“So we’re saving the galaxy again? Awesome!” Yes Rocket. Yes, it is awesome.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is the Marvel sci-fi/comedy sequel to Guardians of the Galaxy directed and written by James Gunn. It stars Chris Pratt as Peter Quill/Star Lord whose happily leading the Guardians from one irresponsible romp to another when he is suddenly greeted by his long lost father (Kurt Russell) and begins to discover the secrets of his heritage.
Much like the first film, from the moment the opening dance sequence lights up the screen you feel as if you’re in good hands. This may not have the holy-hell-this-movie-is-actually-great surprise of the original but if anything Vol. 1 (as it will now be retroactively called) proved to Marvel that James Gunn has a damn good hold on what makes these characters awesome. And in the sequel, that trust freaking shows. Gunn, in now taking the sole writing credit, has hardcore doubled down on his vision and style of Vol. 1 – the infectious joy, amazing soundtrack and just raw sense of fun and distinctness in the MCU has thankfully been kept intact in spades throughout Vol. 2. This is no Infinity War prequel – this is a solo, distinctly personal Guardians sequel and its so fantastic that Marvel clearly supports Gunn in his vision for the franchise.
In so many ways Vol. 2 manages to build on everything Vol. 1 established so well. The characters, who were already the strength of the original, are all expanded up and enriched so perfectly throughout the sequel. People who were originally short shrifted like Yondu (Michael Rooker), Nebula (Karen Gillan) and even Drax (Dave Bautista) are all given layered depths and their own personal moments in a movie than manages to service no less than eight different Guardians. Its a writing feat that no one feels short-changed and everyone gets a character beat, making the characters yet again the strongest part of the movie.
Granted, it is helped by the fact that there’s nary a weak link in the whole cast. In the spirit of the movie, I think its best to let them all have a moment to shine.
Chris Pratt (Star Lord): Likeable as ever, Pratt remains the charming heart of the Galaxy roster. While the focus may shift a little away from him in Vol. 2 his arc regardless makes for a touching and effective one that lets Pratt flex more than just his smirk.
Zoe Saldana (Gamora): While I’m constantly concerned she’s going to be relegated as a sub-par love interest, thankfully Gunn has mostly taken a different route by bolstering the relationship she has with Nebula. Not only is it a fascinating dynamic, its something that was sorely missing in Vol. 1 and its great to see remedied here.
Bradley Cooper (Rocket): Cooper remains almost unrecognisable as everyone’s favourite cybernetic trash panda who remains one of the biggest comedic reliefs in the film. While one of his character struggles feels unresolved at the end, he’s still given even greater pathos through a surprise relationship with Yondu that’s likely building up to an even greater role in the eventual Vol. 3.
Vin Diesel (Baby Groot): Ugh, so cute. Goddamn, all the cute.
Dave Bautista (Drax): The big surprise yet again, Bautista is given plenty to do through some great lines, a surprising but no less fantastic relationship with newcomer Mantis, and actually a handful of genuinely dramatic moments that proves Bautistia has more to offer than a muscle-bound brute.
Michael Rooker (Yondu): Rooker’s screentime has been bolstered for the sequel and it pays dividends for his character. Not only has Gunn given him a greater level of depth and pathos, it makes perfect sense on a thematic front – and also gives us the chance to bath in the glory that is his new mohawk.
Karen Gillan (Nebula): Just like Yondu, Nebula has been bolstered for the sequel and it does so much more for her character. She’s gone from an interesting-albeit-flat second tier villain to so much more, making her arguably the most sympathetic character in the film.
Pom Klementieff (Mantis): The newcomer to the Guardians, Mantis is wonderfully sweet and played almost like a manic pixie by Klementieff who seems to be perfect for the role. Not only that, but her dynamic with the rest of the Guardians, particularly Drax, makes me hope she sticks around for Vol. 3.
The other newcomer worth discussing is Kurt Russell as Pratt’s father. While I won’t go into spoilers discussing his background and role in the story, lets just say Russell is always welcome to whatever movie he wants to show up him. Not only can you easily buy the father/son dynamic between him and Pratt, he’s such an awesome and interesting addition that makes the movie that much better.
My only serious criticism for Vol. 2 is a rather boring one honestly. There’s a number of pacing and structural problems that seem to permeate the film – some scenes go on for too long, some too short and after a rip-roaring act one the pacing can’t maintain that forward momentum throughout the rest of the film. One scene in particular, while a great scene, was done in such a way that it felt like a completely different movie, lacking the light touch of the rest of the film. The problems were never fundamental enough to heavily affect my enjoyment, but its a point worth noting.
But honestly, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is everything I wanted in a sequel. Its a more personal story that effortlessly builds on everything that was so great with the original while doubling down on Gunn’s joyous vision for these characters. Its a surprisingly touching but no less entertaining romp through the Galaxy with the best bunch of a-holes anybody could ask for. Awesome Mixtape Vol. 2 isn’t the only awesome thing here.
General Audiences: Must-see
Film Buffs: Highly Recommended
True Believers (Marvel): Must-see
Blockbusters: Highly Recommended