When Guardians of the Galaxy came out, few people expected it to be such a massive hit. In fact, there were many who were claiming that it was going to be Marvel Studios’ first flop only to be completely won over by the charm, humor and heart of the film. Who knew that a talking raccoon and a giant tree could be so engaging?
So after a remarkably successful run, it was a guarantee that there would be a sequel. Could it possibly live up to the first film or was that just too much to ask?
I came back from a double feature showing of Guardians of the Galaxy and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 tonight and I have to say that the sequel cannot match the first film. Seeing it again after a few years reminded me how near perfect I find the original Guardians of the Galaxy. I’m not sure that it is possible to reach that level of goodness.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2 does not measure up to the original, but it is a damn fine movie that has plenty of fun, laughs and action. It also has a ton of character development among our favorite characters.
We pick up with the Guardians hired to protect these batteries by a race of golden skinned people known as the Sovereign from a giant monster. Success does not come easy and is, eventually, undermined when Rocket (Bradley Cooper) actually steals the same batteries that they were hired to protect.
This leads to the Sovereign, including their leader Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki) chasing the Guardians across the galaxy. They get away thanks to the well timed intervention by Ego (Kurt Russell), who turns out to be the long lost father of Peter Quill (Chris Pratt). Ego leads Quill (aka Star-Lord) with Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and Drax (Dave Bautista). Meanwhile, Rocket and Baby Groot (Vin Diesel) stay behind to baby-sit Nebula (Karen Gillan), who they had captured and was preparing to return to the Xandarians.
The movie really dives into character examination of why these people are the way that they are. Peter Quill and Ego are at the heart of this story, examining the relationship between both father and son and father and mother. However, even though Quill and Ego are the main story, we still get quite a bit of examination of Rocket, being compared to and linked with Yondu (Michael Rooker). Michael Rooker is one of the absolute standouts of this movie as Yondu is not only shown as a bad ass, but we get to learn more about him than you ever would have guessed. Rooker really brought the A game here.
Baby Groot is as amazingly cute as you thought he was gong to be. In fact, the cuteness of Baby Groot is actually worked into the plot and becomes a real factor in the story with Rocket and Yondu. Baby Groot is very innocent and is much like a baby as well. You can see how much the Guardians cared for the little tree creature and Groot’s relationships with all of the Guardians are great. It is not just Rocket and Groot here.
Of all the characters, Drax probably has the least amount of development (although there are a couple of strong scenes of Drax remembering his wife and daughter). Of course, Drax is also one of the funniest parts of Vol. 2. After watching the first film tonight, I am reminded on how amazing a job Bautista does as this character. He brings a level of emotion and depth to, what really could be a one note character, that I did not expect. Bautista felt just as comfortable with the comedy in Vol. 2 as he did with the emotions of the first one. I heard some people complain that Drax the Destroyer does not do any destroying in the 2nd or 3rd acts of this movie, but I think that is not a fair assessment. Drax does what he has to do and his scenes with Mantis (Pom Klementieff) are very strong (especially at the end when Drax is helping her.) Mantis was an alright addition to he cast, but I did not love her.
Speaking of the comedy, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is one of the funniest Marvel movies yet. However, it felt as if some of the humor was forced and actually played against several of the scenes. I would have liked for the movie to cut back on some of the humor. Now don’t get me wrong, I would say that 75% of the humor here was great and fit well with the film, but there was a few moments where it felt like there was too much ha ha.
The film looked great, particularly with the colors and the settings. Some of the CGI was iffy, but most of it was passable. There were some really beautiful back drops, especially when the team was on Ego’s planet.
There are some intriguing cameos and Easter Eggs here as well. SPOILERS from this point on. Sylvester Stallone appears as Stakar Ogord, whom comic fans know as Starhawk from the original Guardians of the Galaxy comic team. Yondu is also on that team, and the film plays an interesting dynamic between the two. Of course the problem is that this is Stallone and he stands out. Maybe we will see him more down the road. Another cameo that is jaw dropping is the typical Stan Lee cameo, but this one is anything but typical. He is shown talking to a group of Watchers, implying that Lee reports to them. (By the way, I never would have guessed that we would see the Watchers in a Marvel movie). Marvel Studios head honcho Kevin Fiege has confirmed that all of Stan Lee’s cameos in all Marvel movies are the same character, which was actually a fan theory. We also get fun cameos from Ving Rhames (Charlie 27), Miley Cyrus (Mainframe) and Michael Rosenbaum (Martinex)- all members of the original comic version of GotG (here as members of the original Ravagers). Howard the Duck shows up again! And… um.. David Hasselhoff? Awesome!
End of SPOILERS
There were five, count them, FIVE post credit scenes. They ranged from mind blowing to humorous. There were also very funny shots of the Guardians dancing as the credits rolled across the screen.
The music is a major part of the Guardians of the Galaxy and this movie had plenty of it. I think the first film’s Awesome Mix Tape may have been better, but there were some clear stand outs, including ELO’s “Mister Blue Sky” (featuring a dance routine like few others). Director James Gunn really has a handle on how to incorporate music into these Guardians movie naturally, without feeling like he is just cramming songs into it (hi there Suicide Squad…). Each song had purpose and blended seamlessly with the scene.
Gunn has said how much he loves these characters and it shows. He treats these characters with so much humanity, despite them being a tree or a raccoon. There is the flavor of James Gunn throughout this movie and I am extremely pleased that he has said publicly that he would be back for Vol. 3. I am not sure what a Guardians of the Galaxy film would be without James Gunn.
Many people complained that the Sovereign was not a strong villain and was annoying how they kept popping up. I would agree that Ayesha was not as strong as some characters here, but she has an extremely vital post credit scene. As for the Sovereign, they did feel fairly disposable and, at times, felt as if they undermined themselves with the tone that they had set. However, I do not think that is the problem because I do not agree with them being considered the main antagonist of the film. That role falls to another character.
There is a really emotional ending to the film and the characters’ relationships continue to be wonderful.
Did I think that Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 was better than the first movie? No, I did not. Guardians of the Galaxy was and still is, one of my favorite MCU movies of all time (maybe #3 or 4). Seeing it again tonight as a warm up for the new film was amazing, and I had tears in my eyes once again. Vol. 2 does not reach that level. However, this still has plenty of greatness about it and is a really enjoyable time. The characters are better every time we see them, we have a lot of funny moments and it continues to set up the Marvel Movie Cosmic Universe.