Arguably the most anticipated Marvel movie of 2017, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is yet another impressive, colorful, quality film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, despite falling just short of its predecessor’s greatness.
Except we didn’t say “frickin’.”
2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy is one of my favorite movies of all time. The story. The cast. The way it moved the needle on the MCU timeline, the way the characters found their way into my heart. Goodness, that soundtrack?! Marvel made us care about one of its lesser properties, in some ways meant to be a spoof on modern superhero cinema. It majorly succeeded, both commercially and critically, becoming one of its go-to franchises and in the making, spawning a few sequels (and appearances in other Marvel films).
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 does little to set the story up for us and frankly, it didn’t have to. The Galaxy’s biggest idiots are saving the day yet again, this time on a bit of a fetch quest. When Rocket takes something he shouldn’t have (though he wanted it more than the guy that had it), the Guardians go on the run, setting up a central plot that often takes a backseat to the characters, their interactions, and the larger focus at hand: Star-Lord’s Father.
GROOTED IN REALITY
Guardians of the Galaxy’s strongest appeal is its characters and in this way, the movie did not disappoint. All of our heroes return from the first film, including the lovable Chris Pratt as Star-Lord, Zoe Saldana as Gamora, Bradley Cooper as everyone’s favorite vermin, Rocket, Vin Diesel as Baby Groot, and Dave Bautista as Drax the Destroyer.
The depth of the characters and their relationships, both with side characters and each other, is remarkable. Star-Lord’s father, Ego takes center stage. The legendary Kurt Russell was absolutely fantastic and as smooth as ever. If anyone could play the dad of Star-Lord, it would be him. I was admittedly leery heading into the film on just how they might adapt Ego for the big screen, but the way they executed it was perfect. Did anyone else keep hearing shades of Herb Brooks when Ego spoke?
Gamora’s relationship with her thorn-in-the-side sister Nebula (Karen Gillan) is pivotal to the movie and in a much larger sense, the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe. Not only was it genuine and raw, but it helps to bring our focus back to Thanos and his treachery. We’ve known for a while now that Thanos is going to be the big baddie that opposes not only the Guardians, but the Avengers themselves. Why is he so despicable though? We find out in GOTG2, with but a taste of the inhumanity and malice that he possesses.
Without giving anything away, Rocket finds a greater depth while bonding with Yondu Udonta (Michael Rooker), who shockingly plays a major role in the film’s plot and adds yet another layer of the depth that I spoke about earlier. It was quite touching, to say the least. The other addition to the Guardians crew is comic book favorite Mantis (Pom Klementieff). While not completely relevant to the story, she was a welcomed addition and helped to provide some of the laughs (and awkward moments with Drax).
Of course, the star of the show is Baby Groot. The Groot we see in GOTG2 is a complete 180 from the first film. I had assumed we were just going to get an adorable, pint-sized version of Groot, but the way in which the other Guardians interact with Groot is absolutely priceless. Groot isn’t just small, he’s a baby, and the crew treats him as such (“spit it out!”). I adored Vin Diesel’s performance here. Groot is incredibly compelling and ended up (unsurprisingly) being my favorite part of the film. Stick around for the post-credit scenes.
IT’S A LIVING THING
If you enjoyed the first Guardians movie, odds are that a big reason why was the soundtrack, aka Awesome Mix Vol. 1. Though Awesome Mix Vol. 2 is certainly appealing, it’s not quite as memorable as its predecessor. When the track listing for the film was released, I decided that I didn’t want to see it before the film. Chris Pratt tweeted that he felt it would be better to wait and witness it without spoiling the surprise and thus, I won’t list the tracks within this review. I’m glad I waited. I can, however, tell you that the song selection is truly awesome.
In addition to the audio element, the visual element of GOTG2 is as good as it gets in a Marvel movie. I can say the same about the original. If you haven’t noticed, Marvel’s 2017 movies (actually dating back to 2016’s Doctor Strange) have all featured vintage, vibrant color pallets, particularly during their pre-release promotions. GOTG2 is no exception. We at The Geekiverse actually recorded a video discussion on the color elements found in Doctor Strange and how in short, there was a swing and a miss due to the messy execution. Serving as a primer for GOTG2, Doctor Strange’s shortcomings ended up being a blessing for this movie. They are clear yet vibrant, from the cosmos to the differing species and aliens. It was one of my favorite parts in the first movie and it carried over to the sequel, despite having a slightly different art style that helped to give Vol. 2 its own identity.
It’s tough to find specific elements to complain about with GOTG2, but there were a few issues with the film that I had. The first thing that stood out to me was the humor. There were so many genuine, big interactions in the first movie that were not only hilarious, but memorable. Vol. 2 doesn’t quite have the same cache to it, though time could change that argument. It’s like Marvel knew that Guardians essentially came out of nowhere to become a smash success, and they got cocky. Too many times, jokes didn’t land. Dialogue that was meant to produce laughs often produced silence. In some instances, it felt like the characters were doing the laughing for us, like a cheesy laugh track playing over a terrible sitcom. That’s not to say that laughter wasn’t had – I laughed plenty throughout. But overall, the writers swung for the fences and ended up whiffing as the ball zoomed by.
The story doesn’t quite grab its roots until the third act of the film and at that point, it becomes truly great. The first two acts have their share of setup, but often felt more like filler time just to get us to the end. Let me tell you, when it all came together, it helped to produce some of Marvel’s best on-screen footage to date. From the action, to the magnitude of the story, I was enthralled. You might be surprised with certain revelations, and you might be surprised with who you end up changing your mind over. All that is a sign of masterful story telling, I just wish the movie had more of it before it wound down.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 would have been my highest anticipated film by a mile in any year that also didn’t contain Star Wars: The Last Jedi. As a huge fan of the franchise, I am thrilled and thankful that Marvel was able to give me a movie that I’ll likely watch 20 times in the coming years. As a critic, I am appreciative of the overall quality of the film and the promise of where the MCU and the inevitable Guardians 3 will go, despite its shortcomings. What can I say? I’m still hooked on a feeling.
+ There’s no better cast of characters or actors in all of the MCU. No one does ensemble better than the Guardians.
+ Though not quite as star-studded and thrilling as the first Awesome Mix, Vol. 2 won’t leave my stereo anytime soon.
+ Relationships between multiple sets of characters are as deep as anything we’ve witnessed in the MCU. My emotions ranged from happy to sad to angry, to put it lightly.
+ Third act is action packed.
– Humor didn’t land nearly as much as it needed to.
– Plot pacing is sub-par in acts 1 and 2.
– Ending is somewhat abrupt and left me wanting a better sendoff.
– Post credit scenes don’t move or tease the MCU plot much, if at all.
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