The Marvel Cinematic Universe is one of those once in a lifetime occurrences. What Kevin Feige and the team over at Marvel Studios have done with the universe they’ve built is unmatched. The films that they’ve made have a certain heartwarming, fun feel that brings hope to audiences around the world. Throughout the MCU’s 3 Phases, only one film can be used as a direct example of that: Guardians of the Galaxy.
The movie was something fresh and new for the audience to feast their eyes upon. There were newly-minted movie stars in Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, with a talking tree and raccoon. The film introduced us to some new characters that most people had never heard before unless they were hardcore fans of the comics. It was fun and a breath of fresh air from the other superhero films we got that year. It had a lot of laughs, a ton of heart and an awesome soundtrack. Marvel Studios took a huge risk that paid off big time. Guardians of the Galaxy was such a critical and fan hit that it wound up making $773 million at the box office with an A+ cinema score. The films success granted it a sequel that I was lucky enough to watch the other night and you can check out my thoughts on it below.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 had everything going for it. It was coming off of the high of the first one and is slated to be one of the biggest films of the summer, bringing back its all-star cast and adding the legendary Kurt Russell as Peter Quill’s father, Ego the Living Planet. You would think nothing could go wrong this time around. But, it did. Somewhere under the fun and gut-busting jokes — the story lacked the spark that first film had.
From the beginning, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 felt like director James Gunn was trying to encapsulate the feeling of the first film by subjecting us to an opening credits that made Baby Groot, well… cringeworthy. Some of the jokes were a hit and some of the others felt very childish and missed. The movie is basically about family and how Quill’s search for what was missing inside was right there with the Guardians and not with his father, who turns out not to be what Quill imagined.
Pratt returns with the same charm and hilarity that he brought into the first Guardians. His portrayal of a guy who just met and wants to get to know his father felt very natural for him and Quill. Pratt’s father passed away in 2014 and the actor has stated that the filming of Vol. 2 helped him cope with his death and it really shows as he gives a very emotional performance. You could feel the weight he brought to the father/son dynamic.
But, Quill also had another relationship blossom during Vol. 2. He and Gamora spend a lot of time on-screen together, leaving the audience wondering will-they-won’t-they. Pratt and Saldana hit it off in ways they didn’t before. As Quill says, what he and Gamora have is unspoken. What happens is the most organic way for the relationship to go and the way the film ends leaves you wanting to see more of them together.
Meanwhile, Drax is a little less hell-bent on killing Thanos and a little more of a practical joker this time around. Every time he and Pom Klementieff’s Mantis share the screen is hysterical. Rocket and Groot are back and they don’t exactly make the film better. I loved Rocket and Groot in the first one, but in the sequel they became annoying and their scenes were very tedious to get through. Baby Groot would try to be cute and it would just come off as awkward and needy. All the stuff they attempted with Baby Groot felt repetitive and like they tried too hard. Baby Groot felt more like a device to sell toys rather than a character that pushes the story forward. Rocket having an identity crisis was by far the worst idea possible. He really didn’t need it. He would force these immature jokes that just felt like filler to push the movie by.
A few antagonists from Guardians of the Galaxy return for the sequel and they gain a lot of character development this time around. Michael Rooker’s Yondu is back and has a huge soft spot for Quill and let’s just say that a faction of his Ravager team are none too fond of that. We also get a little insight to Yondu’s backstory and why he kept Quill instead of delivering him to Ego. In addition, Yondu and Sylvester Stallone’s character have a history together, but it isn’t a very good history, which leads Yondu on a path of redemption throughout the film. Karen Gillian’s Nebula begins on a path of very dark and awkwardly-portrayed vengeance and throughout the film she has more mood swings than I could keep up with. One minute she’s this strong individual that wants to kill Gamora and then the next she’s a fragile young woman that really needs a hug. This would have came off well if she didn’t seem like every movie bully ever created.
The new additions to the cast bring their own unique story to the film. Kurt Russell’s Ego, being the most important new addition, shines as a father who really wants to be with his son, but he isn’t what he appears to be. Russell brings a spark to the film as an ancient Celestial who may have a different way of viewing things and a hidden agenda that may be good for him, but bad for others. His caretaker of sorts, Mantis, isn’t the breath of fresh air that they showed in the trailers. In fact, that’s one of her only good scenes. Throughout the film she’s a socially inept outsider that doesn’t understand certain things due to living with Ego her entire life. This makes for a very awkward character similar to the likes of Drax.
The legendary Sylvester Stallone also joins the Marvel Cinematic Universe in Vol. 2. Stallone basically plays his role like Rocky in space and that’s a very good thing. Every time he was on screen I wanted more of him. His character Stakar has a very interesting backstory as he was one of the original Guardians of the Galaxy. With what little they showed of him, Stallone knocks it out of the park and I hope that they move forward with his character. With what they showed during one of the many post credits sequences, I think we could hear something about that soon.
Not all of the new additions were great, though, as Elizabeth Debicki’s Ayesha and the sovereign were the worst thing about Vol. 2. That’s very sad given the fact that they have a strong connection to Adam Warlock.
Overall Thoughts: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is a great comedy and action-adventure movie, but it’s not a very good superhero hero film or sequel. It’s sure to be a hit with fans and at the box office. It may seem like I’m being overly negative about it, but I had a lot of fun with it. My only major gripes were the substance it lacked with its story and some of the performances. While I believe Guardians of the Vol. 2 isn’t as great as the first film, it’s definitely a movie that you should go see for yourself.