Guardians of the Galaxy was a breakout hit in 2014. It embraced fun and ridiculousness in ways even the wackiest movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe hadn’t, but it did it all with an emotional foundation under it. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 continues down the path laid out by its predecessor, weaving between outlandish, hilarious moments that could rival the original’s while taking the emotional aspects to another level entirely.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 had me cracking up and on the verge of tears within minutes in its third act, and (almost) everything leading up to that laugh out loud/gut punch tandem was excellent.
Vol. 2 takes place shortly after the original, meaning Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax (Dave Bautista), Rocket (Bradley Cooper), are able to be joined by (the painfully adorable) Baby Groot (Vin Diesel) for their latest adventure. The film’s primary plot focuses on the fallout of Quill meeting his father Ego (Kurt Russell). The group’s joined by returning favorites Nebula (Karen Gillan) and Yondu (Michael Rooker), newcomer Mantis (Pom Klementieff), and too many supporting characters and cameo appearances to even try to list here.
Note: There are going to be some spoilers in here.
The majority of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 simply works. The characters are split up fairly early on: Quill, Gamora, and Drax go with Ego and Mantis while Rocket and Baby Groot end up spending the majority of the second act with Yondu, Kraglin (Sean Gunn), and other Ravagers. It makes sense given the sheer number of characters getting screen time, and it’s great for character development.
Quill learns that he’s the spawn of an ancient being and he has some impressive superpowers to go along with his lineage. Rocket and Yondu have plenty of time to bond as they’re imprisoned by Yondu’s former Ravager crew, a sequence which provides the film’s most visually dazzling moment courtesy of Yondu and his arrow. Drax gets a bit of emotional development with Mantis, and there’s just enough advancement of the romantic tension between Quill and Gamora—though the real story for Gamora is her relationship with her estranged sister Nebula, who’s much more fleshed out this time around.
And of course Baby Groot has time to be adorable throughout. Because of course he does.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2‘s various relationships and pairings underpin the wait for the inevitable reveal that Ego maybe isn’t such a great guy. The separate groups work their way toward that conclusion as Ego readies to use Quill for his agenda, which just happens to be gaining control of the entire universe—take that, villains who just want to rule the world.
The film’s first gut punch reveal sends the story barreling into its climax, which is full of great action, great comedy, and great Baby Groot. The entire team’s reunited for the big showdown, and it takes everything everyone’s got to take the fight to Ego. The whole third act of the film is an edge-of-your-seat affair, moving between the various heroes and building toward the most emotional moment the Marvel Cinematic Universe has seen to date with confidence and ease.
Writer/director James Gunn told a thoroughly enjoyable story with a surprising amount of heart given its summer-opening blockbuster status. If he wasn’t already one of the main driving forces in the MCU, he should be now.
The film isn’t without its flaws, but those flaws don’t detract from what the film does well (which is most of what it does). Dave Bautista’s Drax felt painfully underused for the majority of the film, with his badass fighter from the original film largely replaced by an outlandish jokester. It fits with the character he was starting to become by the end of the first Guardians of the Galaxy, but it would have been nice to see some balance between action and comedy from the figure known as “The Destroyer” in the comics.
The score, while perfectly fine, left a little to be desired, though. It was good and unique enough for most of the film’s running time, but it took on a very generic MCU feel during action set pieces. The music sounds like it was lifted directly from The Avengers, which it very well could have been. And that’s too bad.
The soundtrack, on the other hand, was a blast. I was less familiar with most of the songs here than in Guardians of the Galaxy, but that wasn’t a barrier to thoroughly enjoying the soundtrack. Peter Quill getting an MP3 player, which will hopefully fill Awesome Mix Vol. 3 with ’90s hits. I trust Gunn and his team to come up with a great soundtrack, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t offer this: Peter Quill would love Gin Blossoms.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 keeps the Guardians as the most unique part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but Quill and company won’t be alone in their own section of it for long. There’s a greater narrative being set up here, leading to the Guardians’ impending collision with the rest of the MCU in Avengers: Infinity War, but Vol. 2 is largely its own story. And it’s a story worth watching. And watching and watching…