The heart be­hind the vi­sion of ‘Guardians of the Galaxy 2’

Cape Breton Post - - Arts/ Entertainment - BY LIND­SEY BAHR

“Guardians of the Galaxy’’ was just the warmup.

Two years ago, writer and di­rec­tor James Gunn and his cranky, lov­able band of mul­ti­hued mis­fits in space seemed like a sort of gam­ble for the Earth-bound Marvel Stu­dios and its ever-grow­ing plans for to­tal mul­ti­plex dom­i­na­tion. Star Lord wasn’t ex­actly a house­hold name, and nei­ther was Chris Pratt.

Now as “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2’’ pre­pares for launch in North Amer­i­can the­atres on Fri­day, the story is quite dif­fer­ent. “Guardians of the Galaxy’’ was a huge crit­i­cal and fi­nan­cial suc­cess, gross­ing over US$773 mil­lion world­wide, Pratt be­came an in­ter­na­tional star, and Gunn was given the green­light to do what he wanted once more — mak­ing “Vol. 2’’ as weird and wild and idio­syn­cratic as his imag­i­na­tion would al­low. Many re­view­ers have al­ready called “Vol. 2’’ bet­ter than the first, the mono­syl­labic Baby Groot is al­ready a break­out star, and it’s headed for a pos­si­ble $140 mil­lion to $150 mil­lion open­ing week­end.

“So many se­quels are not good,’’ Gunn said. “We re­ally tried to let these char­ac­ters grow and change ... I didn’t want it to be a re­hash of the first movie.’’

Gunn likes to say that “Vol. 2’’ is an ad­ven­ture film, a com­edy and a space opera tied up into one brightly coloured pack­age, but that at its core, it’s a fam­ily melo­drama. A lot of big ac­tion and sci-fi films claim to be about fam­ily — whether it’s the peo­ple you’re tied to by blood or the ones you choose — but it’s of­ten a lot of talk. “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2’’ might have a talk­ing tree and a wise­crack­ing, ma­chine-gun-tot­ing rac­coon and an un­par­al­leled glee for the art of teas­ing, but it’s also got a big, beat­ing heart that ac­tu­ally hit quite close to home for both Pratt and Gunn.

Pratt’s Star Lord/Peter Quill meets his fa­ther Ego (Kurt Rus­sell) for the first time in “Guardians 2’’ af­ter a life­time of ex­plain­ing away his ab­sence, telling peo­ple that his fa­ther was David Has­sel­hoff, while be­ing raised by the scoundrel Rav­ager, Yondu (Michael Rooker).

A lot of the story, which also in­cludes a sis­terly rivalry that has veered into the mur­der­ous zone, is drawn from Gunn’s re­la­tion­ship with his fa­ther, a re­cov­er­ing al­co­holic who has been sober for 20 years, and what he calls his big, lov­ingly dys­func­tional Ir­ish Catholic fam­ily. And even though it’s his life on the page, there was one per­son he needed to get to sign off from first: Pratt.

Pratt’s fa­ther died in 2014 af­ter bat­tling mul­ti­ple scle­ro­sis for years — a con­di­tion the once hard-work­ing, tough love, man’s man Dan Pratt re­fused to treat. In 2015, Pratt told GQ mag­a­zine that it even­tu­ally led to him split­ting up with his mother and liv­ing out the rest of his days in front of the tele­vi­sion in as­sisted liv­ing.

“(Chris) was the first per­son I told it to, that’s for sure. When I came up with the story, Chris came over to my house and I said, ‘OK, here’s what I’m think­ing about,’” Gunn said. “I wanted to make sure he was on­board with it be­cause, I mean, there’s a lot of per­sonal stuff there. I wanted to make sure he was cool with it.’’

Pratt said he re­lated to the story a lot. His dad, he said, was not dis­sim­i­lar to Yondu in the way he showed love. Cat Stevens’ “Fa­thers and Sons’’ even plays at a piv­otal mo­ment.

“All of it is com­pletely hon­est and true even though it’s about aliens,’’ Gunn said. “It is hon­est and true stuff about hu­man be­ings and the way we in­ter­act and how we have a hard time ac­cept­ing love from other hu­man be­ings.’’

This little cob­bled-to­gether fam­ily is not dis­band­ing yet, ei­ther. Gunn, who has done noth­ing else but work with these char­ac­ters for the past five years of his life, will con­tinue stew­ard­ing the Guardians through their tri­als in “Avengers: In­fin­ity War,’’ where he says they are “sup­port­ing char­ac­ters but not small roles.’’ He’s also signed on for “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3,’’ which will close out that se­ries and launch Marvel into its next decade.

“With the first movie, James earned Dis­ney’s trust,’’ Pratt said re­cently. “On the sec­ond movie he was like, ‘I’m go­ing to do what­ever I want with all of your money.’ And they said, ‘OK.’ And he made the cra­zi­est movie.’’

Gunn even said he was a little timid on the first film, but not any­more.

“I’m a little punk rock kid who likes edgy stuff. I thought what I liked might not be what the en­tire world likes,’’ Gunn said. “But I’ve come to trust that what I like works.’’

AP PHOTO

In this April 20 photo, Chris Pratt, left, a cast mem­ber in “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2,” and the film’s writer/ di­rec­tor James Gunn pose to­gether at the Lon­don West Hol­ly­wood Ho­tel in West Hol­ly­wood, Calif. The film opens May 5.

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