Guardians of the Galaxy was one of Marvel’s biggest risks, and also arguably its largest creative success to date. Director James Gunn’s mixture of emotion, humor, and that amazing 70’s era soundtrack had audiences surprised and delighted, and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 aims to show that the first film wasn’t just a fluke with a bigger, more colorful sequel that doesn’t surpass the original, but is a more than worthy follow-up.
Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldanna), Drax (Dave Bautista), Rocket (Bradley Cooper), and Groot (Vin Diesel) are all back after successfully guarding the galaxy from Ronan the Accuser, and find themselves revered and in demand for their heroic services – at a price of their choosing of course. When one such job for the gold-skinned alien race known as The Sovereign goes bad, the Guardians find themselves saved by an unlikely source: a man claiming to be Peter’s long-lost father Ego (Kurt Russell).
In many ways the films improves a few aspects of the original and then, to its own detriment, loses ground in other areas. While Drax was utilized perfectly as both a dangerous warrior and comic relief in perfectly sized doses in the first film, Gunn overcompensated here by giving the character much more screen time crammed with cornball humor and goofy one-liners in his heftier role.
Additionally, while the soundtrack is still fantastic and full of deeper cuts this time out, Gunn seems to switch to a montage in almost every other scene to the point of exhaustion. Yes, some of the choices like the unbelievably awesome opening credit sequence and a Fleetwood Mac song in the film’s big battle at the end are everything fans love about use of songs in these film and make up for some of the other more egregious uses of songs. Also, we all know Baby Groot is in this film because the character is a license to print money, but he’s mostly just as adorable and fun on-screen as fans have hoped.
But in the center of it all is the theme of what makes a family that was introduced in the first film and is explored more deeply here, not only in Quill’s relationship with Ego but also in some way with everyone else on the team. Gamora and Nebula (Karen Gillan) have their sisterly bonds explained in a fairly touching b-plot, while Rocket struggles with a need to be the Guardians’ patriarchal figure despite his criminal pirate ways. Each plot reveals new layers to these characters that are intriguing to see play out.
New cast members Kurt Russell (who commits fully as he tremendously chews the scenery with a twinkle in his eye) and Pom Klementieff (as the adorable Mantis) are intriguing additions to the cast and have really great interactions with the Guardians that audiences already know. Mantis is especially fun as she bonds with Drax and makes unfiltered comments about Rocket.
Unexpectedly, returning favorite Michael Rooker’s space redneck Yondu has the best arc in the film and Rooker turns in one of his more memorable performances. There’s an absolutely stunning sequence in the film where Yondu really unleashes his whistle arrow that is brilliantly executed by Gunn and just plain visually mind-blowing, and there are quite a few cameos and character introductions that will have more well-read Marvel fans giddy with delight.
There are definitely more holes to poke at this time out and there’s more of a vibe that they’re milking popular elements from the original, but the core aspects of what made Guardians of the Galaxy such a surprise monster hit are still present. Chris Pratt still owns as Peter Quill and his story once again has a lot of heart, and the rest of the core cast continue to embody and grow in their respective roles. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is an acid trip of colors, terrific visuals and plenty of humor and insane cosmic action in this not quite as good, but still extremely satisfying sequel.