Movie Review: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2.

Director James Gunn and co-writer Nicole Perlman had an almost impossible task with the first Guardians of the Galaxy, a film about a ragtag group of relatively unknown comic book characters from a comic that was far less mainstream than the likes of Captain America, The Incredible Hulk, or Iron Man. While many expected the Marvel magic to at least produce a watchable and enjoyable film, the fact that the movie grossed nearly 800 million worldwide, was something I don’t think anyone expected. Guardians was a critical and commercial success and James Gunn went right back to work on producing Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2, a film that in my eyes, is probably the most enjoyable Marvel film to date.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 takes place shortly after the events of the prior film and looks to play off plot threads that were left in the air as opposed to setting up events for other films or the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War. Guardians Vol 2 is a very self-contained story about family, regardless of it being of blood, or one of friendship. James Gunn has written and directed an emotional roller coaster of a film as not only are there several laugh out loud moments, which is typical of the Marvel movie formula, but a few scenes that will see you wiping away a few tears.

As discussing the plot of the movie can lead to some pretty heavy spoilers, I won’t be mentioning specific’s other than what we have seen in trailers and interviews leading up to the release of the film, so with that being said, let’s continue.

After defeating Ronan the Accuser in the prior film, Peter Quill, also known to the galaxy as Star Lord, discovered that while he is human, he is also something else, something cosmic in nature, and this film gives you the answer in the way of Peter’s father, played by Kurt Russell. Director James Gunn has said that the identity of the father was never meant to be a secret and revealed who Kurt Russell would be playing very early on, and it is also something that is revealed in the first few minutes of the film. While there are other story threads that are present in the movie, the main narrative of Guardians Vol 2 is the relationship between Peter and his father.

Those other plot threads revolve around being hunted by the Sovereign, a race of genetically born golden people, and subsequently, by the Ravengers, the group of marauders from the prior film. What is rather well done here is how each of these are tied directly to the main plot without feeling forced or tacked on. While there isn’t much here about the Sovereign to warrant them being in the movie to a large degree, if you stick around during the end credits, there is a nice little tease as to how we should expect this story with them to pay off in the future.

I was also impressed with how James Gunn handled the history of the Ravengers and specifically, Yondu. If you were to take bets on who would be the standout of the show, many would assume that Baby Groot would take the top prize, but for me, Yondu easily claimed that top spot. What is interesting about the Yondu character is that Director James Gunn only ever had Michael Rooker in mind for the role, and probably wouldn’t have included the character had Marvel not cast Rooker in the role. Whereas Yondu was a secondary character in the first film, he has a much bigger presence here in the sequel, sharing almost as much screentime as the Guardians themselves, and even has a few appearances on movie posters and promotional materials for the film. Rooker was beyond fantastic here and has some pretty powerful scenes in the movie, his one on one chat with Rocket being a standout.

Humor has been a big focus in the Marvel movies and while the first Guardians was an action packed film layered with vast amounts of humor, it pales in comparison to what Gunn has given us here in the sequel. Despite this being a space based comic book movie, it’s probably one of the best comedies I have ever seen, as characters, especially Drax, are dropping jokes faster than you can recoup from the last one. While not all the humor lands, the majority of it does in a big way, even if it at times feels a bit much.

What I really enjoyed about this sequel is that the whole “building of the team” aspect is done and we can meet up with these crazy characters in progress. Even though this is essentially a Peter Quill story, we still have time for other storylines to find their way to share screen time without them coming across as filler. Saldana and Gillan, as Gamora and Nebula, have some great family moments that looks to shed light on how it was growing up with Thanos as their father. Bradley Cooper back as Rocket is still every bit as enjoyable as you remember and with the added depth they add to Rocket this time around, is even better than before. Pom Klementieff as the newcomer Mantis is played I think a bit too much for comedy and I think should have been a bit more straight-faced, but I couldn’t help but chuckle at a few of the lines between her and Drax. I also have to give it up to Sean Gunn as Kraglin, one of the Ravengers, and not to mention James Gunn’s own brother, who is so fantastic here and has one of the most powerful scenes late in the movie.

Overall, there really isn’t a single bad casting choice here. Kurt Russell and Chris Pratt play off each other rather well and their storyline evolved in a very cool way that left me more than satisfied with its conclusion. I was really excited to see Elizabeth Debicki as Ayesha, the leader of the Sovereign race, as her performance in The Man from U.N.C.L.E. was really impressive. I really enjoyed her character and felt she was a natural fit for the movie and I hope to see more of her in the future. Chris Sullivan, as Taserface, is just as funny as the name suggests and has a very fun scene with Rocket midway through the movie. I was actually surprised that Vin Diesel still provided the voice for Baby Groot, so it was nice to see that little touch here, despite the drastic change in Groot’s character. There is also a boatload of celebrity cameo’s that take place within the movie as well as in scenes after the credits end, and oh, there are five stingers total, so make sure to stick around.

When Guardians of the Galaxy hit theaters some three years ago, it was easily the most colorful of the Marvel movies. offering a wealth of color that we are only now seeing the rest of the MCU follow suit in. Doctor Strange and the upcoming Thor: Ragnarok all feature a very bright and vibrant look that may possibly be inspired by James Gunn’s efforts with the first Guardians film. Guardians Vol 2 is a very attractive film with even more color than we’ve seen before with environments and characters overflowing with green’s, blue’s, and red’s that just pop off the screen. Characters like Yondu, Gamora, and even Drax seem to be far more vibrant than the previous movie, and the planet that the film mostly takes place on is unlike anything I’ve seen in recent science fiction movies.

The first Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack broke all sorts of records for being a movie soundtrack that consisted entirely of previously released songs and even topped the Billboard Top 200 in August of that year. This was a soundtrack that I could hear consistently played by co-workers, fellow motorists and just well, everyone. The collection of 70’s and 80’s tunes this time around isn’t as well known as the music used in the previous movie, but it seems to be used far more effectively this time around, with one song even being written into the motivations of a certain important character.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 is a rock and roll sci-fi adventure bursting with color, comedy, and character. While it has some small pacing issues midway through the movie, mostly due to a character laying down some pretty lengthy exposition, the movie more than makes up for it with one of the greatest openings in a movie ever and a final battle that feels lifted right out of a video game. I was thoroughly impressed with Guardians Vol 2 and have seen it twice so far, with every intention to go back for more.

I am Groot.

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