Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 - Review
Okay a-holes, it's time to talk about the two-time galaxy savers known as The Guardians of the Galaxy!
The first film was an absolute delight and proved that Marvel could tell stories with characters people weren't very familiar with. However, Marvel also has sequel issues for their franchises that aren't Captain America.
So when Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 arrived, I was excited to explore more of the cosmic side of the MCU, but I was also cautious due to my experience with other Marvel sequels. I will break down my thoughts below.
There is a lot of things that this movie got right. The most important one was character development. James Gunn was able to give all of the characters time to evolve and grow from the first film. No one was stagnant and there just for the heck of it.
He was even able to give bigger moments to minor characters that were in the first movie, like Yondu (Michael Rooker), Kraglin (Sean Gunn) and Nebula (Karen Gillan). On top of that, the true newcomers of the movie, Mantis (Pom Klementieff) and Ego (Kurt Russell), were full fledged characters as well.
Another thing worth noting is that the action sequences, visuals, and special effects were spectacular. (Slight spoilers ahead.) The de-aging of Kurt Russell was maybe the best one yet. Marvel has done this several times before and they get better at it every time. It actually looked like Kurt Russell filmed that scene in 1980 and kept it until now to release it. It is some really impressive stuff.
I wasn't sure if I could be wowed by Marvel's special effects after Doctor Strange. How could the bar go any higher? The special effects here weren't better per se - they were on the same level, but different. I have a vivid picture of what the Marvel Cosmic Universe looks like now, and it is distinctly different from that of say Doctor Who or Star Wars. It looks similar to how things will be portrayed in Thor: Ragnarok as well, which is good news because I love those aesthetics. (Especially those aesthetics with a Taika Waititi spin!)
The humor that made the first movie so much fun is back here. Everyone gets a turn, from Baby Groot dancing during the greatest opening credit sequence of all time (sorry, Deadpool) to Drax's interactions with Mantis (and everyone else for that matter). But Rocket gets some big laughs too (there is a wonderful scene of him roasting a ravager relentlessly over his name!). Star Lord gets a few great moments as well and the way they solve the "We need new music for the next sequel" problem is absolutely hilarious!
By far the best character evolution of the whole movie is for Yondu. He went from a slightly irksome supporting character to one of my favorite characters in the entire MCU. It is a wondeful story, and while not giving much away, if you don't come away from it emotionally moved then you need to rethink your life choices. Yondu's arc in this movie was absolutely beautiful and James Gunn executed it with perfection.
So we got to embrace and laugh with these lovely flawed characters wrapped in a big coat of brightly colored paint and set to (the good but not as good as the first) Awesome Mix Vol 2. That checks all of the big important boxes. Heart. Humor. Spectacle.
Something that bothered me was how long the group was split up. I understand that this allowed for the massive amounts of character development to happen, but the most fun part about them is watching them together as a big dysfunctional family. Yes, The Empire Strikes Back split their characters up and it worked but that is lightning in a bottle. Ensembles work best when all of them are together. Even in TV - the best moments in Friends, Cheers, and Everybody Loves Raymond are when the entire cast are together bouncing off of each other. I was fine with them splitting up, and like I mentioned before - I understand why. They just should have gotten back together faster.
If one thing suffered from the massive character development for 9 or so characters, it is the plot. The third act was a bit of a mess, and it was poorly paced and a tad rushed. It was still fun, so the indiscretion can be forgiven, but it was still noticeable. There were also some (spoilery) things that seemed shoe-horned in there via exposition, that were only there because they had to use it later and didn't really serve any other purpose.
In some ways, Volume 2 felt like a J.J. Abrams movie. Abrams is great with characters and even better with moments. In fact, Abrams might be the master at moments. When you string together a series of spectacular moments it makes for a fun and often coherent movie, but the story still suffers. Gunn seemed to take a leaf from Abrams book. It is a fun movie filled to the brim with moments (that one Whedon-esque shot that was similar to the defining shot in The Avengers might be my favorite moment in the movie) that have to string along a plot in between them. Gunn, like Abrams, does it well. Others do not. (Go watch those movies about the big robots that transform into cars to see badly strung together moments.)
As far as MCU sequels go this is definitely one of the better ones. Marvel has their formula down pat, and while they expanded a little bit here and got weird, they still played it relatively safe. The problem that Iron Man 2 faced still exists here. Not only did they want a sequel that touched on the popular points of part one, they had to set up the future. This was unique in that it had to set up character threads for Avengers: Infinity War but also had to expand the Cosmic side of the universe. It seems that James Gunn has been tasked with overseeing that. That is why we get a whopping five mid-to-post credit scenes; most of which casual fans would be lost on. (My super hero nerd friend and I even had to Google some things, they went deep!). I think if Guardians could focus on "Me, myself and I", and not worry about planting seeds for other things that the plot could be stronger. That is the downside to being in a massive shared universe. But the positives of a shared universe far outweigh the negatives, so this is just something we will have to get used to if we want things like Avengers: Infinity War to exist.
I will need to watch it a few more times (and let this initial time sink in a bit more) before I give it a definitive ranking, but I do think it is one of the more enjoyable sequels to come out of the MCU. (I mean, even if the movie was terrible, if they had the adorable Baby Groot running around it would still have a place in my heart). I liked the first Guardians of the Galaxy more but this was a worthy successor. I've been with this universe from the beginning and can't wait to get the next chapter. Bring on Thor: Ragnarok.
I am Groot.