This post was originally published on my other site, NewToComics.com, but has been moved back to fit in with my MCU review series – if you’re a fan of (or want to be a fan of) comic-books, check it out!
Although it’s coming in three years after its predecessor, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is only set a few months after the events of the first film. So straight off the back of our Guardians of the Galaxy review, here’s Volume Two.
RELEASED: 28th April 2017
DIRECTED BY: James Gunn
WRITTEN BY: James Gunn
PRODUCED BY: Kevin Feige
MUSIC BY: Tyler Bates
STARRING: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, Pom Klementieff, Elizabeth Debicki, Sean Gunn, Chris Sullivan, Sylvester Stallone & Kurt Russell
Before Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2 was released, Captain America was the only Marvel series that delivered a sequel that was better than the original film. Post-Guardians vol. 2 release, Captain America‘s record remains unchallenged. That’s not to say Guardians vol. 2 is a bad film; it’s plenty entertaining – but much like Iron Man 2 and Avengers: Age of Ultron before it, it crams in so much, that the weight of all its content holds it back from being one of the best Marvel movies, like many expected it to be.
Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2 picks up a few months after the events of the first film. The Guardians, enjoying their newfound fame after saving the galaxy, are in the midst of fulfilling a contract with the perfectionist, golden-skinned Sovereign – protecting their valuable energy source from an extra-dimension creature. However, when Rocket slights the Sovereign after they complete their mission, the full force of their armada comes after the Guardians, which in turn attracts the attention of Star-Lord’s (Chris Pratt) father, Ego (Kurt Russell), an ancient celestial being who, over his centuries long life, has taken the form of a living planet, and is able to interact with mortal beings through humanoid avatars. As Star-Lord comes to terms with having finally found his father, Nebula comes gunning for Gamora, while Yondu and his Ravagers are hired by the Sovereign to retrieve the Guardians so they can pay for Rocket’s actions.
Seriously – there’s a lot going on in this film. And again, like Iron Man 2 and Age of Ultron, that isn’t a good thing.
For one, while Vol. 2 is full of the same wit that proliferated the first movie, it often, like the majority of Marvel movies, takes that a step too far – serious, tense moments don’t get their chance to hit home because they’re quickly undercut by a misplaced joke.
Emotional beats feel overly forced because every character seems to feel the need to tell a sob story about their life. Around the middle of the film, with the exception of Groot, all the core Guardians, Yondu, Mantis and Nebula have a moment of personal crisis. If it were just a few of them, it may work, but as it’s every important character, you quickly stop caring and hoping for this rather lengthy film to get on with it (especially considering some characters’ emotional beats, like Rocket, just make them come off as unlikeable).
But as I mentioned previously, Vol. 2 isn’t a bad film, so let’s look at some of the good.
The visuals are perhaps the best part of the film. People praised Doctor Strange for being the best looking Marvel movie yet, but Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is so zany and colourful that it makes Strange look like shit. Some of the aesthetic choices in this film are so fantastic and out there that you can sort of forgive Gunn for overloading the story with unnecessary elements. I recently watched a video by ‘schmoesknow’, where they argued that George Lucas, when it came to the Star Wars prequels, was more of a ‘film-maker’ than a ‘story-teller’ when it came to constructing the films, and I think it’s clear, when it comes to this film, that the same can be said of James Gunn.
That sense of film-maker over story-teller also shows itself in the music. Once again, we’re treated to a wealth of classic hits, this time more intertwined with the actual plot than in the first film. This has its ups and downs, as for one, the songs are generally of a lesser quality than those in the original film, but the way they fit into the plot so seamlessly is quite fun to behold, particularly the choice of opening song.
Along with songs, the film is also filled with tons of little treats for comic-fans. Again, this has good and bad effects. For people knowledgeable about the Guardians of the Galaxy lore, seeing characters like The Watchers and a nod to the original Guardians of the Galaxy such as Starhawk, Charlie-27 and Martinex will make people very happy. But to the casual observer it will mean literally nothing, beyond them being extra aliens to look at, and a seemingly odd casting choice for actors like Stallone, Ving Rhames Michelle Yeoh and… Miley Cyrus?! (Yeah, Miley Cyrus is in this, but I can almost guarantee you won’t realise beyond me having just told you).
The best treat, however, is Ego. Both in general, and also how surprisingly close to his comic-book counterpart he is (aesthetically speaking). By which I mean, he’s actually revealed to be a planet with a face, which is just fantastic. What’s even more fantastic is Kurt Russell’s performance as said planet. He gives it his all, bringing all the gravitas that you’d expect from an actor of his caliber, and shines in every scene he’s in, bouncing off the rest of the cast and occassionally stealing focus from them.
But don’t be fooled; the rest of the cast, for the most part, are also very fun to watch. Chris Pratt is the same Chris Pratt we all know and love; Dave Bautista steals the show, comedy-wise; Cooper and Diesel continue to do some solid voice-work (although how much you can credit Diesel in this one is questionable); Zoe Saldana’s Gamora showing frustration at her teammates is continually entertaining; Gillen, while occasionally somewhat stiff, is given more to do; Rooker delivers a surprisingly moving turn as Yondu; Klementieff’s performance makes you unsure if how naively entertaining she is is on purpose or just to lack of mainstream experience; Sean Gunn steps up to be a surprisingly likeable side-character and Stallone grumbles and splutters through every line as per usual.
All in all, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 makes me want to change my ranking system (which I did, originally awarding this ‘three and a half stars’, before changing it back). It’s a lot of fun, very amusing, great to look at and has a lot of heart. But it also tries a bit too hard, and is somewhat bloated.
So, in that regard, I give it: