Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
Release Date: May 5th, 2017
Production Company: Marvel Studios
Distributed by: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Directed by: James Gunn
Starring: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, Pom Klementieff, Elizabeth Debicki, Chris Sullivan, Sean Gunn, Sylvester Stallone, and Kurt Russell.
Most comic book movie fans will agree that the first Guardians of the Galaxy was something special. Many list it as their favorite Marvel movie, and rightly so (I list it as the third best MCU movie, but that's a subject for another article). It was a surprisingly heartfelt and comedic sci-fi romp through a world of splashy special effects, big budget action, and a superb 70's-80's soundtrack. Guardians of the Galaxy was stylish, fun, and fresh, and no matter what other studios may attempt in replicating its success, nothing has come close to topping it.
That of course is one of the only two issues with its highly anticipated sequel, the aptly named Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2: there's just no way a sequel could meet the expectations set by the first one. Because part of what made Guardians such a hit was the surprise. No one expected it to be that good and to do that well. The best Vol. 2 can do is give the audiences a lot of the same thing. But you know what? For a movie franchise like Guardians, that's all we really want.
This time around, the Guardians are working to save the galaxy (as well as make a living) by taking on jobs that require their "expertise." The film opens with Peter Quill, Gamora, Drax, Rocket, and Baby Groot fighting a giant cosmic monster in one of the best comic book film opening credit segments I've seen since Watchmen. After Rocket steals some batteries from the golden-skinned Sovereigns who had hired them, the Guardians find themselves on the run and stranded on a planet with their ship destroyed alongside a captured (and incredibly pissed) Nebula in tow. They're saved last minute by a mysterious entity who turns out to be none other than Ego, Peter Quill's long-lost father. Ego takes Peter, Gamora, and Drax, alongside his associate Mantis, back to his planet to teach Peter about his heritage. Meanwhile, Rocket, Baby Groot, and Nebula are stuck defending their ship from Yondu and the Ravagers, who have taken a bounty from the Sovereign to capture athe Guardians. Yondu is facing his own personal problems however, not the least of which is a potential mutiny by his crew (led by the wonderfully-named "Taserface").
There's a very unsubtle theme running throughout the film about the concept of fatherhood and how it can help build up or tear a person down. Peter is naturally drawn to Ego in the hopes of understanding more about who he is and where he came from, while dismissing the difficult and hostile environment he grew up with under Yondu's "care." While that's going on, Yondu is having daddy issues of his own with the head of the Ravagers, Stakar Ogord (played by Sylvester Stallone), who has rejected Yondu's clan for breaking one of their codes. Nebula expresses her anger about her own "father" Thanos by taking it out on his favorite child Gamora. And everyone acts as a parent to Baby Groot, whose limited intelligence as an adult seems to have dwarfed considerably as a sapling. But damn if that little tree ain't the cutest thing ever. Vol. 2 is about family vs. the individual, and how much stronger these ragtag bunch of misfits are as people when they have each other's backs. This is reinforced when comparing the Guardians to Ego, who let's just say has that name for a reason.
I mentioned before that the movie only has two major issues, one of which is heightened expectations. The other, unfortunately, is sloppiness. The film has some pacing issues, a few moments where the acting is not at its best (which is surprising with such a talented cast), and unfortunately has a couple of plot holes or open questions that could (and should) have been answered. At times the movie tries to lean on scenes or references that made the first film so great (a cameo by Howard the Duck comes to mind) instead of trying something different, and those re-treads can feel pandering.
But when it comes to humor, action, snark, and imaginative space-scapes, Vol. 2 meets all of our expectations and then some. Most importantly, it's fun. There was a moment in the middle of the climactic battle where I sort of sat back and realized that I was really enjoying myself. This is one of the best times you'll probably have in the theater all year (at least until Spider-Man: Homecoming and Thor: Ragnarok release, but even then...), and by the time it was over I was ready to see it again. The movie is so enjoyable that shocking and dark scenes become stand out a lot more, or scenes that should appall us are done so stylishly (with great background music) that you know you should be horrified, but you're loving every second of it. A fantastic scene revolving around Rocket and Yondu comes to mind, supported by Jay and the American's "Come a Little Bit Closer."
The cast is, of course, what makes the movie. Chris Pratt, who is a genius of comedic timing, is almost reduced to straight-man in such a wildly charismatic collection, but he naturally gets some great moments and even gets to use some acting chops. Zoe Saldana's Gamora doesn't get as many opportunities to be funny so much as be a badass, but it fits the character well, and she's given a great character arc alongside her sister Nebula (played by a constantly-screaming Karen Gillan). Dave Bautista is put in a very odd place at Drax. He's really only there for some jokes (some great, some poorly done), which is a great disservice to Bautista who constantly delivers an amazing performance. Then there's the real star of the show: Bradley Cooper's Little King Trashmouth... sorry, Rocket Raccoon, who I would watch an entire movie about alongside Vin Diesel's Groot (Baby or otherwise). Kurt Russell's Ego is similarly brilliant casting, and he really captures that "magnificent space being" aura while never over-doing his character. The only casting I wasn't sure about was Pom Klementieff as Mantis, if only because the character is incredibly bizarre and doesn't seem to exactly fit in with the rest of the crew.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is filled with easter eggs and references to the Cosmic Marvel world. Make sure you stay through the credits to catch a quick glance at our favorite space dog and a certain actor who will be appearing in Thor: Ragnarok in November. This movie, like its predecessor, is just straight fun through-and-through. If you haven't already gone to see it, I recommend checking it out as soon as possible in theaters. I know I'll be seeing it at least one more time.