Review - 'Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2'
Guardians of the Galaxy was a wildcard back in 2013. While the trailers leading up to the first film's release looked unique and promising, there was a shroud of doubt looming over the movie and many thought that it was too "out there" to be massively successful. Just about everyone was proven wrong when Guardians of the Galaxy exploded onto the scene and grossed an astonishing $773 million world-wide. Now three years later, all eyes were on James Gunn once more, could he pull it off again?
Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2 picks up just a few months after the first film took place. Peter Quill A.K.A. "Starlord" (Chris Pratt), Drax (Dave Bautista), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Rocket (Bradley Cooper) and Baby Groot (Vin Diesel) are more established as the Guardians, but they still bicker and cause plenty of trouble. The team is split up when a man named Ego (Kurt Russell) claims to be Peter Quill's father. Peter, Gamora and Drax head off to Ego's planet while Rocket and Groot are left to contend with Nebula (Karen Gillan) and Yondu (Michael Rooker). When both groups figure out that something more sinister is afoot, they must find a way to regroup and save the galaxy once again.
Barring a few exceptions, sequels for films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe have never quite lived up to the originals. This is not to say that any of them have been bad, but aside from the Captain America films, they tend to range from simply good (Avengers: Age of Ultron), to mediocre (Iron Man 2, Thor: The Dark World). Though Marvel's track record is quite good, I still wasn't quite convinced that James Gunn and the studio could recapture the same magic on display in the smash-hit original AND bring new elements to the table. After seeing the film, I can safely say that this is a great sequel that does just about everything that I wanted it to.
Now before I go into how much I dug this film, lets get a few of its flaws out of the way. Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2 is long. This is a film that should have been maybe two hours tops. Sitting at two-hours-and-fifteen-minutes the movie begins to get a little long-in-the-tooth. I could tell that James Gunn was so attached to some of this footage that he probably wasn't able to step back and realize that some of the fat could have been trimmed. The film also goes a little heavy on the licensed songs, I could be wrong, but it seemed like there were way more songs here than in the first film and it became a little too much. Lastly, while I thought the special effects here were state-of-the-art, they were relied upon too heavily to the point where nothing seemed real or tangible. I like at least a little practical work here and there, even with films like this one.
With that out of the way, lets get into the good stuff, and boy is there a lot of it. I had a blast with this film pretty much from start to finish. First off; it's hilarious, maybe even more-so than its predecessor. There are a few recycled jokes here and there that have been carried over from the first film, but there is also so much here that's new that the occasional call-back never registered as lazy writing. There are numerous hilarious off-hand remarks, sight-gags and clever slapstick moments that had me chuckling consistently.
It's great that the film is as funny as it is, but what really shines about Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2 is its heart. This is a film that makes you feel for characters that you didn't think you'd ever have sympathy for. That's what James Gunn is so adept at; revealing the good within the bad and showing that there is no black-and-white, only shades of gray. There are two key character moments that stick out to me in Guardians 2 that made me re-evaluate how quickly I judge people, the message is clear: just don't do it.
The dynamic between the team is still pitch-perfect in Vol. 2. I loved that Gunn, instead of over-stuffing the sequel, decided to dig deeper with what he had established in the first film, thus making the characters even more three-dimensional. Drax once again just about steals the show as the galaxy's most blunt alien, and he even gets a few heartfelt moments. Gamora and Nebula have an interesting and pretty twisted sisterly rivalry that is interesting to watch play out. Starlord gets some good moments with his father, Ego. Baby Groot and Rocket Racoon are also still a joy to watch. What surprised me the most about this film though was Yondu. The seeds for this character were cleverly planted in the first film and they come to fruition in a very satisfying way here that nearly made me tear up. Also, without spoiling anything, we finally have another memorable villain in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
On top of everything, Vol. 2 is also a complete visual treat. Everything from the characters to the environments are bathed in bright colors. As I mentioned earlier, it does get to be a bit much during the finale, but that's easy to excuse when everything else looks postcard worthy.
James Gunn's Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2 is a movie that is brimming with ideas, humor and above all; heart. It's very rare to see such a unique vision on this scale and scope. While the film does succumb to some bloating and occasionally falls back on the tried-and-true methods of the original, it's still an immensely enjoyable experience at the movies.