Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 poster

Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2 | James Gunn | May 5, 2017

In 2014, James Gunn delivered one of the biggest surprises of the year with Guardians Of The Galaxy, still one of the best films that Marvel has delivered to date. It was a breath of fresh air not only for Marvel, but the superhero genre as a whole. Sure, there are bits taken from superhero films from before, but Gunn crafted it in such a colorful way that it resulted in something impossible not to adore. Three years later and the most lovable group of a-holes in the galaxy are back at it again in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and while it doesn’t quite match the first (who really expected it to?), it’s a solid follow-up that gives fans plenty to smile about.

Just like in its predecessor, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 begins with a prologue, flashing back to 1980s Missouri where we see Peter Quill’s parents (Kurt Russell and Laura Haddock) young and in love. It sets us up for Russell’s introduction as Ego and gives us a little hint of what’s to come.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 - the new lineup

From there, the film wastes no time throwing us back in alongside our heroes: Peter (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax (Dave Bautista), Rocket (Bradley Cooper), and, of course, Baby Groot (Vin Diesel). They’re about to engage in a battle against a giant alien creature (as seen in the trailers), but instead of preparing, they’re arguing about whether or not they should play music to soundtrack their battle. It’s the sort of thing that puts us right back into the wonderful space of these characters.

When the monster arrives, the focus of Gunn’s camera is on Baby Groot, as he dances to a perfectly selected track (that I won’t spoil), all while the rest of the gang is hard at work trying to slay the gigantic beast. Gunn puts the action in the background, letting the camera focus on the joyous and adorably cute dance moves of Baby Groot. It’s a ravishing opening sequence that is intoxicatingly delightful but also stands in for the fact that even though this world is surrounded by action, the real focus is on the characters.

The Guardians are then on the run from an alien race known as The Sovereign after pissing off the group’s High Priestess (Elizabeth Debicki) because Rocket wasn’t satisfied with their monster-slaying reward. They narrowly escape, landing on a mysterious planet that was created by and hosts Peter’s father, Ego. Peter, Gamora, and Drax stick around to learn more about Ego and his planet, while Rocket and Baby Groot have an encounter with Yondu (Michael Rooker) and the Ravagers, who have been hired to bring the Guardians back to The Sovereign.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 - Rocket and Baby Groot

Peter discovers the truth about the disappearance of his father and the plans for him going forward, Gamora tries to figure out how to handle the relationship between her and her sister Nebula (Karen Gillan), and Drax has an interesting connection with Mantis (Pom Klementieff), a companion of Ego’s. Gunn finds the time to give characters like Yondu a much more significant expanded role this time around, that does go on to be one of the biggest surprises of all.

From here, the story bounces around the different arcs, but saying anything more would be spoiler territory – further than the trailers have indulged. What I will say is that the best part about these films is by far the unbreakable dynamic between the core characters. The middle part of the film sees them split up, going on different paths before they inevitably meet up again.

While this does provide for some personal moments, it comes at the cost of a slower pace, a lack of a consistent ebb and flow, and a runtime that probably could have been trimmed. These scenes and storylines work well on their own, but as a whole it does seem to meander a bit more story-wise, resulting in a film that’s not quite as tight as Vol. 1. But considering the new elements that have been incorporated this time around, it’s to be expected.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 - Rocket, Yondu, and Baby Groot

While it starts strong and suffers from a somewhat uneven middle section, Guardians Vol. 2 brings it all home with a memorable finale act. The conclusion this time around is a rather emotional one, in what may be the most poignant moment that we’ve seen so far from Marvel. It sticks its landing with style and grace.

The chemistry of the main cast (Pratt, Saldana, Bautista, Cooper and Diesel) is once again undeniable, continuing to be a winning aspect of this series. Kurt Russell is a welcome addition as Ego, and is a pure charmer in the role. Yet, the real highlight of the film in Michael Rooker as Yondu, who is given a much meatier role this time around and jumps at the levels of depth that the script offers.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 - Baby Groot

The beauty of the Guardians series is that Marvel has truly let Gunn go wild and put his stamp on these bad boys – from the candy-colored stunning visuals to the carefully curated classic soundtrack to the rapid-fire comedy that provides as much levity as one could ask for. As with any Marvel movie, not all the jokes land, but Gunn’s voice is definitely felt when they do. Thankfully, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 doesn’t have to do any building towards next year’s Avengers: Infinity War, and that gives the film the freedom to breathe and worry about itself and not just be a building block towards something bigger. Family is a big theme this time around and it gives the film a ton of heart that helps elevate it from any of its shortcomings.

As long as you don’t expect Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 to surpass the first, you’ll have a great time. The ingredients are all there. It’s action-packed, sports a great soundtrack, memorable visuals, all around good performances, and plenty of cameos and easter egg surprises. Even with it’s issues, I had a great time with it and it’s certainly still one of the better films that we’ve gotten from the studio. There’s still a lot more to be explored with these characters, which is an exciting prospect. And of course, don’t forget to stick through the credits, there are indeed 5 extra scenes during the credits.

Rating: 8.0/10