Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)
Directed by James Gunn
As far as sequels go, Guardians Vol. 2 could be one of the best, even more so given that Marvel's sequels haven't exactly been groundbreaking.
Volume 2 picks up with our Guardians on one of the planets of an advanced civilization called The Sovereign. The Sovereign have hired our heroes to defend some of their property from an inter-dimensional beast that's ravaging similar property in the system. After defeating the beast, our lovable misfits crash land on a "nearby" planet, where they're greeted by a man called Ego, who explains that he's Peter Quill's father. Ego takes the band back to his home planet, leaving Rocket and baby Groot to repair the ship. Soon enough Yondu's Ravagers have captured Rocket and baby Groot, while Peter, Gamora, and Drax uncover an unbelievable plan, eons-in-the-making, to take over the galaxy.
From the start, Volume 2 is immediately funnier than it's predecessor. In the first film the team was getting to know each other, but now they're friends. Because the team is established, we get the pleasure of seeing more of their infectious chemistry. There's something funny happening in just about every scene, whether it's Drax being painfully honest, or Yondu screaming that he's Mary Poppins, or even Peter and Ego connecting and playing catch. And that's great. The only problem is that the movie tries to be funny as often as possible. It ends up feeling more like an action comedy then a superhero, sci-fi, action adventure. It can be a little overbearing at times, but mostly it fits the atmosphere being created by James Gunn and the characters therein.
Marvel's previous movies have a completely different vibe to Guardians. They're grounded in the real world, our world, and portray their respective stories in as realistic a fashion as they can. In their way, they took characters that could be presented in a fully realistic way, like Iron Man and Captain America, giving them a world in which they can build up to portrayals of other characters like Doctor Strange. But with the Guardians of the Galaxy, a team that operates throughout the galaxy, Marvel can really let loose.
Gunn and co. are entirely imaginative, able to create worlds, species, cultures, and events far beyond the Earthly, realistic realm.
Guardians doesn't center on Earth, so it doesn't have to ground itself in our reality or play to our expectations. In that regard, Volume 2 is the most colorful, vibrant Marvel movie to date. I absolutely meant it when I said that Marvel can let loose. Because they absolutely do. The world that our Guardians work so hard to protect is full of life, color, and things could never exist on Earth. Gunn and co. are entirely imaginative, able to create worlds, species, cultures, and events far beyond the Earthly, realistic realm.
The characters that we get in Volume 2, with few exceptions, are riveting. Altogether, the cast shares a chemistry that makes every situation entirely believable. The humor, the drama, the emotion... the cast relates so well to each other and plays off each other perfectly. In fact, it's that exact chemistry that helps to save some of the bad aspects of the movie, specifically the bad guy and his evil plan.
Ego, the living planet, fathered Peter Quill after falling in love with a human, his mother. While he relates to Peter and they build a relationship, the same one that Peter's silently pined for, Ego has a secret motive. His entire plan ends up holding the fate of the galaxy in his hands, truly making the Guardians the guardians of the galaxy. That in itself isn't necessarily a bad thing, after all it's in their name, but it is a damn shame that the villain is, once again, such a cookie-cutter character. Ego is only as good as his relationship to Peter and how well the two characters interact. Luckily, Peter is entirely charismatic and deep, bringing us into his growth and pain. In fact, Chris Pratt does such a good job as Peter that he elevates the trials and tribulations of every character.
Despite the enormous growth and connections of our team, the story itself is a little lackluster. The writers spent so much time building up our characters with humor that the main plot ends up falling behind the massive amount of events that occur over the course of the film. Volume 2 moves so quickly that there's almost never any breathing room, and when there is breathing room it's only used to insert comic relief. In itself that's not such a bad thing, but the story races along and ends up gratuitously explaining things that would be better to experience. One character explains their backstory, then another character explains someone else's backstory... True, the first film was the origin of the team, but in this sequel we get far more background on each individual, and because there's 8 main characters, 9 if you count Baby Groot, we get ridiculous amounts of exposition. It's unfortunate, but with this movie it's official: Marvel hasn't learned from the overcrowded mistakes of the past. It's like they have difficulty making a singular, cohesive story, they have to shoehorn in as much content as possible.
The soundtrack and visuals are stunning. The music is fantastic, fittings the mood perfectly; the photography is great, but because it's so otherworldly there's so much that feels fake. Indeed, there's a lot that is fake, but it feels fake, and that's the problem. The movie's so over the top colorful that the inane vibrancy pulls me out of my suspended disbelief. Having said that... the CGI is top notch, of course. That's not the problem.
Overall, the movie works on a fundamental level: fun. The story may be a little hard to love, but the characters are so infectious and charismatic that it's had not to love them. And the overt comic relief is so ever present that there are huge spikes in drama and emotion because the atmosphere has been so lively; when the tension suddenly destroys the laughter it's so incredibly unexpected that it makes moments effortlessly emotional, tying us into the characters.
I have to be honest here: in no way is Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 the best Marvel film. It's not the most dramatic, it's not the most action-packed, it's not the most well-written, but it is the funniest. It's the most fun. It's the most colorful. And even though the plot is disappointing the characters are so fun and pull us so effectively into their story that the moments of pain and heartbreak boil over into the audience. Volume 2 is a fun, triumphant ride like no other. And while I do wish there were changes, I can't in good conscience ask for them, because then this movie would be different and it works so well already.
I have to be honest here: in no way is Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 the best Marvel film. It's not the most dramatic, it's not the most action-packed, it's not the most well-written, but it is the funniest.
TL;DR: The fact that this movie is so funny does create an inherent problem, but creates an even better solution to a different problem. The story is cliché as fuck, but because of the inherent humor the moments of pain work so much more effectively. Volume 2 is flawed at it's core, but it's so easy to enjoy it for it's flaws.
- Acting – 17 / 20
- Story – 12 / 20
- Cinematography – 15 / 20
- Soundtrack – 8 / 10
- Entertainment Factor – 10 / 10
- Sci-Fi/Action – 7 / 10
- Other – 7 / 10