May 11, 2017 / by Brad Heyen
Let me start by saying that 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy instantly became my favorite film in the MCU upon my initial viewing. Out of all of the FIFTEEN MCU feature-length films, the original Guardians is easily the one I’ve seen and love the most. There’s something about the obscurity and goofiness of the movie (not to mention the soundtrack) that makes it stand above all the others. Is it perfect? No. But to the surprise of many, it worked and without a doubt would become another blockbuster franchise for Disney/Marvel. That being said, my anticipation for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 should be of no surprise to anyone. Unfortunately, my high expectations may have worked against my favor.
The film begins with a flashback sequence of Kurt Russell’s character cruising along the Missouri countryside enjoying his time on Earth with Meredith, the woman we know as Peter Quill’s mother. Flash forward to present day and the now well-known “Guardians of the Galaxy” are on a mission for an alien race known as The Sovereign (lead by to protect one of their assets from an impending attack. This sequence sets the tone of the movie by being action packed, full of laughs and even becomes a dance sequence that rivals that of it’s predecessor.
After things go awry, the Guardians become a target for The Sovereign and spend the remainder of the movie trying to stay out of their crosshairs. Even though they acted as a central point of conflict throughout the film, I never found The Sovereign to be very intimidating or even really that interesting They were pretty much used to push the pace of the movie, which does in fact slow down drastically between the first and third act because the second act revolves almost entirely around Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) being reacquainted with his long lost father of 34 years (Kurt Russell)
At this point in the film, the Guardians are split up and the editing and pacing become an issue due to writer/director James Gunn trying to tell too many stories at once. The Avengers worked because each of them had an introductory movie leading up to it, and the first Guardians film was much better at telling their stories as well. But with the addition of The Sovereign, new Ravagers (one being a Sylvester Stallone in a couple of brief appearances), Ego (Russell), Mantis (Pom Klementieff), and much more character development for Nebula (Karen Gillan) and Yondu (Michael Rooker) than in the previous film, Volume 2 just seemed too crowded for its two hour and fifteen minute run time.
Yondu, however, was by far the most welcomed in terms of character development. Rooker absolutely steals the show throughout the entirety of the film, and was easily my favorite part of it. I’m so happy Gunn gave him more screen time, and character development than he had in the first film. It also helped answer some questions about his motives and decisions in the original.
Kurt Russell was great casting for Peter’s father and, while the second act kind of drug a little bit as his character and motives were slowly explained, his presence in the film was certainly felt by the end of it. I really liked his performance as the story pushed onward. Accompanying Russell is Pom Klementieff as Mantis, a character who can feel and sometimes influence someone’s emotions simply by physically touching them. This ability allows for some great humor almost immediately (as seen in the trailers) but provides an even bigger impact later on as the plot thickens. Unfortunately, her character was the butt of many jokes, but I really liked her inclusion in this story, and look forward to seeing more of her in future films.
In regards to the Guardians themselves, Pratt was as great as ever as Peter/Star-Lord, and worked really well with the rest of the cast. Bradley Cooper is still almost unidentifiable with masterful voicework on Rocket. Gamora’s (Zoe Saldana) arc was kind of tiresome as she’s battling with her sister and rival, Nebula throughout nearly the entirety of the film, but it gave Gunn a chance to develop both her and Nebula quite a bit more – giving the audience more insight to their past. I’m beginning to wonder just how much of an expanded role Nebula is going to play in the films to come after learning more about her this time around. Baby Groot was not overused as I initially suspected he might be, given the marketing team’s layup with his adorableness. Every scene with Baby Groot was memorable and effective in some way, and I enjoyed every minute of it.
That brings me to Drax (Dave Bautista).
Instead of overusing Baby Groot, they upped the dialogue for Drax the Destroyer and pretty much made him Drax the Comedian. He spends most of the film playing off of Mantis. While I enjoyed Drax immensely in the first film, I could hardly stand him by the end of the second. He has very little to do in the movie besides deliver one liners (often at Mantis’ expense) and push the boundaries of edginess. Nipple, turd and penis jokes are three things I never expected to hear in a Disney/Marvel film, but Drax delivered them all in Volume 2. While I did laugh, I felt like it was more out of bewilderment over what just happened. It just seemed at times that some of the punchlines (mostly with Drax) were over-delivered and forced, and it bothered me because they were so seamless in the first film.
One of the greatest supplements to the original film was its soundtrack, and I didn’t find “Awesome Mix Volume 2” nearly as memorable.
Overall, I did enjoy the film. I just didn’t love it, and I really wanted to. In lieu of the pacing and crude humor, Gunn still delivers several exciting and memorable moments throughout the film to make it another fun-filled adventure through the galaxy with our heroes. In the end, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 may be bigger than the previous film – but that doesn’t mean it’s better.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 gets a B-