When Guardians of the Galaxy arrived in theaters back in August of 2014, no one really knew what it was or what to expect. It was an obscure property that Marvel was taking a major risk on after they had had much success with known superheroes like Iron Man, Thor and Captain America.
Guardians featured a Han Solo knockoff in Peter Quill/Starlord (Skinny Chris Pratt), a green chick named Gamora (Zoe Saldana), a hulking man named Drax (Dave Bautista), a talking tree named Groot (Voiced by Vin Diesel) who only says three words and a talking raccoon called Rocket (Voiced by Bradley Cooper) with an affinity for violence.
On paper that doesn’t sound like another Marvel money-making machine. And yet, Guardians opened to rave reviews (91 percent on Rotten Tomatoes) and a $94 million opening weekend.
It was the epitome of what Marvel had become which is pure fun. But it also managed to be something different at the same time. Infused with a kick-ass soundtrack, Guardians is arguably the most entertaining Marvel movie to date in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and with all of that success, a sequel was inevitable.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 opens with our ragtag team of rebels saving the galaxy once again. But as usual, some of the team members just can’t help themselves following the mission which leads to more questionable characters on their trail.
But it’s a fortuitous moment because Quill’s long lost father, Ego (Kurt Russell), helps the team and attempts to make amends with Quill. While this is going on, Yondu (Michael Rooker) and the Reavers seek revenge on the team following the events of the first film.
The one question facing any sequel is, is it better than the original? The answer here is no. Guardians 2 is a perfectly adequate sequel in the MCU featuring more of the clever humor, fun set pieces and engaging characters we’ve come to love.
This time around, director James Gunn attempts to flesh out numerous characters which is commendable, but it results in a somewhat stalled movie. It doesn’t have quite the same pop or momentum as the original and the film suffers a bit for it.
But don’t we want more character development in our superhero movies? Certainly. But not at the expense of the story in this particular film. The primary focus of the story is between Peter and his father, but then we get more backstory for Gamora and her sister Nebula, Rocket and his tortured (Literally) past and a significant amount of time is spent on Yondu which was surprising. Is this a space opera or a soap opera?
All of this backstory might actually help in future viewings of the original as well as later installments, but it makes Vol. 2 seem like a bridge between the two.
Another hindrance is that Gunn breaks the team up for most of the film which seems like something that always happens in sequels. How do we mix things up? How about separating the characters to introduce a new dynamic. The problem is what made the original so much fun is the chemistry between the five main characters.
What little time they do spend together is spent bickering. One character literally points this out.
That being said, you’re still getting everything you want in a Guardians movie. The opening set piece is a lot of fun and there are a number of fantastic one-liners. Drax and Rocket get most of the great lines and Rocket is involved in a very funny escape scene involving Baby Groot and Yondu.
There is a major plot twist toward the end of the film which is somewhat predictable, but it made for a spectacular finale featuring pop culture references and unique fight sequences.
But the soundtrack might some up the film the best. Whereas the original featured a number of crowd-pleasing pop classics, Vol. 2 is a little more introspective and serious.
The first Guardians of the Galaxy managed to be both new and safe in relation to the MCU. It was fresh and effortless. With Vol. 2, it feels like Gunn is trying really hard to replicate that feeling while also fleshing out the characters. It’s a bold choice, but it results in the second installment feeling more like filler for future movies.