Guardians of the Galaxy is a worthy sequel to the 2014 instant classic and is filled with humour and heart…
Writer/director James Gunn had a tough job on his hands with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. The first movie defied predictions that it was to be the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s first flop and instead became one of the franchise’s biggest successes, winning over fans and critics alike. How could a sequel live up to the high standard and hype generated by the first film? Well, as it turns out, Vol. 2 lives up to the original movie pretty frickin’ well. Only we don’t mean frickin’.
We will say up front that this is definitely not a copy of the first film as it embraces a completely different structure, something that brings with it plusses and minuses. While the first movie was a fast-moving caper movie, with various parties after the powerful Orb that the Guardians had taken hold of, Vol. 2 takes the time to build up its plot naturally. As such, the first half of the movie, while still enjoyable, doesn’t have much in the way of forward momentum. Rest assured, though, things coalesce in the second half to form one of the strongest, most thrilling, most emotional climaxes of any MCU movie.
As with Guardians, the success of Vol. 2 rests on its characters; that unlikely band of big, clashing personalities. Each of the five Guardians gets a chance to shine here, as their character arcs and dynamics with the rest of the team are nicely moved along. In particular, Peter bears the brunt of the plot, Drax provides the belly laughs and Baby Groot is the ridiculously adorable mascot of the movie. As the promotional material has made clear, the Guardians get some honorary new members to boot: namely, Yondu, Nebula and Mantis. With so many characters to juggle, it means we get some interesting, and often unexpected pairings, all of which really work. Such as Peter and Ego, Rocket and Yondu, Drax and Mantis and Gamora and Nebula.
As you might expect, the cast is reliably excellent throughout. Obviously, we already know that the central players – Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista and the voices of Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel – are fantastic so those that impressed me most here were probably the supporting actors that manage to make us care about their character as much as the main team. For instance, Michael Rooker does a great job expanding on Yondu’s brash ways from the first film and Kurt Russell is terrific as Peter’s god-like father Ego, a complex character with something of his son’s charm. As a fan of Karen Gillan’s from her time on Doctor Who, I’m pleased to say she does the best with her expanded role as Nebula.
But it is thanks to James Gunn’s stellar writing and direction that the whole thing works as well as it does. What Vol. 2 has over many competing superhero movies is its tight handle on its tone. Gunn’s script generally always knows how to balance humour and heart without undercutting either. The dialogue is sparkling throughout, as certain lines will make you cry while others will have you laughing out loud. The action sequences are also top-draw and are particularly memorable when Gunn decides to subvert the norm as the film’s irreverent sense of humour slips into his direction.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is absolutely one of the finest MCU movies, then, as it excels in every area you could hope for. It’s not perfect – a few jokes here and there don’t quite land, the runtime probably could have been chopped down by ten minutes or so – but no film is. If you pushed me, I would have to say the first movie is better, simply due to its freshness, but it’s a close-run thing. After seeing Vol. 2, you’ll still be hooked on that feeling.
P.S. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 also excels at those usual MCU staples. It contains what is probably the finest Stan Lee cameo of all time and its post-credits scenes raise the bar ridiculously high for upcoming films to try and match.