2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy turned out to be one of Marvel’s biggest surprises. A squad composed of a handsome thief, talking raccoon, and a walking tree would be a tough sell for most casual moviegoers, but it quickly became a hit. James Gunn, a virtual nobody in the industry, created a wonderful time with memorable characters and even more memorable dialogue. After their huge box office success, it was a given that it would get a sequel eventually.
Three years and four Marvel films later, the sequel is finally here and as fun as ever. Most comic book films fall under the sequel curse, but Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is the exception. It may use its old schtick once again, but it’s as fresh as it was the first time. Some folks may be disappointed that it doesn’t offer anything new, but most will feel right at home.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 picks up right where it left off. The Guardians are now an established team and are hired by the Sovereign to rid of their of an intergalactic menace. After Rocket (Bradley Cooper) steals their precious batteries, the Sovereign shift their eyes to the gang and aim to kill. In a somewhat abrupt space battle, the Guardians narrowly escape by crash landing on an isolated planet. There, they meet Ego (Kurt Russell), a mysterious celestial being who is revealed to be Peter Quill’s (Chris Pratt) father.
At first, this film doesn’t quite sit right because the Guardians are mostly split up for the first half. Peter, Gamora (Zoe Saldana), and Drax (Dave Bautista) follow Ego and his assistant, Mantis (Pom LAST NAME) to his planet while Rocket, Baby Groot, and newly captured Nebula (Karen Gillan) are left to repair the ship. It feels awkwardly disjointed because one group is getting a taste of action while the other is stuck with exposition. As a whole, it makes the story feel less connected and lack that cosmic dynamic that we loved in the previous film.
That being said, the two narratives work wonders for character development and flesh out these characters so much more. Most of Gunn’s storytelling goes into Peter’s parentage and his reuniting with his father. The narrative goes flat in some parts, mainly relying on exposition to shape the origin story. Pratt shows some of his dramatic chops and proves that he is more than comic relief. His scenes with Ego are touching, creating emotional father-son moments. However, the more compelling family drama revolved around Gamora and Nebula. Nebula’s story was more heartbreaking than it should have been and provided a glimpse into how menacing Thanos is.
If you’ve seen Gunn’s previous work, you know that he’s exceptionally talented at creating comedic dialogue. The first Guardians film showed that, and it’s especially apparent here. The downside is that the film relies too heavily on comedy to move it forward. Gunn sacrifices action for humor, and it drags at times. Drax was the center of most of the punchlines, delivering his traditional deadpan jokes. It worked most of the time, but it was a shame that Drax’s backstory was substituted for toilet humor.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is just as beautiful as the first. Gunn embraces the psychedelic feel and introduces audiences to new planets and settings. The only downside is that he doesn’t have enough time to explore them. Thankfully, Awesome Mix Vol. 2’s eclectic tracks help give each location their own personality.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 may be one of the most character-driven films in the MCU. It focuses on the wants and insecurities of these characters in such an intimate way. However, the dynamic that audiences felt in love with is not as prevalent, making it feel less of an ensemble film and more like various TV episodes meshed together. Still, it has classic tone written all over it accompanied by a diverse set of tunes. It may not be The Avengers, but it’s a breath of fresh air—one that Marvel desperately needed.