Before May 5th, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 was my least anticipated summer movie. I wasn’t as fond of the original as some people were (I recognize that overall, the original film was unique and fun), I thought it was a good movie and it was refreshing to see, but it simply never clicked with me as much as it did with others. With that said, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (GotG Vol. 2) is an amazing movie for almost all ages that manages to trounce genre tropes once again. It’s brilliantly shot, chooses characters over absurd amounts of bombastic action, and it’s genuinely a lot of fun.
A compelling, self-contained story about the characters:
The best way to describe GotG Vol. 2’s story is that it’s like an old episode of Star Trek. It’s a very small, contained story that focuses a lot on the characters and their relationships with each other as they spend most of their time on this new mysterious planet. The movie begins with an action sequence where the Guardians have been hired to kill a monster, they’re basically glorified mercenaries now. The way the movie begins is very reminiscent of a comic-book, you pick it up and right away you’re thrown into this fun adventure that the characters are on. It’s exhilarating, colorful, and you get to see these fan favorite characters interacting with each other in hilarious ways.
During the first act of the film, there’s not much of a story. Events are unfolding, but none of them really serve a big purpose for the story. As time goes on, the story begins to pick up its pace but in a unique way. For a movie called Guardians of the Galaxy, they don’t do a whole lot of guarding the galaxy. They are tied down to the same one or two locations. This is not your typical Marvel movie where there is some large threat present throughout the whole movie and the heroes must spend the entire time fighting and devising plans to defeat evil. There is an evil force in this movie and it does culminate in a big climactic battle but for most of the movie, it’s about seeing these characters grow.
The big theme of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is that the film is about family. Fathers, sons, sisters, and arguably the most important family members, your friends. It’s not a particular subtle theme, but it’s expertly done. Throughout the film, Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and her sister Nebula (Karen Gillan) have a feud that carried over from the previous movie which began in their childhood. It’s the common sibling rivalry we’ve seen before, but the way it’s handled is done in such a way that you sympathize with both characters. Nebula is inherently wretched and mean, I personally hated her at the start of the movie, but as time went on I began to understand where she was coming from and why she felt the way she did.
It’s not a spoiler to say that Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) finally meets his father, Ego (Kurt Russell), and learns more about himself. The way their relationship grows throughout the movie is truly heartwarming, there’s one particular scene I won’t spoil where the two do a cliche father/son activity but it brought a tear to my eye. Their whole arc builds and builds creating touching and even heartbreaking moments.
What it does better and what it does worse than the original:
The style of the first Guardians of the Galaxy was one of its biggest reasons it succeeded. It was filled with color, had an excellent soundtrack that made sense for the story, and it managed to make a name for itself in the crowded superhero genre thanks to how unique it was. For Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, it does somethings leagues better than the original and some things slightly worse.
On the positive side, this is hands down the most beautifully shot superhero movie ever. Every shot is well thought out, it pops in front of your eyes and had me actually thinking to myself “Wow that looks amazing.” while my eyes widened. The fact that I can vividly see some of the shots from the movie in my head several days after seeing it really says something about the quality of the cinematography. It has so much personality and style that it makes the rest of the MCU look laughable in comparison. After watching this movie, I realized just how bleak and washed out some of the other movies in this franchise look. The shots are very by the numbers and the only really great ones seem to be trying to replicate an iconic shot from the comics.
Another positive is that the comedy in this movie is absolutely stellar. There were times where I had tears in my eyes from how funny this movie is. The comedic timing of Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista) is amazing and made him a standout character in the film, he absolutely stole the show from everyone else despite being just a supporting role who truthfully doesn’t do anything substantial the whole movie. Baby Groot (Vin Diesel) is adorable and had me infatuated with his cute looks and childish behavior, his friend Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper) is also just as adorable and hilarious thanks to his mature humor. The movie even managed to make me laugh at little things like shots of two characters having their faces distorted and another shot of Rocket Raccoon and Star Lord flying through the beautiful blue skies side by side.
Sometimes the comedy manages to fall flat but it's hard to fault the movie for it. There are so many jokes in the movie that it would be impossible to make sure all of them tickle your funny bone. More often than not, the jokes land and will have you trying to hold back your laughter so you don’t annoy the people around you.
On the negative side, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2’s soundtrack is weak. There’s only one song that stuck out to me at the time I watched it but now I can’t even remember the song. It was slightly disappointing to me because, after the first movie, I was humming and singing a majority of the first movie’s selection of licensed music, but now I can’t even think of a single artist or song that appeared in the sequel.
The first movie had a lot of fun and unique action but here, when the action is present, it comes off very lackluster. It’s pretty generic and it’s nothing that’ll blow you away which is disappointing in comparison to the original and last year’s Civil War which had one of the best set pieces in comic-book movie history. One specific scene in Guardians 2 sticks out but not because it was good, it was because it was immensely boring. There’s a prison break scene in the movie and it felt like it was 5-10 minutes of watching a character use the same ability, over and over again. The only saving grace of that particular scene was that it was shot very well and had some of the best visuals of the film.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is easily one of Marvel’s best. Although it falls short in a few places, it manages to redeem itself in its comedy, visuals, and story. I can’t wait to see the Guardians interact with the Avengers in Avengers: Infinity War next year and I really can’t wait to see director James Gunn behind the camera again for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 sometime in the 2020s.