Guardians of the Galaxy was the big summer comic-book hit of 2014. Coming from a relatively obscure Marvel comic series, many critics and people were pleasantly surprised by how fun and likeable the first film was by its embrace of a goofy sense of humour and lots of fun action. While it did have some problems, most fans agree it was an unexpected blast of fun with a rockin’ soundtrack. But, does the sequel take that to new heights or give us what is now expected of the franchise?
In many respects, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 delivers exactly what you’d expect. From the opening scene, it’s clear that the tone of the film is going to be similar to the first, with fun alien spaceship battles and quippy character interactions set to Mr Blue Sky. While the soundtrack isn’t quite as iconic as the original mixtape, there’s still some great standouts including one of the best uses of a Cat Stevens song in the final scene before the credits sequence. It also proves to be much more visually interesting than the first film; when Peter’s real father Ego reveals himself and states he’s been searching for Peter to make up for lost time, he takes the crew to his planet and it provides some lovely eye-candy and a beautiful colour scheme.
The film’s main strength lies with its individual character arcs and teaming up of characters to work off well with their interactions. Rocket, Yondu and Baby Groot (who may be the most adorable marvel mascot ever made) all team up, Gamora and her sister Nebula share many more scenes together and Drax forms a friendship with Ego’s servant Mantis, who becomes part of the team. One of the disadvantages of the first film was the sometimes-clunky set-up of character backstories which were necessary in order to introduce these characters to those unfamiliar. The advantage with this film is we are already familiar with the characters, so the film can just jump right in with giving us what we want to see. The space battles are cool and don’t overstay their welcome and it’s nice to just see the characters talking with each other and having shooting bad guys with some great music.
The only thing that falls a bit flat is Peter’s arc with his father. While Ego himself is a much more memorable character type for Marvel than usual and Kurt Russell plays him with a undeniable charisma, some scenes between the two in build-up can come across as a little too quick or jarring. But the whole final battle easily makes up for it and it finishes on a satisfying note. While the plot direction being taken with Peter’s father is fairly obvious to see coming, the film itself seems to know this and glosses over it pretty quickly. Some scenes like a confrontation between Gamora and Peter don’t feel earned or fully realised but are needed for this plot point to reach its climax with Peter finding out his father’s true plans. It would have been nice to just skip this cliché altogether and instead show Peter’s progression to trusting his father a little more but it is a fairly short scene followed immediately by the reveal of Ego’s true intentions and the film gets right back on track, with a lot of fun action and the humour we’ve come to expect. The star of this film is definitely Yondu, as his relationship with Peter is brought front and centre and forms the emotional core of the film. As he receives more depth and a suitable character arc, it forms a legitimately emotional conclusion and he gets both the best lines and one of the best scenes of all when he has to escape his ship with Rocket and Groot.
It’s also nice to see the team evened out a bit by the end of the film. In the original, there was the guys and Gamora but now we have two other ladies added to the team; Gamora’s sister Nebula who rightfully gets the screentime she deserved and Mantis, who bonds with Drax and the rest of the team. Her and Drax both add some good comic relief to some of the heavier scenes and it’s nice to see a female member of the team being allowed to be goofy and funny. I was honestly surprised at a scene between her and the team where she smiles and laughs loudly at something she found funny. It doesn’t sound like a big deal but Marvel seems to have this fascination that female characters all have to be stone-cold badasses who serve as the straight-man for the team’s antics. While they’ve also proved this can work with decent writing, it’s still a nice change of pace to see.
On a technical and writing standpoint, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is pretty much on the same level as the original and the reuse of a few jokes and plot details may cause some people to see it as good as the first or slightly less. However, due to the development of different characters and some nice changes as well as some very fun eye-candy and a surprising amount of heart, I found myself enjoying Vol. 2 a little better than the first film. If you were a fan of the original, it’s fairly safe to say you’ll be a fan here and if you’re like me, you just might get a little more than you thought you would.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
- Individual characters recieve more development and screentime
- Soundtrack is excellent
- Has a whole lot of heart and a surprsingly warm and moving ending
- Lovely to look at
- Drags a little in the middle portian
- Peter's arc with his father is fairly uninvolving compared to the other characters