When Guardians of the Galaxy released back in 2014 it was considered by many to be one of, if not the best Marvel movie released yet. This was especially surprising since many viewers had never even heard of the Guardians of the Galaxy, let alone any of the connections they could have offered to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Now nearly three years later this band of misfits has returned with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, but is it even possible for lightning to strike twice? The short answer is yes, however, this is not a perfect film and Vol. 2 tends to stumble in a few areas. However, this didn’t stop Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 from being one of the best comic book films in ages and an absolute delight to experience.
Set some time after the original movie, Peter Quill aka Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), Rocket (Bradley Cooper), Groot (Vin Diesel), Drax (Dave Bautista), and Gamora (Zoe Saldana) are working as mercenaries for hire across the universe. After a double-cross the group crash-lands on a mysterious planet and are eventually saved by Peter’s long lost father Ego (Kurt Russell). The group then splits up and along the way comic book characters like Yondu (Michael Rooker), Taserface (Chris Sullivan) and Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki) show up. To say anything more would spoil the plot and major threads of the film.
The plot itself is less action driven than what you might expect from a Marvel movie, as the film has only three or four principle locations where the majority of the action takes place. Instead of trying to repeat the same formula from the first film, director James Gunn aims to tell a more personal and character driven story. Almost every one of the five principle heroes has their own subplot that aims to deepen and enhance our understanding of this character. I say almost because Drax is the only character that is curious left out when it comes to having his own story and is instead relegated to providing comedy alongside newcomer Mantis (Pom Klementieff).
Rocket and Yondu’s story stands out as the best this time around thanks to the wonderful performances by both Cooper and Rooker. Seeing these two play off each other is a treat and it’s only complimented by the presence of Baby Groot. There’s a nice payoff to all of the build up Gunn creates around Rocket’s attitude and you might even find yourself fighting back a few tears at the end of the movie. Of the side stories, Nebula and Gamora’s is a bit of a drag on the overall pacing of the movie. This isn’t because it’s unimportant to the characters involved, but that the outcome is predictable and doesn’t take any unique turns that viewers might not expect.
Peter’s lineage is, of course, the main focus and it’s quite interesting for those who have never really invested any time into learning about the Guardians of the Galaxy. Pratt and Russell have fantastic chemistry and while the big “twist” can be seen a mile away it serves as a solid set up for the final act. What does get lost in all the noise is Ayesha who is meant to be a principle villain, but really is just an excuse to have big space battles. Her character feels incredibly underdeveloped and it’s possible to completely forget about her by the half way point.
Of course, the character everyone will be talking about is Baby Groot, who is literally as adorable and hilarious as you would expect. From the opening title (which may be the best in comic book film history) to the last scene it’s impossible not to fall in love with Baby Groot. Much like the first, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 has near perfect comedic timing that is enhanced by witty writing and come fun callbacks to other Marvel films. Gunn strikes a good balance between drama and comedy, allowing for characters to have softer, more emotionally charged moments. This is important because it not only allows for the jokes to feel more impactful, but lets viewers invest themselves into the cast.
All of this is wrapped up in a gorgeous looking film that is full of vibrant personality and style. Colors pop on screen, the CGI characters look fantastic in motion, and it wouldn’t be surprising if this movie got nominated for an Oscar in costume design. Music drops are near perfect and are in placed across the film just enough to not make the idea of playing “Wham Bam Shang a Lang” with a big action scene does not feel like a retread.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 success is that Gunn understands that he cannot just repeat the same ideas and themes from the previous movie. There’s a nice sense of organic growth for the characters and the unique style this movie embodies allows it to stand out among all other comic book films. There’s is little doubt that much of the success for Guardians of the Galaxy rests on the cast and their sheer gung-ho attitude for every moment can be felt on screen. While the film suffers from a few pacing issues and a weak villain, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is a stellar movie that shouldn’t be missed. Oh who are we kidding, we all know you have seen this film like 4 times by now.