The first Guardians of the Galaxy film, which released in August 2014, was lightning in a bottle. It featured an relatively unknown actor (who was not an household name just yet) in the form of Chris Pratt, a talking tree, a crazy raccoon, and an epic soundtrack. The pieces never seemed like they should fit together, but somehow, director James Gunn crafted what is a highly beloved Marvel Cinematic Universe film.
There was no doubt a sequel was in the cards, but the pressure to deliver a solid follow up must of been brutal. How do you take a novel idea and expand upon it without losing the audience that you won over? Well, most part 2s go bigger, and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is no different. There’s more humor, more action, and each character has more time to shine, along with introducing new elements to the proceedings. However, the movie now has a lot of moving parts to tackle, and while some of it works very well, other pieces suffer from not being developed enough.
Let’s start with the good, and let’s literally start at the beginning. Without a doubt, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 has the best opening credit sequence in a Marvel movie that I’ve ever laid eyes on. I’m not saying just MCU films, I mean ALL the Marvel movies. Sorry Deadpool. I still love you though.
We are introduced to the Guardians once again shortly after the events of the first film in the opening sequence and it takes off from there. The music plays a part in the film as obvious as that should be, and the soundtrack utilized is incredible. It’s been on repeat in my car since it came out a few weeks ago.
Baby Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) is a wonder to behold. It needs to be said right off the bat, because it’s so true. He’s not in the film as much as you want, but it was smart thinking to keep him in check as I’m sure many may think he would’ve been overused. He is legitimately the best part of the movie, without even trying. The CGI on him looks phenomenal, and there’s no doubt toys of the little guy are going to fly off the shelves.
Speaking of excellent CGI, Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) is back and in full force, and to my complete surprise, he actually serves as one of the best parts of the film, as he is part of one of the most interesting side stories that the movie dishes out. His tale (not a pun) also involves Yondu (Michael Rooker) who is, without a shadow of a doubt, the best non computer generated character during all of this sequel stuff, providing some emotional weight that was not to be expected, but wonderful just the same.
Some of that emotional stuff also involves Ego (Kurt Russell) and Star-Lord/Peter (Chris Pratt) both of who play off one another really well, and Russell is a fantastic addition to the MCU. Their “father and son bonding” serves as the up front and center story in the film, and that makes sense, but I won’t spoil why. However, it sadly decreases the “Chris Pratt funny guy” factor as now Star-Lord needs to play the straight man in this portion. I know it’s a necessary choice, and it doesn’t happen all of the movie, but feels a bit disjointed.
There’s still plenty of laughs to be had though, and almost every scene here had at least one joke in it. Drax (Dave Bautista) is the most guilty of that, as his filter is off and he doesn’t understand metaphors, and once again Bautista gives it his all. However, sometimes, it’s a bit much. The gags and funny stuff fly at machine gun pace in this movie at points, and while a lot of it hits well, at some points you wish they would turn down the dial, especially when a dramatic moment happens to be undercut by humor. The original Guardians had a lot of silly stuff going on but it held onto the dramatic beats long enough without interruption, something that this one should’ve taken into account. Still, this is easily the funniest MCU film and it is a blast on that account.
When the movie isn’t having fun or involving action, the pacing suffers. The Gamora (Zoe Saldana)/Nebula (Karen Gillan) side story is easily the weakest element here, as it serves no purpose beyond the fact that these characters are sisters pissed off at each other and we needed to be reminded of that. There is some dialogue talking about Thanos and why he’s such a bad guy, and that in and of itself is important, but that’s really the best part of that sibling rivalry. Missed opportunity overall.
There’s five during/post credit scenes that mostly hardcore Marvel fans will get (referring to some of the sequences, not all) and even though I’m a self proclaimed geek, the references were a little lost on me. No biggie though, that’s what the internet is for, right?
All in all, while it seemed that my complaints amounted to a lot, my viewing of the film overall put a smile on my face more often than not, and by sequel standards, it in no way surpasses the first, but it’s still a damn fun ride. The action sequences are incredible, Baby Groot is everything, Yondu and Rocket are perfect, and there’s an emotional side to this movie that completely took me by surprise, and honestly, I felt tears forming near the end of the movie. Director James Gunn found a way to tug at the heartstrings in this one, and having two movies featuring these characters that we love helps make it even more real.
With another Guardians movie in the books, it’s onto Vol. 3 (after Infinity War of course). That’s going to have its work cut out for it, as I had a ball with this one, despite my gripes. Trying to even live up to this sequel in a three-quel is going to be tough. That’s just how much fun this one was, and it’s a testament to the Guardians franchise that the novelty isn’t as new, but it’s still a wonder to behold. Really enjoyed hanging with those a-holes once again.
I am Groot.