Since the somewhat surprising success of Guardians of the Galaxy back in 2014, fans have been anxiously waiting for the rag tag team to return and uphold their glory. Overall, Volume 2 doesn’t disappoint, retaining the qualities that placed the first film into its own league inside the MCU. A few new characters are introduced, while old ones are given a deeper focus.
Director James Gunn brings Star-Lord and his group of galactic misfits back in a reminiscent light. This is instantly declared when Chris Pratt utters his his first charming line, “Showtime, A-holes.” We get a quick back and forth rapport between familiar faces right before they kick back into action. What could have easily been a typical “day in the life of” action sequence, was given with a unique touch. While Baby Groot dances along to ELO’s “Mr. Blue Sky,” the rest of the team can be seen struggling with a giant beast in the unfocused background. It’s a very entertaining opener that doesn’t waste any time getting the laughs going. In that same line of focus, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 definitely doubles down on all of its predecessor’s charming features, while still making some adjustments to the formula. SPOILER ALERT!
Without leaning too heavily on the Marvel movie cliches [nods to Dr. Strange], Gunn let the story of GotG2 develop around the characters and avoided being too heavy with the exposition. Similar to how the first film gave us a brief look into the past of Peter Quill, without devoting much more screen time to character introductions, Vol. 2 treated us with the same respect. Too often films in this category will hold our hands through the first thirty minutes, while each character that holds a first-string spot is revisited. This is an easy way to tell the viewer: even though the last movie ended with the gang laying down the law, as a well orchestrated team with newfound synergy, they decided to go their separate ways until the next big story arch forced them back into the spotlight. In GotG2, this unnecessary waste of run time is avoided with a message the says: don’t worry, your Cinderella story space avengers haven’t skipped a beat.
For anyone hoping for the same slapstick, wacky humor that made the first movie so re-watchable, rejoice knowing that this was not been left behind. In fact, there was rarely a moment in GotG2 that didn’t have a joke crammed in. For the most part it was fine. The jokes were funny and continued to live up to my expectations, but there were a few times I felt my eyes start to roll during my viewing. The first of these moments came when Rocket was single-handedly fighting off waves of Yondu’s ravagers with a variety of traps and explosives. The scene could have been one of my favorites, if not for the extremely cartoon-ey animations that were used to shoot the attackers upwards through the treetops, and bring them to suspend in the night sky before falling back to the ground. Another annoyance I can’t seem to shake stems from the well remembered Pac-Man scene during the conclusion. While I can understand the organic reasoning for the joke, there was something so jarring about the appearance of a giant Pac-Man that made me feel like I was watching a live action Futurama episode.
The characters remained true to themselves, but also brought along some new traits to keep the story progressive. Chris Pratt continued his role of Star-Lord as the sarcastic rogue with daddy issues, while Rocket and Groot offered some great sideline comedy. Gamora filled in some of the gaps, serving as more of an accompaniment to Star-Lord this time around. Oddly enough, Draxx was given one of the biggest changes in characterization. He was responsible for many of the funny moments in the first film, but it seems he had a huge upgrade to his goofiness, allowing him to somewhat abandon his hyper-literal persona. At first I thought it was a bit overdone and out of character. As the film pushed on I started to consider the fact that he had been spending all his time with his new co-dependent group of friends, which would probably have had some significant effects on his personality. Basically, he’s been hanging out with a group of shitheads, and in turn, is becoming more of a shithead himself. It actually becomes an interesting character development from that perspective.
Another shift included the attention paid to subplots in GotG2. There were continuations of unresolved sequences such as the Peter/Gamora love interest, Rocket’s hang-up with being cybernetically engineered, and the classic Gamora/Nebula sister conflict. These were interesting enough, but what I really enjoyed was getting a little more perspective behind Drax’s back story. I’ve had a sense of curiosity since it was first mentioned that his family was killed; it’s not a historically unique setup, but based on his character, I felt a need to know more. This turned out to be one of the more meaningful scenes. A similar curiosity branched from Yondu, whom I also have quite the affinity for. He shared some great dialogue with Rocket, organically uncovering details for both characters, based on their similar disposition. These dialogue sequences had the tendency to drag on at times, becoming a little too on the nose with the obvious information. Regardless, these moments were well received, and Rooker still succeeded at becoming a fan favorite this time around.
Where the subplots were interesting and responsible for most of the structure, the main plot was slightly underwhelming. Star-Lord being the product of a planet that somehow manifested itself into an earthling form and impregnated a human woman is a tale for the ages, but there was something about the execution that I just couldn’t follow. I wasn’t impressed by the run-of-the-mill utopia that was Planet Ego. The interest I had from him being a sentient planet was stifled by the lackluster agenda that was presented. I was also put off by Mantis’ character. She was rarely justified aside from her bond with Drax, and the single ability she possessed seemed to be planted for the final conclusion.
One aspect of the story that did bring me satisfaction was how reigned in it was. Another trend that superhero films like to follow is having a plot that is too overgrown for the subject matter. Suicide Squad was a perfect example of an overzealous story that could have been more isolated to its main characters. GotG2 technically includes a world ending sequence of events, however it keeps the attention within the designated setting and characters. Nothing ever reaches too far out of the boundaries to muddle the plot beyond understanding. The storyline could have been a little more strategic, but it wasn’t a major fault.
To summarize, I found Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 to be an enjoyable and necessary continuation of the series. I can see myself putting this on from time to time with a group of friends, when we’re in the mood for some laughs. There were a few jarring moments where I felt that the humor was too slapstick. That being said, they knew where to draw the line at the dramatic moments. The biggest impressions I felt came from the significance of the subplots. These typically served multiple purposes, deepening the bond between characters and moving the universal story along. The main story may not have been the most impressive, but it was entertaining enough from the performances given by Pratt and Russell. With that in mind, I would give it 7.9 Yondu whistling-arrow kills out of 10.