The following is a review of Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 – Directed by James Gunn
The first Guardians of the Galaxy film was very special to me. It arrived at the right time for me and family. My Godmother had just passed away, and Guardians of the Galaxy was the first film we saw as a family since she had passed away. Guardians of the Galaxy made me laugh, it made me cry, and I, to this day, still think of it as one of my favorite films of all-time. It had a huge effect on me.
I, however, never expected Volume 2 to have as big an impact on me as James Gunn’s first Marvel film had and, honestly, it didn’t. But while Volume 2 isn’t as good as the original film, I still really loved it and it did make me emotional more than once.
After completing a mission for the Sovereign race – led by Ayesha (played by Elizabeth Debicki) – the Guardians of the Galaxy’s ship – the Milano – is almost immediately attacked by Sovereign drones. Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) has, unbeknownst to everyone but Drax (played by Dave Bautista), stolen batteries from the Sovereign.
After making their way through a dangerous minefield, the Guardians of the Galaxy crash-land on a nearby planet. On the planet, they meet a man named Ego (played by Kurt Russell) and his assistant Mantis (played by Pom Klementieff). Peter Quill (played by Chris Pratt) soon learns Ego is, in fact, his long lost father. However, not all is well for our heroes as Ayesha has hired Yondu (played by Michael Rooker) to hunt down our heroes.
I think some people give comic book fans a lot of flack for perhaps sweeping some major comic book movie issues under the rug, so to speak, to just gush over the way a film highlights a character – or characters – the fans have been reading about all of their lives. To avoid that problem, I – a reviewer and comic book fan – am going to address the problems that I have with Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 before I start telling you why I ultimately love the movie.
I think the biggest problem that I have with the film is the way the odd narrative structure hurts the pacing of the film as there is little forward momentum. Some of the characters basically stay seemingly aimless on one planet for most of the film, and this does slightly hurt the experience of watching the first half of the film until the final half kicks it into high gear and elevates the film tremendously.
I think that the first half of the film is also jam-packed with jokes that don’t always land well. Some of these do feel forced. But the humor in the film isn’t a complete swing and a miss for Marvel and James Gunn. There are a lot of jokes that are complete home runs, and a lot of these wonderfully well-executed jokes came from Drax and Mantis’ interactions – the opening night audience that I saw it with were loving pretty much everything Dave Bautista’s character threw at us (perhaps except a joke about Ego’s genitalia).
One of the biggest strengths of the first film was how well-incorporated the soundtrack was in the film. While I don’t think the music is incorporated poorly, I’ll end this section on my issues with the film by saying that I don’t think the soundtrack works as well – or is as great here – as the soundtrack from the first film. But Volume One‘s soundtrack is one of the best movie soundtracks of all-time, so that is tough to beat.
Some of the song choices may be a bit on-the-nose, so to speak, and the only two songs that got me pumped during the movie were Electric Light Orchestra‘s ‘Mr. Blue Sky’ and Fleetwood Mac‘s ‘The Chain.’ However, I’m sure I’ll fall in love with the soundtrack once I get to listen to it more. But that is it really. Those are my issues with a film that definitely doesn’t work as well as Volume One but is still pretty fantastic. Now, let me tell you what I love about this movie.
“Welcome to the fricking Guardians of the Galaxy.”
Let me start with my aforementioned biggest problem with the film. I think that one of the things that help Volume Two from falling apart during the first half of the movie is the fact that this is a character-focused narrative. Great character-building – and character-developing – moments make up for the wonky structure’s problems.
I mentioned that most of the jokes from Dave Bautista’s character work really well, but allow me to reiterate that Bautista is just a perfect choice to play Drax. ‘The Destroyer’ has calmed down in the sequel, but he still makes some offbeat comments, much to the delight of the audience that I saw the film with.
Volume One made Chris Pratt a movie star, and Pratt does get a chance to shine in Volume Two as the film revolves around him, the man that took care of him after his mother died, and his long lost father. I can think of no better star to lead this group of galaxy defenders. He is good in this film, wherein his character has definitely matured a little bit, but he actually doesn’t get a lot to do, even though each and every main character get their time to shine.
And that brings me to Kurt Russell’s Ego. I had a lot of fun with Russell in this film. Ego is predictably charming and what he ends up doing in the film is also slightly predictable. Disney productions have recently been known for being particularly fond of de-aging their actors, and I was actually pretty shocked by how great it looked when Russell was de-aged.
The other major newcomer in the film is Pom Klementieff’s Mantis, who, sadly, didn’t really leave a lasting impression on me. Klementieff is good, Mantis is important to the story, but the spirit of Drax and Mantis’ interactions also very much make Bautista outshine Klementieff.
This next thing is a spoiler for the first film, but if you’ve made it this far into the review, then I’d be surprised if you hadn’t already watched that film. One of the biggest surprises for the general movie-going audience was how much they fell in love with Rocket Raccoon and, especially, Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel).
I don’t think that anyone expected most people to cry over the fate of a talking tree, when Marvel Studios announced that they were making a Guardians of the Galaxy film. The ending of Volume One also gave life to a true pop culture love.
People were obsessed with Baby Groot in his white pot, and when trailers for Volume Two were released that love reached a new height. But there were some people that were worried that perhaps a focus on Baby Groot would ruin the film for them. I’m happy to say that Baby Groot is fantastic in Volume Two. He definitely isn’t overused, and the way he is featured in the opening credits sequence should win most skeptics over.
There are a lot of characters to talk about in a Guardians of the Galaxy movie, but the last major character I want to talk about is perhaps the star of Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2. Michael Rooker is fantastic as Yondu Udonta who I didn’t expect to love as much as I did in Volume Two. Rooker has a lot more work to do here, as his character actually becomes the real heart of the film. Perhaps a career-best performance.
Of course, this is the type of film with many easter eggs and comic book cameos. I won’t reveal any of them here, obviously. But I’ll tell you this, keep an eye out for the Stan Lee cameo (which may be my new favorite Stan Lee cameo) and stay until the end of the credits. There are a lot of scenes during the end credits to keep you entertained, just stay in your seat until the credits have stopped rolling.
I briefly mentioned the final hour of the film earlier, and let me just go over what makes that half of the film so great. This final half of the film is ultimately what makes the film work. It’s not the action, though (even though the action is good).
Just like the first film did, Volume Two gives you a couple of emotional gut punches during the final half of the film. I won’t spoil those, but I’ll say that James Gunn seemingly has an ability to build characters and then ultimately rip their – and our – hearts out.
There are moments towards the end of the film that really moved me, and were it not for some extremely humorous end credits scenes, then I might’ve still been very emotional about what happened in the final hour of Volume Two when I got out of the theater.
Ultimately, Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 isn’t as great as the comic book movie masterpiece that Volume One was. Volume Two is a flawed but humorous and emotional character-focused film that reunites you with the same characters that James Gunn masterfully made you fall in love with back in 2014. It won’t meet everyone’s expectations, but make no mistake Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 is a great time at the movies.
8 out of 10
– Jeffrey Rex