Let’s admit it now: no one thought Guardians of the Galaxy was going to be good back when they first heard about it. Announced alongside Thor: The Dark World and Captain America: The Winter Soldier at San Diego Comic Con in 2012, the initial reaction to the Guardians was a solid “huh?” Hell, even comic book fans were asking who these people were (myself included). Here was Marvel making a movie about a Han Solo wannabe teaming up with the girl from Avatar who had just painted herself green, a former wrestler, a talking tree and a raccoon. Then they go ahead and cast the fat guy from Parks and Recreation as the main character and everyone gets even more worried. And then they cast Vin Diesel and Bradley Cooper but have then voice the two CGI characters. This was doomed to fail.
Three years later, the Guardians of the Galaxy are household names, “I am Groot” became a pop culture phenomenon and Chris Pratt is one of the biggest stars in Hollywood. Fairly safe to say that expectations were high for the sequel to the sleeper hit of 2014. Luckily, Marvel have delivered another well crafted hit that works as an excellent companion piece to the original film. While Guardians Vol. 2 lacks the surprise factor and freshness of the first film, it still manages to offer up a funny, action packed spectacle while also providing some highly emotional heft.
Set two months after Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 sees Star-Lord, Gamora, Drax, Rocket and Baby Groot undertake a journey to uncover the secret behind Peter Quill’s parentage. Making matters more complicated is the arrival of High Priestess Ayesha, leader of the gold skinned Sovereign race who attempts to kill the Guardians after Rocket “procures” some of their technology for his own purposes. The reappearance of Gamora’s sister Nebula also proves bothersome as does the threat of the Ravagers, Quill’s old crew, now led by Taserface after betraying their former captain Yondu. Add in the sudden emergence of Ego, Quill’s father, and there is a lot going on in this film.
Much like the original film, Vol. 2 succeeds because of the chemistry between its cast. After having spent an entire film working out how this bunch of misfits interacts with each other, James Gunn has let loose and thrown everything at this movie. The group acts as a unit, utilising their strengths to combat an threats they encounter. Their banter feels more realistic and human (which is a weird thing to say about a baby tree and a raccoon) and the jokes flow better than they did in the first film. That’s not to say they get along perfectly. In fact, most of the time, they’re like a disfunctional family. They argue, they bitch and complain and insult each other and often don’t really like each other. But only does this allow the characters to develop, it also gives them a chance to find an equal among the supporting cast.
For most of the movie, the Guardians are actually split up with Quill, Gamora and Drax going off with Ego and new member Mantis, and Rocket and Groot joining up with Yondu. Barring Groot, each character gets to play off of the supporting cast. Quill finally gets to spend some quality time with a father figure he’s always wanted, Gamora learns to connect with Nebula, Drax takes the young Mantis under his wing and Rocket and Yondu learn that they are almost mirror reflections of each other. In this regard, each character is further developed to show just how they are the perfect family for each other. And this regularly results in the films best jokes.
Yes, Guardians Vol. 2 is just as funny, if not more, than its predecessor. James Gunn’s sense of humour permeates the film to ensure that the vast majority of jokes hit their mark. Whether it’s the entire opening sequence, the back and forth between Rocket and Quill, making fun of a dude named Taserface, or simply having Drax ask Ego if he had a penis, Vol. 2 isn’t short on laughs. Not all of them land (a reference to Cheers feels awkward and will likely go over several younger audiences heads) but thankfully the hit ratio is much higher than the miss. And of course, Dave Bautista proves to once again be a surprising comic talent, often gaining the majority of the films best lines. But it’s Baby Groot that steals the show. Funny and adorable, Marvel have clearly found a guaranteed money maker in the little guy and it definitely paid off.
Plot wise, Vol. 2 doesn’t really have one and what it does have is fairly pedestrian. Cool stuff happens, emotional moment, kickass soundtrack plays, repeat. It’s not terrible by any means but it doesn’t offer anything fresh or deep. There’s a reason that the trailers never really gave away much about the story: there simply wasn’t much to give away. Admittedly, this is something that could be said about the majority of the MCU movies but after 15 films, it’s a shame that they haven’t tried to attempt anything more daring. Similarly, the ending feels like a standard MCU movie ending with a big CGI battle as some world ending event takes place. On the plus side, there’s no giant portal in the sky this time and luckily, the visual effects are of such a high quality that it’s impressive that nothing looks out of place.
With regards to the acting, Vol. 2 proves to be just as successful as Vol. 1. Chris Pratt is still as charming and cocky as before, Bautista just as funny and Bradley Cooper’s Rocket is just as well acted as you remember. Zoe Saldana is thankfully given more to chew on this time around and her scenes with Karen Gillan are among some of the films most emotional. Michael Rooker also gives a gusto performance as Yondu, giving us yet another reason to remind ourself of what an underrated actor he is. Of the new characters, Kurt Russell is given the most to work with. Russell has always been great in whatever role is thrown at him whether it be action (Escape From New York), comedy (Big Trouble in Little China) or drama (Tombstone). Here, he excels as Ego, having a brilliant chemistry with Chris Pratt. You genuinely believe that he cares for his son and that the wishes to reconnect with him to make up for his absence. Elizabeth Debicki and Pom Klementieff fare less well. While there characters aren’t terrible, they aren’t given much to do. Debicki is particularly wasted as Ayesha, disappearing from huge segments at a time, which often lead me to forget she was in the film. Klementieff is also given little to do other than look worried or confused in her given situation. Hopefully, both will be given more to do in Vol. 3.
Now, everyone knows that one of Vol. 1’s most loved aspects was its incredible soundtrack. A kickass mixture of 1970s and 80s rock, it set a mood that many other films have since tried to replicate to a lesser degree of extent (looking at you Suicide Squad). Well, I’m pleased to say that the new soundtrack is every bit as excellent as the first. Note to movie executives, if you can set a fight to Fleetwood Mac’s The Chain, I am instantly sold. Once again, music choices perfectly compliment the scenes they’re utilised in and will no doubt give younger viewers a chance to look up these hits on Spotify. ELO’s Mr Blue Sky, Looking Glass’ Brandy and Cat Stevens Father and Son are only a handful of choices that have been utilised within the movie. It’ll be interesting to see what the Awesome Mix Vol. 3 looks like.
Now, much has been made of the five post credits scenes attached to the end of the movie. Just to clarify, they aren’t essential and are simply attached to provide some last minute laughs to the picture. Only one is of any significance as that clearly sets up Vol. 3. And for anyone wondering how this sets up Avengers: Infinity War, you’ll be disappointed. There’s no hint as to how these two teams will come together.
In short, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 may lack the surprises of its originator but it’s still a throughly entertaining movie and definitely worth your time.
VERDICT: A highly enjoyable addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. While it can’t quite escape the shadow of its older brother and it’s plot is fairly uninspired, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 still offers beautiful imagery, plenty of laughs and a great soundtrack.