Hats off to James Gunn, said I in 2014 after screening Guardians of the Galaxy. He’s found a way to lampoon the space opera and at the same time come closer than anyone has to recreating the spirit of the first Star Wars movie. Alas, in the inevitable 2017 sequel, Vol 2, he squandered all that and instead spent the increased budget on big-deal special effects. As if we needed more of that.

If you judge a movie by how well a filmmaker realizes his vision (which in this case is separating pre-teen boys from their allowances), I’d have to call it a success. And sequel-wise, Gunn is certainly on safer ground here, as all he had to do is make a better film than David Ayer’s awful 2016 Suicide Squad. Not difficult.

This is Gunn at his most unhinged. And no one does unhinged better. He gives each of his odd characters room to define him or her (or it) self and injects some much-needed satire into the increasingly lame superhero genre. But his direction often slips into show-off territory, and his frequent resorting to unnecessary ultraviolence is off-putting.

Mostly it’s a bunch of loser supervillains with strange powers (one’s a friggin’ great white shark, another hurls lethal polka dots) coerced into being good guys, cracking wise and inventively slaughtering many, many people. Okay, call me old-fashioned, but I don’t think this is a good time to celebrate mass shootings, stabbings, throttlings, etc., in the name of “entertainment,” even if the extremely silly and juvenile set pieces are nicely choreographed

As before, Margo Robbie’s Harley Quinn is the best thing it has going for it. But ultimately her delightfully wacko performance is not reason enough for anyone over 12 to catch it. (132 min)

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