Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 – Movie Review

A few years ago, when Marvel Studios announced their Phase 2 line up and Guardians of the Galaxy was listed, I distinctly remember thinking to myself – “This is it, this is Marvel’s first flop, no one’s gonna know who these characters are.  I don’t even know who these characters are and I am a huge comic book fan.”  Then we saw a GIF of Rocket Racoon laughing maniacally while shooting a machine gun and I completely changed my tune.  Maybe Marvel was on to something here and sure enough, they were.  Now here we are, almost three years after director James Gunn and an amazing cast managed to capture lightning in a bottle and they’ve done it again, for the most part.

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Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is another solid entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe as it gives us more of what we got in the first Guardians – sharp, dry humor, great characters and a cast with amazing chemistry – but it also suffers from living in the shadow of its predecessor and maybe being afraid to step out beyond that shadow. Guardians 2 brings that same type of humor we all enjoyed the first go round but it feels a little too forced this time.  It seems like rather than letting jokes naturally and organically fall out of certain situations, the writers tried to make sure they had a “joke every minute” and tried to wink at the audience a bit too much.  This is especially true with Drax.

Dave Bautista was probably the biggest surprise in the first Guardians, no one really expects a pro-wrestler turned actor to actually be good (although Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson has set the bar pretty high not to mention the few roles John Cena has shined in) but Bautista crushed it as the super literal straight man foiling the wisecracks served up by Star-Lord and Rocket. While Drax has some great moments in Guardians 2, he also has a lot of lines that just fall flat and even feel completely out of character for him and out of sync with the rest of the movie.  Drax does have a character arc in this movie and in the end some of those jokes are paid off but in the moment they feel more than a bit mean spirited.

The other stand out from the original Guardians, the one and only Groot, is on full display again in Guardians 2. In a lot of ways, Baby Groot, steals the show – I think the moment that I laughed at the hardest was a series of jokes revolving around Baby Groot. Disney and Marvel know what they have in Baby Groot and they use him to his full potential here, only skirting overusing him.  If you don’t like Baby Groot, I don’t trust you as a human being.

Aside from Baby Groot and Drax, all our other favorites from Guardians are back – Chris Pratt’s Star-Lord, Zoe Saladna’s Gamora, Rocket as voiced by Bradley Cooper, Michael Rooker’s Yondu, and the lovely (even if painted blue and purple) Karen Gillan as Nebula. One of the best things this movie does, is it actually manages to give each returning character something of an arc and some real tangible character development over the course of the 136 minute run time.  Even though some of those arcs are move prevalent than others, it is still incredibly refreshing to look back at a movie and see care and attention paid to all of the major characters.  No one (except maybe Mantis but more on her in a minute) felt left out, underdeveloped, or ignored.  More of that please, Hollywood!

For Guardians 2, we get two new characters in Kurt Russell’s Ego and Pom Klementieff’s Mantis.  As I said a few lines above, Mantis doesn’t have a whole lot to her character. She does have the empathic powers as we have seen in the trailers, which she uses well in the movie, but past that, her character is really just there to service the plot and move it along.  For Ego though, it’s a much different story. Kurt Russell is fantastic in this movie. As the “elder statesman” of the cast, Russell brings a certain gravitas to the movie, a bit of older, wiser Hollywood that elevates the whole movie. I have no doubt that with a lesser actor in the role, the movie as a whole would have suffered greatly.  Between this movie and the Fast and Furious franchise, its great to see Russell making something of a come back.  I grew up watching him in amazing films such as Backdraft, The Thing, Overboard, and Stargate (guilty pleasure, shut up) and seeing him return to prominence is awesome.

A word on the marketing of this movie.  It struck me as my wife and I were sitting through the twenty minute slog of previews the comes before any big budget movie these days, that I really had no idea what the plot of the movie I was about to watch was. I obviously knew the characters, what style of movie to expect, and what kind of humor to expect but I honestly had no real clear idea in my head of how the movie was going to play out. In the modern era of movie marketing where we get a teaser trailer, two or three full trailers, and a plethora of TV spots, each coming with new and exciting footage, it gets pretty damn easy to piece a movie together in your mind, especially if you have even a basic familiarity with the characters and their back story.  Kudos to the marketing staff for this movie for completely side stepping that problem and giving us effective marketing without spoiling the movie.

I will also say that some of the first act felt somewhat disjointed with multiple story lines happening all at once.  Everything did eventually come together but some of the cuts were a bit rough and jarring. But despite some less than perfect pacing and humor that isn’t as fresh as it was in the first Guardians, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 measures up to the Marvel standard and is another fine entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

What did you think about Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2?  How do you think it compares to it’s predecessor?  Where does it stack up amongst it’s fellow Marvel films?  Let me know in the comments below!

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