Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, 2017
Written and Directed by James Gunn
Starring Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Michael Rooker, Karen Gilan, Pom Klementieff, Sylvester Stallone, Kurt Russell, Elizabeth Debicki, Chris Sullivan, Sean Gunn
Set to the backdrop of Awesome Mixtape #2, ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2’ continues the team’s adventures as they unravel the mystery of Peter Quill’s true parentage.
When Marvel Studios first announced Guardians of the Galaxy at San Diego Comic Con way back when, it was met with a resounding reply of, “who?”. The film – helmed by a cult director whose previous work included Toxic Avenger 4: Citizen Toxie and Tromeo and Juliet – was a huge gamble for Marvel. But it was a gamble that paid off, and a massive box office return turned Guardians of the Galaxy from a Z-list property into one of Marvel’s key franchises. Its sequel, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, had a lot to live up to in terms of hype given the praise for the first movie (which topped our 2014 and 2016 ranking of the MCU), but does it live up to it?
In a nutshell, yes.
While Guardians of the Galaxy was about a group of disparate criminals learning to get along for the greater good, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 takes a page out of the Fast and Furious playbook by being about them learning to become a “family”. This is highlighted in the fantastic opening credits where the team work together to take down a galactic beast, and through great dialogue exchanges the passage of time since the last movie are filled in for us beautifully. We see how they collaborate, we see how the gel – but we also see how they differ. This is then coupled with the theme of parenting, which runs throughout the movie.
One of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2‘s biggest strengths are those themes, and each character has their own arc (save for Baby Groot who is there to simply be adorable). It’s impressive that Gunn juggles so many balls at once, and only a few plot threads feel incomplete. You have some amazing dichotomies between Peter/Ego, Gamora/Nebula, Rocket/Yondu, Drax/Mantis, Peter/Yondu – and yet they all play into each other by the end credits. In between all the laughs, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is all about heart and it has it in spades.
Which is helped by some truly great central performances. Say what you will about the acting in Hollywood blockbusters, but the cast of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 are bringing it 100%. It says a lot about the actor’s relationship with Gunn and their belief in the material, because no one is half-assing anything in the movie. Even small cameos like Sylvester Stallone, who has a total screentime of around 3 minutes, gives it his very best and that provides his character the pathos he needs. Chris Pratt – who has had a few mediocre performances as of late – is on fine form, as is Kurt Russell who is fantastic as Ego. The pair work brilliantly together, and it’s truly heart-warming to see their relationship form on-screen. Zoe Saldana and Karen Gillan aren’t really given enough to sink their teeth into, but both shine in their roles. Dave Bautista, who was the stand-out of the first movie, is even better here. His infectious laugh pierces through the speakers and into your very core and his no-nonsense style is magical.
And – wait for it – Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 breaks the mould of most Marvel Cinematic Universe films by actually having a decent villain. I know, shock right? You have the backdrop of the Sovereigns and their awesome-looking leader Ayesha (played brilliantly by Elizabeth Debicki) and an equally good Taserface (Chris Sullivan), but the true villain of the film isn’t revealed until much later in the movie – and it all ties into the movie’s central theme. Though the villain isn’t quite as impressive as Baron Zemo in Captain America: Civil War (for my money the best villain yet), they’re certainly a lot better than Doctor Strange or Thor: The Dark World. Or Iron Man 2. Or Guardians of the Galaxy for that matter.
The film is far from perfect, however, and some may take issue with the film’s tone and comedy. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, much like the first one, is an all-out comedy. It has a heart and it takes its characters and source material very seriously, but it places jokes and punchlines above all else. This is a double edged sword as, while the film is hysterical throughout, it does ruin and take away from a few key character moments. It suffers from the post-Joss Whedon’s Avengers style of writing where every scene must end with a punchline, and that can be a shame sometimes. Not every scene needs a joke, not every character needs a witty quip. As already stated, the film is undeniably funny (and will probably end up being funnier than most studio comedies released this year), but sometimes you need character moments for stakes to mean something.
With that said, it is nearly impossible to hate Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. Seriously. If you don’t like this movie or at the very least don’t have fun with it, I don’t know what to tell you. The opening credits alone should have you smiling with joy, and that smile won’t leave your face until you’ve left the cinema (although the sadder moments may make you less smiley). The visuals are stunning and rival Doctor Strange in terms of inventiveness, and the colours pop like nothing comparable (but could be rivaled by Thor: Ragnarok later this year).
Does Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 live up to the hype? Absolutely. It will be a firm favourite for many MCU diehards, and there will even be those who think it surpasses the original.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★
Luke Owen is the Deputy Editor of Flickering Myth, the co-host of The Flickering Myth Podcast and the author of Lights, Camera, GAME OVER!: How Video Game Movies Get Made (which you can pre-order from Amazon UK and Amazon US). You can follow him on Twitter @ThisisLukeOwen.