Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2
Director: James Gunn
Writer: James Gunn
Stars: Chris Pratt, Kurt Russell, Michael Rooker, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Karen Gillan
Review by Mike DeAngelo:
Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) zoomed to the forefront of pop culture awareness a few years ago due to its perfect blending of sci-fi, action, humor, heart and epic soundtrack-ness. Seeing as, prior to its release, many were pointing to it as the first potential bomb for Marvel Studios (which has yet to happen), this shocked quite a few people – not only because it didn’t bomb, but because it was so damn entertaining. Much like the first Avengers movie, that was part of the GOTG's appeal to a large portion of its audience – the surprise of it all.
As Joss Whedon (writer/director of The Avengers and Avengers: Age of Ultron) can tell you, following up a surprise smash hit with an universally-satisfying sequel can be an impossible task. While I consider Age of Ultron to be a more complex & impressive film than the first - technically, narratively, and otherwise – audiences overall weren’t nearly as satisfied. There was no repeating the surprise of the first film. With that said, I have a feeling that Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2, while more complex, colorful, humorous, action-packed, and emotional that its predecessor, will be similarly looked down upon by the majority of its audience. Which is sad, as its one of the best sequels Marvel has ever made, by far.
One thing is for sure, James Gunn knows why audiences loved the first film. Vol.2 is chock full of the color, action, cuteness, heart, music, and quirky humor of Vol. 1. The characters we love are all just as enjoyable, but now there’s more – which helps and hurts the movie in places. James Gunn, like in the first movie, wisely makes sure that he gives each character their moment to shine. Starlord (Chris Pratt) gets his Daddy arc, Kurt Russell’s Ego is charming as all hell, Gamora’s (Zoe Saldana) role is far more substantial this time around thanks to her arc being tied to the outstanding Nebula (Karen Gillan), who outshines her space-sibling this time around. From there, Drax (Dave Bautista) further cements himself as both a great source of humor and heart with newcomer Mantis (Pom Klementieff), Baby Groot (still somehow voiced by Vin Diesel) is downright adorable (and is wisely used in moderation), and even Rocket (Bradley Cooper) is given more bite and emotional load to carry this time around.
Finally, Michael Rooker’s Yondu is given the meatiest role & handily steals the movie. Without going into spoilers, I’ll just say that if you’ve been waiting for Michael Rooker to finally get his due, the wait is over. Not only is he nastier and more badass than in Vol. 1, he’s able to flex his dramatic muscle, driving the movie above some of its narrative shortcomings. In fact, Yondu shines so brightly in Vol. 2 that other arcs that should be more important seem less so. It’s almost as if Vol. 2 is more Yondu’s movie than Peters, which leads to some mixed feelings.
Speaking of the narrative, Vol. 2 is far different than I expected going in. It’s far more tied to the character journeys and less about a larger threat or adventure, making a fairly large scale movie feel surprisingly smaller than the first at times. While I don’t mind that at all, it does lose some of the overall drive that the first movie has, as the characters aren’t chasing some never-ending MacGuffin machine (for the non-initiated, a MacGuffin is a plot device in a movie that serves only as a trigger for the plot to move forward – ala the orb/infinity stone in Vol. 1).
Bottom line, if you liked the first Guardians of the Galaxy film, you’ll undoubtedly find something to enjoy in Vol. 2. It has more humor, action, heart, and depth – but with that depth comes a movie that is a bit less carefree and pure than the first, which may leave some audiences disappointed. I, on the other hand, may reach for Vol. 2 more than Vol. 1 for that very reason. So, to each their own! In the end, we got another Guardians of the Galaxy movie – which is still very much a welcome gift.