In 2014, James Gunn (director and co-writer) introduced one of the most charming superhero stories of all-time with Guardians of the Galaxy (2014). The factor of the unknown played an important role in its success, forcing the filmmakers to focus on why the audience should care about the characters as apposed to creating a convoluted story regarding continuity within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Although the story was self-contained, the scale was vast and this sequel seemed to bounce off of that concept. The magic that Guardians of the Galaxy captured isn’t as vibrant this time around, but in no way does that make it a failure. Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 (2017) is an absolute blast.
Going into Vol. 2, the less known about the plot, the better. The marketing team at Marvel Studios seemed to keep the specifics about the overall story hidden, merely providing a generalization of what to expect. What’s important to know, however, is that Vol. 2 revolves around the concept of family. The group of strangers that united in the first adventure have now come to the conclusion that they need each other. Vol. 2 exploits that notion and explores the deeper history of these characters, all while providing laughs along the way.
The film follows Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), the leader of the Guardians, as he seeks the truth about who he truly is. Along for the ride are Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista), Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper), and Baby Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel). Together, they explore the cosmos as a squad of hired guns. Although the main plot isn’t completely developed until the second act, there are a number of subplots that branch off of Quill’s quest, giving each character their emotional moment. This can make the pacing seem off at times, causing a bit of confusion as to where the story is going, but by the time the threat presents itself in the third act, the Guardians put their issues to the side to do what they do best and attempt to once again save the galaxy.
One of the main elements that made Guardians of the Galaxy successful was its use of humor. And in Vol. 2, there’s plenty to go around. Once again, Drax provides for a majority of the genuine laughs. Given the nature of his character and chemistry with the rest of the group, his ignorance to most situations are enough for the audience to rejoice. As for the rest of the crew, the jokes they crack feel forced and out of place at times. This almost takes away from the dramatic pull that Gunn was trying to evoke in a number of scenes, thus eradicating the seriousness of the situation by the end. It doesn’t happen often, but it’s a factor that is prevalent throughout the film.
Going back to the characters, although Peter Quill is the man running the show, Baby Groot is the one who steals it. He is adorable and gives the movie heart. His innocence resembles those of an actual child and provides for some of the film’s best moments.
The one thing that holds the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) back is the lack of emotional weight and development with its villains, aside from Loki. Most are easily forgettable and this movie falls in the same hole. Ayesha, the leader of the gold beings referred to as the Sovereign, is as uninteresting as can be. Her only purpose throughout the film is to merely serve as an obstacle for the Guardians to occasionally hurdle over. This doesn’t hold the film back too much, for there is a greater predicament at hand for the Guardians to face.
For the most part, Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 is a fun ride. Story pacing can be problematic at times and the humor can get redundant, but the pros outweigh the cons by the end. There’s a lot of fun to be had with this movie in its 2-hour run. If you enjoyed the first adventure, you will definitely be pleased with the sequel. It’s a nice addition to the MCU and, although not as original, still full of heart and wit that make the characters you came to see pop.
We are Groot, once again.
FINAL SCORE: B-
(There are five post credit scenes attached to this film… make sure you stay until the very end to get the full experience)