Review written by David Malone and Ethan Collins
Image via Screen Rant
Rated PG-13 (Sci-Fi Action and Violence, Language, Brief Suggestive Content)
Directed and Written by James Gunn (Slither, Guardians of the Galaxy)
Cinematography by Henry Braham (Flyboys, The Legend of Tarzan)
Music by Tyler Bates (Super, John Wick)
Produced by Kevin Feige (Iron Man, Captain America: The Winter Soldier)
Starring Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, Pom Klementieff, Elizabeth Debicki, Chris Sullivan, Sean Gunn, Kurt Russell, Sylvester Stallone
After the biggest bunch of a-holes in the galaxy – Peter Quill (aka Star-Lord), Gamora, Drax, Rocket, and Groot – saved the galaxy, they decided to leverage their fame and use their unique set of skills to make money as mercenaries, going by the name of Guardians of the Galaxy. At the movie’s opening, they are on one such mission, protecting the valuable batteries of a eugenics-obsessed race of golden-skinned professional video gamers, The Sovereign, from a dimension-hopping giant octopus monster. In exchange for their protection, the Sovereign deliver Gamora’s evil sister, Nebula, currently The Sovereign’s prisoner, to the Guardians so they can collect the bounty on Nebula’s head.
Though everyone knows The Sovereign are very serious about the safety of their batteries, Rocket, without the rest of the Guardians’ consent, steals some of them, which incurs The Sovereign’s wrath. In trying to escape the hundreds of remotely piloted sovereign fighter ships, the Guardians are rescued from a tight spot by a godlike being named Ego, the Living Planet. This turns out to be none other than Star-Lord’s dad, and he invites them to his home planet.
Meanwhile, The Sovereign recruit the exiled Yondu and his Ravagers to capture the Guardians, Nebula plots some revenge of her own, and Quill must decide whether to become a celestial like his father or continue traveling the galaxy with the group of ruffians who have become his family. . .
And that’s only the beginning of the movie! Welcome to the frickin’ Guardians of the Galaxy.
Image via Screen Rant
It felt like we were stepping right back into the guardian universe and like no time had elapsed since the first film. We’ve always hated movie and sequels that didn’t pick back up on the same note the first left off, and this delivers. From the onset of the film, we could tell the movie would not be a disappointment. Remember Pirates of the Caribbean 2: Dead Man’s Chest? Well, this is nothing like that as it maintained that wildly fun atmosphere that brought many fans to love Guardians of the Galaxy.
We, and the movie fan community at large, had a lot of anticipation going into Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. At the beginning of the year, we felt that if were to only see one movie this year, it would either be Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 or Logan. The memory of watching Guardians in the theater for the first time is still one of our favorite cinematic surprises. The best thing we can say about that first movie (and we have a lot to say about it) is that it made us care about a talking raccoon and tree. Now THAT is high praise, especially considering the dude that talks for the tree is usually driving fast cars and muttering something unintelligible. That movie’s charming characters, fully realized worlds, humor, and action-adventure vibe impressed us, making it not only a good movie but also one of our all-time favorite action-adventure space operas.
Guardians of the Galaxy is the second most successful film in the MCU, and, incidentally, it is, in our opinion, the second best movie of the MCU. So why was it such a big hit with critics and fans alike? We think the reason is that the writer and director James Gunn was able to successfully merge his James Gunn quirkiness that we have grown to love after such projects of his as Slither and Super, with Marvel’s style. He was able to create an exciting and adventurous space opera in the vein of the original Star Wars movie that stood completely on its own while also tying in to the rest of the MCU. The storytelling was great, the pacing was kinetic, and the characters were fun and interesting.
Needless to say, this movie had a lot to live up to. There’s a certain delightful appeal that it won’t be able to recreate, because we were so surprised by how ecstatically fun the first one was. But we had faith. Joss Whedon reportedly saw an early draft of Gunn’s script for Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2 and gave some advice to James Gunn: Make it more James Gunn. And he did. This is a weird and crazy movie, certainly representing Gunn’s unique filmmaking vision.
This is also one of the best looking and sounding MCU movies yet. The look is thanks to beautifully detailed special effects and a wider range in color palette, we think, than any other MCU movie to date. Yes, there are numerous special effects, but they are implemented so near-perfectly and used for the best of purposes: to create gorgeous new worlds on which we can feast our eyes and for our characters to interact. There’s also, at the beginning of the film, perhaps the best CGI de-aging in a movie yet. The sound, in both sound design and the soundtrack, is fantastic too. The sound designer and supervising sound editor, David Acord, has worked on some of the Star Wars movies and the original Guardians film. And the music is put together by Tyler Bates, who did another of my favorite soundtracks this year, John Wick: Chapter 2. Tyler Bates, who also did the first movie’s music, and James Gunn obviously have an intense and joyful love for ’70s and ’80s music, and that shines through again with the music often playing a prominent role. We once again get a cool playlist, including songs by Electric Lights Orchestra (“Mr. Blue Sky”), Fleetwood Mac (“The Chain”), and Sam Cooke (“Bring it On Home to Me”).
Like in the first film, the main characters had the same charming characteristics that made us love them. The biggest change was the overall maturity of Star-Lord. He seemed to have taken on the leadership role of the group, that is until he used his smaller head and nearly got them all killed in an asteroid field. The sparks between Star-Lord and Gamora were kept tame, or should we say unspoken, and that seemed to be a good call. The dynamic between the two is definitely getting more personally involved, but not physical. We imagine this will be saved until the third volume of galaxy. Keeping the relationship as more of a family feeling among the group allows for the other characters more screen time and development. Rocket was a spit fire that always seemed to be at odds with the other members of the group. He’s the type of guy (or raccoon) that looks for acceptance, but just won’t admit it. Bradley Cooper and Sean Gunn once more pull off an awesome team up as Rocket, Cooper providing that lovable a-hole voice and Gunn doing the motion capture acting, both understanding their separate parts of this excellent character. Of course, Baby Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) steals the show, and what a successful and very James Gunn idea it turned out to be to have Baby Groot remain a child for the entirety of the film!
We mentioned the biggest change among the characters was Star-Lord’s maturation, but we also got to see a lot more of Drax. He maintains his dead pan personality from the first film, but seems to be getting a grasp on sarcasm and practical joking. We found him to be the most entertaining character in the film, and he left us in stitches when complaining about his nipples being sore. The greatest trait about his humor in the film was timing. When you least expected a funny quip, he was there to deliver.
Once again, also, Michael Rooker is perfect as Yondu, an extremely selfish Ravager who just might have a heart in there somewhere deep beneath his blue skin. And also played by Sean Gunn, Kraglin, Yondu’s first mate, gets an expanded role and proves hilariously good there as well. Two roles we were surprised by were the characters of Nebula and Mantis, played by actresses Karen Gillan and Pom Klementieff, both of whom we knew would have large roles, and both of whom we were afraid could be potential Guardians universe Jar-Jars, but neither were. Mantis was actually charming, and though Gillan is still overacting a bit, the fun she’s obviously having comes across likably in her performance. Cameos from Sylvester Stallone and Stan Lee are awesome, but we won’t give anything away about them. And, for the last actor we’ll mention, Kurt Russell was, as expected, awesomely Kurt Russell as Ego. For most of Russell’s roles, he possesses this laid back swagger that just dominates the screen. Even in scenes with Pratt, Russell just seemed to be in charge. Though that’s the last actor we’re going to mention, everyone else did a great job.
Image via Collider
An obvious objective of the film was character development rather than a story – a ballsy move for such a large production film. Personally, we think it paid off, because it stayed true to the Guardian’s form which is vastly different than the rest of the Marvel films. Something we noticed about the film is that it didn’t feel rushed, which is a welcome feeling in a super hero movie. Some may not appreciate that, and would rather have non-stop action, but we rather enjoyed the change of pace.
We could go on and on, but we do have some cons with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. For one, Guardians 2 is funnier and has more jokes than Guardians 1. There are A LOT of jokes, and they do land. However, we don’t think the laughs are always as well-earned here as they were in the first movie, and jokes often used at least twice instead of just once for maximum impact. Though the first implementation of these jokes is always great, and the reuse is never terrible, the jokes just have diminishing returns upon reappearance. Two, we’ve already talked about how perfectly both of these Guardians movies implemented retro rock and pop into their soundtracks, and we stand by saying that music was just as effective and effectively used as the first movie’s, yet the songs didn’t stick with us like the first’s did. Three, there is something Kurt Russell’s character had done in the past was just too easy in providing a motivation for something Chris Pratt’s character does in the present, just too easy to make Star-Lord and the audience hate Ego. Four, some of the dialogue is quite corny, and some of it is even a little awkward, especially when things get serious. Five, the special effects, though spectacular and amazing, are a bit too cartoony at times, though that usually fit the movie’s tone (keep an eye out for Pacman). Six, the Sovereign’s obnoxious look, behavior, and horrible timing. The gold skin and sheer stuck up attitude were okay for the opening of the film, but they just wouldn’t go away, and didn’t seem necessary to the film’s plot. Overall, if there are things you didn’t like about the first one, those things are probably magnified here, but, thankfully, the things you liked are probably magnified as well.
Image via Maxim
James Gunn is, we’d say, the perfect director for Kevin Feige and the MCU because he has figured out twice now how to make movies that both play ball with Marvel, integrating well into the MCU, but at the same time be very James Gunn. If he is to have a significant role in the evolution of the MCU, then we are down for the ride.
In the end, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, though it may not be quite as fresh as the first Guardians movie and might be trying a bit too hard at times, is irreverently hilarious, dazzlingly extravagant, wonderfully exciting, cleverly witty, and all-in-all an excellent sequel. It’s everything these films ought to be and more. And it’s a great sequel, because it does what this sort of sequel should: stay true to the original’s characters and tones, progress the characters’ development, build upon the original’s world, and set up new interesting conflicts. Go see it if you were disappointed in the “family” elements of The Fate of the Furious. Go see it if you loved the first Guardians. Go see it if you want an awesome summer blockbuster that won’t disappoint you like so many have and will.
We’re going to give Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2 an 88%.