Some SPOILERS below
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
Starring Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Michael Rooker, Kurt Russell, Elizabeth Dibicki, Karen Gillan, Pom Klementieff, Sean Gunn.
Written and Directed by James Gunn
Cinematography by Henry Braham
Guardians of the Galaxy, when released in 2014, blew nearly everyone away with how original the film felt when viewed with its other Marvel Studios films. Guardians was fresh, humorous, and wasn’t afraid to be charming. With Chris Pratt starring and James Gunn writing and directing it was difficult for the film not to be. Expectations for Vol. 2 were sky high and people were wondering if the second film could live up the first film’s high standard. After Guardians, Marvel hasn’t kept up the same standard of quality with such films as Avengers: Age of Ultron, Ant-Man, and Doctor Strange not being their best work. Marvel has been shaky when it comes to sequels. Iron Man 2 couldn’t live up to the first film and Thor: The Dark World wasn’t as good as the first Thor. Could Marvel Studios create another hit that meets the standards of the first Guardians of the Galaxy?
Yes and no. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 sees the team as we last left them, still squabbling and bickering while completing tasks no one else is capable or willing to do, like take down a giant Abelisk for the people of Sovereign. All five Guardians share a bond with one another that carries over from the end of the first film. Pratt, Bautista, and Saldana share a weird chemistry with one another that mimic their on-screen counterparts; these people look like they shouldn’t mix with one another and yet they do. Bautista’s Drax is much lighter here providing most of the laughs throughout the film and his on-screen relationship with Pratt and Klementieff is great. Things start to get crazy after Rocket (voiced by Cooper) steals the very thing the Sovereigns hired them to protect. Ayesha (Debicki), the Sovereign High Priestess, places a bounty on the heads of the Guardians, which attracts the attention of the Ravagers led by Yondu (Rooker). Just when things couldn’t get any more hectic, Quill’s father makes his presence known creating a rift in the Guardians family dynamic.
Vol. 2 has more action, color, and laughs than the first film. With a runtime of over two-hours, the film never overstays its welcome. It’s well-paced, full of laughs, and contains an action sequence that rivals the Quicksilver scene in X-Men: Days of Future Past. It tells a compelling story with emotional weight and complexity without skimping on delivering everything a fanboy would ever want. There is truly something for everyone. Except, somewhere in trying to outdo its former self it loses a bit of the charm that makes the first film so beloved. Gunn tries a bit too hard to inject charm with Drax’s quips and one-liners and Groot’s overall adorableness that some of the charm just diminishes over the course of two hours. Catching lightning in a bottle is difficult the first time but nearly impossible to do so a second time.
Gunn does take some risks here with Guardians Vol. 2 that should be commended. Guardians is far from Captain America and Doctor Strange as you could get, straying away world building and infinity stones, which adds to the freshness of the film. Death is never a constant in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Aside from a few minor characters and villain, no one ever dies. The films have come close like Rhodes falling 100 feet onto a grass field wearing a 100 plus pound metal suit in Captain America: Civil War. Except by the end of the film, he just walks away with a broken leg. Marvel tries to eat their cake and have it, too. Gunn’s tackling of death in Guardians and is one of the better scenes in the film because of that emotional weight. A lot of what both films are about, Gunn stated, is about the emotional state of Quill and coping with the loss of his mother and the absence of his father. Though Quill has grown, that emotionality carries over into this film and is used to full effect here. While not as gut-punching as Logan, Guardians Vol. 2 is one the most human and dramatic of all MCU films. Gunn’s two entries into the MCU are my two favorites because of how different they are in terms of their counterparts.
Pratt and Rooker bring their A-game, more so Rooker. Rooker’s performance is a stand-out, quickly becoming one of my favorite characters in the MCU. Yondu is nuanced, showing more layers and complexity than the first film.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is a great film with stunning visuals that demand to be seen on the big screen. While not as charming as the first film, Guardians Vol. 2 is a worthy successor to the first film and contender for one of Marvel’s best.