So I watched Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2…
The first Guardians of the Galaxy was one of the best cinematic surprises 2014 had to offer. In the densely saturated climate of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (or MCU), Guardians was quite literally a breath of fresh air. From its soundtrack to its unique characters. I was beaming with excitement when I heard news about this sequel and my excitement was definitely not in vain.
Okay, basic plot: After defeating Ronan The Accuser, The Guardians of the Galaxy have become renowned throughout the universe. One day while carrying out a mission, The Guardians are attacked by a fleet of hostile ships. The Guardians are saved by a mysterious man who calls himself Ego (Kurt Russell). Ego explains that he is Peter Quill’s biological father and has come to take his son back to his home. Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and Drax (Dave Bautista) accompany Peter (Chris Pratt) but remain cautious of the mysterious new figure. Meanwhile Rocket (Bradley Cooper) and Baby Groot (Vin Diesel) have to deal with the threat of Nebula (Karen Gillian) and Yondu Udonta (Michael Rooker) who have their own scores to settle with The Guardians.
I have to commend James Gunn for his work on this film. As with this film’s predecessor Gunn once again returns to the screenwriter and director’s chair. He had quite a daunting challenge in front of him. The first Guardians had a shock value and surprised everyone with how good it was. It’s easy to impress someone when they’re expecting nothing at all. It becomes all the more difficult when everyone is expecting to be amazed as we all were for this film. I think Gunn does fantastic work not only recreating the magic of the original but also expanding on it.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is a more earnest and sober look at our favourite ragtag group of Marvel Space Heroes. Don’t get me wrong, the film is still insanely funny and I was in stitches for the majority of the film (especially whenever Drax opened his mouth). While it manages to retain the humour of the first, Vol. 2 takes a deeper look at the characters and their motivations. The Guardians aren’t a perfect group of heroes – they’re criminals who just find themselves doing the right thing when they have no other choice. This means every character has an inherent complexity to them. There are moments of redemption and reconciliation that occur in this film that further highlight the complexity of the crew. No one’s simply good or evil, everything is a shade of grey and that’s where our Guardians function best.
Now last year when I reviewed Suicide Squad I said that I couldn’t mention it without speaking about Guardians and now that I’m reviewing Vol 2, I’m compelled to mention Suicide Squad. One of my main qualms with Suicide Squad was that The Squad never actually felt like a group of bad guys being forced into good. They were all extremely docile and I thought this was due to the lack of an R-Rating. After watching Vol. 2 I can clearly say that you don’t need an R-Rating to show that your heroes are actually ‘bad guys’. It’s clear that The Guardians while doing the right thing aren’t in it because it’s their duty or anything. They’re all about being the lesser evil but with plenty of bad in them.
I also have to applaud Gunn for the work he does in distancing this film from the MCU and creating a great standalone project. We’re not force-fed a million Avengers references and Thanos – while a constant presence because of his involvement in Gamora and Nebula’s upbringing – takes a firm backseat to the more pressing action at hand. It’s great to see a Marvel film that isn’t trying to set up a sequel or introduce a million characters. Yes, Vol. 2 does set up a thing here and there but its main concern is being an entertaining standalone that answers the questions raised by first Guardians film.
Dave Bautista once again shines as Drax The Destroyer. In the first film he stole scenes, in this film he completely consumes them. He is hilarious! Almost every word he said had me in a laughing fit. There’s also growth in the character from the man we saw in the first. He’s much softer and enjoys his place in the team more. Bradley Cooper as Rocket is brilliant and Cooper makes full use of the larger portion of screentime and focus that his character is given. He’s funny, of course, but there’s a fragility to the character that was hinted at in the first film that’s fully explored in this one. Speaking of greater focus, Michael Rooker continues the wonderful performance he gave in the first film. I spoke about characters acquiring redemption earlier and Rooker’s Yondu is one of those who we get to understand more fully.
Gunn manages to give certain characters more focus by recognising which characters need to fall into the background. One of the characters who falls back to allow others to shine is Groot. You’ll know from the trailers that he’s still a baby in this film and while his character arc isn’t as expansive as others, Baby Groot still manages to provide memorable moments wherever he is. If you thought Groot was cute in the first film you haven’t seen anything yet. One of my favourite scenes in the film is when Baby Groot is sent to fetch something and literally comes back with everything else but what he was asked to fetch. Might not sound impressive but just wait until you see the film.
I enjoyed Kurt Russell in this film. I feel his character wasn’t as rich as his acting deserved but Russell does a lot with the little he’s given. Him and Pratt have fantastic chemistry and he’s a welcome addition to the MCU. This brings me to the ever-present problems that Marvel films have – poor villains. The villain in Vol. 2 is rather predictable and falls into the age old Marvel villain trap of being evil because…well just because. It’s disappointing because of the potential the character had. Speaking of disappointing, in between the action and quips, the film does slow to a boring stagger at times. There are moments where Chris Pratt, in particular, has to deliver some emotionally heavy lines of dialogue and – for some reason – Pratt fails. This leads to scenes that drag and feel heavy-handed.
Now you can’t talk about a Guardians of the Galaxy film without mentioning its soundtrack. I’m still jamming to Awesome Mix Vol. 1 and Awesome Mix Vol. 2 is already becoming a firm favourite of mine. I’ve downloaded it and have had a few of its songs on a never-ending repeat cycle. The soundtrack for Vol. 2 matches the tone of the film, in that, it’s much more soulful and inspires thought and not just fun dancing. I have to say that the soundtrack didn’t impress me as much as it did in the first film. This isn’t because it’s of poor quality but, like I said, the hardest time to impress someone is when they expect to be impressed.
Overall, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is awesome! It takes the elements that you loved from the first film and expands on them. It also introduces new elements that you’ll love. It sets itself up as a standalone and runs under its own steam instead of having to rely on the hype from other Marvel projects. It’s worth watching and then some 7/10