but each of them is so unreal they don’t resonate with anything relatable. And the moral is… it’s bad to be a guy who has a lot of babies and never settles down with one woman? True, but… I’m not sure that’s an issue most people grapple with in their personal lives.
Similarly, all of the action is so unreal that none of it resonates as exciting. First of all, almost every shot in the film is mostly CG, so at a certain point what you are watching is entirely animated. Then, there is an extremely large amount of action scenes that are difficult to get into because they revolve around something so unreal: tentacles of energy squeezing people, blobs of goo overwhelming cities, bolts of energy fighting each other, hooks of energy impaling people… it’s like the end of Ang Lee’s Hulk when the two antagonists become clouds that fight each other. The same thing happens with the action, which suddenly finds people rising into the sky on huge columns that emerge from the ground, navigating a field where asteroids are popping like popcorn, being thrust into a rushing current of moving rocks… It is imaginative, true, but so removed from anything anyone goes through, the question starts to be why anyone would go to such lengths to make a movie about it.
So whatever magic was there for the first film is gone, and it’s just not fun. It’s also extremely violent and sadistic at times. We have a lot of scenes of Rocket Raccoon delightedly and sadistically killing or hurting people, and a major set piece, set to a catchy pop song and with a stunning visual, revolves around people being run through in huge numbers by an arrow. In this movie, mass killing is totally awesome.
But the main thing is that it’s just flat and joyless. The spark of the original film is gone, none of the characters make much of an impression this time, the story is pure nonsense, the action is nonsense, and pretty much the whole thing is just pure nonsense. Very pretty, true, but absolute nonsense. And not very fun.