- Genre: Superhero / Action / Comedy
- Director: James Gunn
- Producer/Distributor: Marvel Studios / Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
- Starring: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, Pom Klementieff, Kurt Russell
- Running Time: 136 minutes
- Release Date: May 5, 2017
What I found myself thinking after watching Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 was how much better it was than Suicide Squad. However, it was only well after I had been engrossed by the characters and how their backgrounds—established in the first movie—were expanded upon, thus making for a satisfying conclusion and an opening for what could be an epic third installment. While I still like the first one more for its cohesiveness, I do like this one for its character development and the neatness of its writing.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 avoids the sophomoric jinx by tying up loose ends between its characters, thus preparing them for what could eventually be involvement in the Infinity War. Since some of the characters have direct involvement with Thanos, then this is a safe enough assumption.
NOTE: As this is intended as a full review of this title, there are spoilers. You’ve been warned.
This is mostly about tying up loose ends, thus preparing the characters for whatever may come, either a third GotG film or the Infinity War. They were able to fit in new antagonists—thus new problems—while still being able to round things up, which I find neat. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is meant to be a bridge between the first movie and whatever is in the future, making for a well-written saga for all the main characters, as well as a couple of the side characters.
The story is all about realization and redemption for many of them, and the ending is quite the turn of events from seemingly bizarre and awkward to somber and bittersweet. Yondu did have to die, but it was good to appease Peter Quill’s inner turmoil as a result. Gamora making amends with her sister Nebula is also good, and Rocket connecting with Yondu also made his character more sympathetic as a result.
It’s mostly the same cast from the first movie, but it bears mentioning the exceptional performances by Michael Rooker and Dave Bautista. As far as bow-outs go, it couldn’t have been any better for Yondu. His character’s true motivation was made clear, as well as the logic behind his decisions in the first movie, and how he chooses to cope with being exiled by the Ravagers and betrayed by his crew. His last act and posthumous redemption were also impactful, turning what most would think of as a goofy movie into a real feels-fest.
He’s Mary Poppins, after all.
Dave Bautista is just made for Drax, or more like he made Drax fit him. He’s a lot less surly in this one, having resolved a lot of issues he had in the first movie. The only thing Drax has left is the crew and memories of his long-dead family, which brings out his softer and more empathic side. The balance between being a character who is incapable of understanding the intricacies of social dynamics and being able to (or at least try to) emotionally connect with others is a precarious tightrope to walk across, and Batista actually did a good job there.
Bradley Cooper as the voice of Rocket was also pretty good here. While the first movie had the character introduced as a procyonid version of Trump the Insult Comic Dog, this movie dug deeper into his psyche and what makes him tick. His obnoxiousness is found to be more of him imposing his insecurities onto other people, and Yondu saw through that. Rocket then grows as a character, becoming a more integral part of the crew.
His development in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 culminates in him repaying Yondu’s friendship and sacrifice with him telling the Ravagers off-screen the truth about the recently-deceased blue-skinned pirate, telling them about his sacrifice and convincing them of his valor and adherence to their code. Thus, Yondu’s Ravager funeral was able to hit all the right buttons at the right time.
I found an article disputing Baby Groot’s presence in the movie, stating that he wasn’t necessary and he was only added for the cute factor. This couldn’t be more wrong as Groot is the glue that binds all the Guardians together. In this ragtag group of scallywags, Groot is the only one who could connect to all of them, even Drax in a rather humorous way. Him being a baby isn’t just for cuteness, but also a constant reminder that he sacrificed himself at the end of the first movie, which then brought him to that state.
We can’t say for sure how much Vin Diesel’s voice work added to this version of Groot since it’s just his baritone voice brought up to a higher pitch. But as far as Groot’s presence in the movie, past the scene later in the movie where he frustrates Rocket with his lack of technical comprehension, his interactions with the different characters (apart from his partner/guardian Rocket) develops throughout the movie, especially with the normally bullheaded Drax.
The casting of Kurt Russell as Peter Quill’s father, who was made a sort of amalgam between Ego and J’son, was also brilliant as it’s like a post-crisis Snake Plisskin finally found peace and enlightenment, thus becoming a god and then settled down with hundreds of women in different worlds to create more of him. (Pardon me for injecting my own headcanon into this review, but it somehow made sense.)
Karen Gillan as Nebula also makes a more prominent appearance. She becomes a more sympathetic character as her conflict with her sister Gamora ends with closure and a potential opening for the character’s future involvement with Thanos and the Infinity War. She turns from an antagonist into a ally without impossibly-huge leaps of logic that such characters are prone to.
Nebula is a fearless survivor who would do whatever it takes to achieve a goal, like when she took one for the team by lending her cybernetic arm to destroy all the remote-controlled Sovereign fighters pursuing them. However, she also tends to be brash and overextend herself in pursuit of that goal, like when she crashed her ship beneath the surface of Ego’s planet to chase Gamora down, even at the risk of trapping herself in the burning wreckage.
Pom Klementieff as Mantis was especially noteworthy as her character is what makes Drax open up and show his softer side. Their interactions were both funny and insightful, and her function as Ego’s “pet” also made her a plot device of sorts in the middle of the movie. It’s not easy to turn a female character into comic relief, but Mantis does achieve that here in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.
Sean Gunn as Kraglin was also pretty good, reprising his role as Yondu’s second-in-command. Being the only Ravager left who was loyal to Yondu, he walks the fine line between reliable and hapless well enough. He is competent enough to take orders from his boss, but not brave enough to stand for him during the mutiny led by Taserface. However, perhaps that also shows that he is no fool. His jubilation at Yondu’s redemption and him taking up his whistle arrow shows how much he respected his boss.
Everyone else from the first movie are mostly the same, albeit improving on what’s already there. Chris Pratt does well as Peter Quill, albeit the revelation of his celestial heritage does remind me a bit of Twilight Princess’ transition to an alicorn in My Little Pony (which turned me away from the show). Gamora also shows a bit more of her softer side, which struggles to come up due to her harsh upbringing by Thanos.
Character development is the main strength of this movie as it was entirely about expanding on what the first movie built up and tying up as many loose ends as possible without much waste. This was achieved through both narrative economy and good timing.
Of course, the most important character of them all in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is the Microsoft Zune. I’d either get that or a Benjie.
Marvel films have a reputation for looking muddy and flat, most likely due to most of them being shot on RED cameras and having the same kind of color grading. The Guardians of the Galaxy series (and perhaps Thor) is different in that the films are more colorful than their counterparts, as well as having higher contrast due to taking place mostly in space and celestial locations. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 sets a good precedent and makes me excited for Thor: Ragnarok later this year.
Maybe I’ve made some mistakes and misjudgments here and there, but it’s safe to say that this film looks pretty damn good, perhaps even more than the film that precedes it. This is a film full of color and contrast, which sets it apart from most other Marvel films. Perhaps it’s Marvel Entertainment learning from criticism about the flatness of its post-2008 films or just a coincidence, but at least we know they still strive for improvement nonetheless, despite their blockbuster dominance.
- Continuity from first movie
- Closure for major characters
- Expanding on Yondu and Nebula
- Kurt Russell as Ego (Peter Qull's father)
- The Sovereign are ridiculous
- Post-Dredd Sylvester Stallone?
- Great soundtrack
- Brilliant opening
- MORE DRAX
- Baby Groot
- Adam Warlock
- Plot not as cohesive as in first movie
Disney seems to be having a lot of fun sticking it to Warner Bros. in terms of how much better their comic book adaptations are compared to theirs. Sure, we can talk about money all we want, especially since the DC Extended Universe does earn money despite critical panning of their artistic output.
It's not like the Marvel Cinematic Universe is not earning tons of cash either, but their movies hold up a whole lot better in the long run. There may be some franchises that are weaker (such as Thor), but this isn't one of them, and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is a solid addition. In fact, Guardians of the Galaxy is really looking to be my personal favorite in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Now if only they would just turn up the weirdness factor to 11 now that they've done enough of it here, that would be great. They've hinted Adam Warlock here and Thor: Ragnarok is looking to be full of that cosmic stuff, so here's to seeing more of those crazy characters that were just hidden within the comics, away from mainstream view.