Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
Though there may have been some missteps on the television front, so far the film division of Marvel Studios has yet to make a bad film. Whether it be all time greats (The Avengers, the Captain America sequels) or just some safer summer fun (Iron Man 2, Ant-Man), the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been in full effect for almost 10 years now. Films like Doctor Strange and Ant-Man have proven that audiences will go for weirder subject material, but it was 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy that truly broke the mold for what a “Marvel movie” could be.
While I was a fan of the first Guardians, I was not as over the moon as others were. I enjoyed the humor, appreciated the larger universe building, loved the soundtrack and overall had a good time at the movies. On the other hand, I felt the film was bogged down in exposition, sometimes the jokes didn’t land as they were intended and I didn’t quite connect emotionally as the sweeping music indicated I should have. All that being said, the first Guardians film is a fun weird movie, and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is a great continuation, surpassing it in a lot of ways.
It’s All About Developing The Guardians
The gang’s all back, with Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax (Dave Bautista), Rocket (still wonderfully voiced by Bradley Cooper) and Groot (now still inexplicably voiced by a baby-voice modulated Vin Diesel) fully established as the titular Guardians of the Galaxy, taking on odd jobs to assist people. There is a sense of comfort that washes over us when we start a sequel. It feels great to get together with old friends and pick up the conversation where we left off.
This is where Vol. 2 really succeeds. Writer/Director James Gunn knows that audiences have built connections with all of these characters. Keeping that built in emotional investment in mind, Gunn’s screenplay gets right to work building on the character development from the first movie. Whether it be The Avengers or 2009’s Star Trek or the first Guardians movie, the first film in any team franchise has to spend a lot of time getting the team together, unfortunately, this can mean the character development gets left behind. Lucky for us, Vol. 2 is a better sequel than Age of Ultron or Star Trek Into Darkness. Yes there are some great action scenes, yes, the jokes are hilarious, but Vol. 2 is solely focused on giving these characters depth, and it is wonderful.
Now to be fair, a good chunk of this character development is rehashing beats from the first movie. Rocket is dealing with his test lab past while trying to connect with his team. Gamora and Nebula are still reeling from being daughters of the biggest villain in the universe. Here is where my feelings towards the first Guardians lends itself to an enjoyment of Vol. 2. Yes, these character arcs were present in the 2014 movie, but here, now that we are already invested in these characters, these character moments carry some real weight and it is great seeing these characters grow as people.
Star-Lord’s development is the thrust of the movie, as he is learning more about his past by meeting and interacting with his father Ego (Kurt Russell). Who would have ever thought we would see Kurt Russell as a space character in a Marvel film, but here he is and it is great having him in the mix. As always, there is some great universe-building that comes as we explore more of this galaxy, but the Pratt-Russell interactions make for a good story.
James Gunn’s Devotion Makes Up For Slower Moments
All of this commitment to character development does make for a second act that may drag for some. There is a chunk of time where our team is split up and we spend a lot of time watching extraordinary characters stand in rooms and talk to each other. As we have discussed though, this is not inherently a bad thing. Luckily we care so much for these characters that it makes a slower section of dialogue worth it. Are there some emotional moments that feel forced (here is the big moment where you are supposed to FEEL something)? Yes. But this is a wacky world we live in and it earns a few forced emotional moments in the midst of that wackiness
All of that being said, I don’t want to miss the fact that Vol. 2 is incredibly entertaining. Gunn’s screenplay and comedic direction are on full display here. The film is a riot, with laughter filling our theater throughout the runtime. Whether it be Rocket being a jerk, Drax interacting with the world in his literal manner, or just the straight up cuteness that is Baby Groot, Vol. 2 is such a crowd pleasing film.
Whether it be the Marvel easter eggs or the fun action, Vol. 2 easily meets the standard we have come to expect from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I see the movie as an improvement on the first, taking those characters we were introduced to and giving them real depth here. Does it drag is some places and is there some storytelling missteps? Definitely. But there is such care put into this from the filmmakers and the characters get the full attention they deserve. We would all be so lucky if all blockbusters were of the quality of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.