Review: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
Dripping with humour and heart, James Gunn takes us for another exhilarating trip around the galaxy that is arguably better than the first!
Back in 2014 Marvel Studios took a big gamble on a franchise that was necessary for the Infinity War storyline to come full circle, Guardians of the Galaxy. James Gunn threw on one of the most kickass 80’s soundtracks and lead audiences on a character powered romp through space that turned into critical acclaim. Unfortunately, that’s lead to Volume 2’s greatest question being “Will it live up to the first one?”. Let’s get that out of the way now. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is without a doubt on par with the first outting, and arguably better in more ways than one.
As we kick off Volume 2, we find the Guardians in the middle of prepping for their next job. It seems that they’ve managed to make quite the name for themselves after the handling of an Infinity Stone and are quite the hot commodity. Old habits die hard though, and the team quickly find themselves being hunted by the Sovereign, the very group that hired them. Aiding that hunt is Yondu (Michael Rooker), whose past comes to light via Starhawk (Sylvester Stallone), a past comrade. It seems that Yondu has been paying the price for abducting Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), having been banished for breaking the “Ravager’s Code” decades ago, a truth he can’t seem to swallow. While on the run, the Guardians come in contact with a man named Ego (Kurt Russell), a man who claims to be Peter’s father. Stating that he has a lot to explain and teach Peter, the team is asked to follow Ego and his servant Mantis (Pom Klementieff) to his home planet.
Volume 2 is a much more emotional and personal journey than it’s predecessor. With introductions out of the way, Gunn uses Volume 2 as a zone of personal exploration for the Guardians, making for a film that is rich with character development. While it is often handled brilliantly, the film does trip over heavy expositional dialogue at times. There is a lot for you to know, and they assure that you know it one back story after another. The kicker is that these bits of story are all needed, and as the film plays out it makes for incredible character arcs, but that being said, the expositional short cuts hurt the bottom line. Screenwriters Gunn and Dan Abnett also manage to carve out a story that allows for further definition of the individual characters while never losing the love that binds them. With the script in mind, a hats off to the Marvel team for bringing us a story that didn’t revolve around an Infinity Stone! Really, it’s a beautiful thing, and it’s nice to watch a film without the very clear reminder that this is all going somewhere.
Building from the script, Gunn masterfully directs the cast to deliver characters that are full of depth. Michael Rooker’s Yondu takes on an elevated role in the film, along with Karen Gillan’s angst ridden Nebula, adding a necessary layer of nuance to a story about family. Speaking of family, Kurt Russell fills the role of Ego wonderfully. Full of charm and wit, Russell works very well as the father to Peter Quill, even if he’s terribly underused until the third act. The same, unfortunately, cannot be said for Stallone’s Starhawk, who seems like more of a nod to the 80s than intelligent casting. The rest of the team is in good form here as well. Bradley Cooper’s Rocket Raccoon is something of a feat in fact, especially when you watch him alongside the adorable Baby Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel). While both are CG characters, Rocket defines himself as something truly human delivering some of the films most heart wrenching moments. The same can be said for Batista’s Drax who steals the show with his unfiltered emotional presence. His scenes with Pom Klementieff’s Mantis are some of the stand out moments of the film.
This film has fun with every ounce of its production. From the incredible baby Groot driven opening sequence to the yearbook credits (that are filled with post credit scenes), the filmmakers took the material and turned everything to 11! Gorgeous environment design and impeccable hair and makeup pull viewers out of reality and into the cosmos with the phenomenal cast. Impeccably choreographed action sequences are laced with humorous banter and captured beautifully by Henry Braham and his team. Lastly, enough cannot be said about the soundtrack. These playlists are expertly crafted, and the cast and writers do such a great job of incorporating it into the film.
This is what the sequel to a Hollywood blockbuster should look like – it’s as simple as that. Instead of sending the viewer on the same journey over again, Gunn and his team took the time to explore the characters further. It paid off, and it manages to deliver one of the most emotionally engaging third acts Marvel has to offer.