Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is once again written and directed by James Gunn and stars Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Michael Rooker, Kurt Russell, Karen Gillan, Pom Klementiff, and Elizabeth Debicki.
Set a handful of months following the events of 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 follows our team of rag-tag heroic a-holes as they struggle to keep their new family together while also discovering the heritage of one of their own, Star-Lord (Pratt). As these events unfold for the Guardians, all while on the run from a society of golden people known as the Sovereign, they learn that you only get one chance to save the galaxy…..twice. Following the incredible surprise that was this film’s predecessor, many were wondering amidst the hype just how Marvel and director Gunn could pull it off a second time? Would it be better than the first? Or even just as good? And just how adorable is Baby Groot?
Not quite, absolutely, and gosh-darn adorable, my friends.
In a continuous franchise of any sort, especially in the world of film, it is very hard to catch lightning in a bottle twice and create a sequel that tops its parent. And although Gunn and crew fall just short of a film that surpasses the first, Vol. 2 is still just as good as the first go-around in many ways. All the faces we’ve come to love are back, including Star-Lord, Gamora, Drax, Rocket, and a now slightly younger (maybe a bit more than slightly) Baby Groot. Returning from the first film are also Rooker’s Yondu, and Gillan’s Nebula, who by circumstance come to eventually align themselves with the team. New faces include Russell’s Ego, with a mysterious connection to one of the Guardians, and Ayesha, high priestess of the Sovereign played by Debicki. All five of the Guardians are given anywhere from a substantial to a significant role in the film, with Pratt’s Star-Lord at the head of the character development. Pratt once again is a joy to watch in his role, and Saldana, Cooper, Diesel, and Bautista also feel right at home, flexing the personalities we’ve come to love.
Some of the Guardians aren’t given very much to do in this film but restore that wrong with their aforementioned personalities and their presences during the action-packed third act. Saldana is given a much more sound role in the film compared to the first movie, revolving around her dynamic with sister Nebula (who also is given more development, fixing one of my only complaints with the first film). Bautista’s Drax especially isn’t given a whole lot to do in the film but makes up for it in spades due to his unmatched comedic timing and incredible dry humor. Every single line his straight and hardened facial expressions delivered in this film had me and my girlfriend in tears of laughter, not a single one fell flat. Rooker’s Yondu is also a standout in the film, and one of the best performances (along with Pratt and Bautista), as his development drives a lot of the film’s emotional core (especially in the third act) and I overall was enjoying myself whenever Yondu was onscreen. Finally, last but certainly not least comes Baby Groot. While the forested infant serves as mainly a companion, he shines as an adorably dangerous little badass, and has a sequence in the opening credits that is every bit as good as the prelude to the first movie (actually better).
This film, aside from Bautista’s portrayal as Drax, is outright hilarious. I fondly remember many of my favorite jokes and running gags, and was laughing uncontrollably at all the off-the-chain humor this film had to offer. Once it really gets moving, the story splits into three different sections that all more or less converge in the film’s conclusion, and this surprisingly didn’t detract from the experience as a whole. The three stories are given varying amounts of emphasis, and in the end don’t step on the toes of the other, leading to a perfectly suitable balance in the narrative. The sequel soundtrack is also very much on par with the original, as Awesome Mix Vol. 2 has been flooding my eardrums for quite some time now, and has actually introduced me to some fantastic songs I previously had no knowledge of.
Now onto what I didn’t like. Debicki, while a good actress, fell rather flat as the film’s villain, and the Sovereign as a whole (while having one goofy element good for a laugh) really will most likely fade into villain obscurity, as they only ever showed up once or twice throughout the film to cause trouble for the Guardians. Russell’s Ego, while serving an important purpose to the narrative, gives mostly expositional dialogue, and also didn’t feel quite right in the grand scheme of the Marvel Universe. The film’s second act also feels rather dragged out at times, almost to the point where things are at a complete standstill. It is only when a fantastic jailbreak sequence occurs that the second act starts to pick up and build momentum towards the third act and finale. Finally, the film’s action sequences mostly take place in rapid space conflicts and feel less frequent or innovative, with the exception of the third act, which is a personal and well-shot action triumph, hitting all the right beats to bring us the most emotional conclusion to a Marvel film yet.
While not perfect or better than its predecessor, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 still blazes as a colorfully enjoyable, funny, and character-driven action romp that feels in all the right ways like a Guardians of the Galaxy movie. While having its fair share of problems, it is in many ways the perfect sequel to our beloved superhero space opera, and gets a B+.