Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, written and directed by James Gunn, once again delivers some of the most fun and rewarding character interactions in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. However, structurally the film is not your normal affair, and despite it really working for me, I do feel that some audiences will struggle with the slower, less direct pace of the film. But one of the biggest questions that everyone probably has, is does the film out-do its predecessor? Well let’s get into the fuller review itself and see if we can answer that question, while also exploring the many offerings of Vol. 2.
The Guardians return and this time they are not only dealing with the issue of being hunted down by some people who are not thrilled with the outcome to the job that they employed them for – some important objects may have gone missing when they were there. And at the same time, Peter Quill/Starlord – played by Chris Pratt – is trying to unravel the mystery of his father, Ego – played by Kurt Russell.
So I wasn’t as enamoured with the first Guardians film, like everyone else seemed to be. I felt the film – while great in terms of its character offerings – was held back by a plot and structure that made it feel like every other Marvel film. Well, this time that is not the case, but… does that shift in presentation help or hinder the film?
Well, for me, it worked. I liked how different this film felt in its pacing, its structure and its general plot. Vol. 2 certainly felt slower than your typical Marvel film, and it also didn’t feel like it had the same unrelenting momentum that you expect from a superhero film, but I liked that, I liked that Guardians – which for me has always felt like it should be the one to ignore the rules and very much be its own type of experience – then went and did it for its sequel. It especially helped that what it put its attention on and how it approached it all was forever intriguing and genuinely laugh out loud funny – pretty much from the beginning of the film to when the credits rolled, I was smiling from ear to ear, which never happens in a Marvel film (for me).
However, I’m not sure if this different approach by director, James Gunn will work for everyone. The Marvel films are hugely popular and many people like going to see them because they more or less know what they are going to get. But with Vol. 2 the experience and how that experience is delivered to you is different, and not necessarily always in a way that might hold a general audiences attention. I’m really interested to see what the general consensus of the film will be, but what I do know is that I liked how, Gunn handled what was possibly one of the hardest sequels to get right in the Marvel Cinematic Universe since the second Avengers film – which some aren’t a fan of, but I think is one of the better Marvel films in some time, because of how different it feels and because of how it approaches the philosophy of the whole superhero thing.
But the aspect that I don’t think anyone will struggle with is the characters. Once again each of the main cast of characters; Starlord, Gamora, Drax, Rocket Racoon, Baby Groot, plus some new additions to the main roster; Yondu, Nebula, Mantis and Ego, all get plenty of time to shine on-screen. What all these characters do best is play off of one another. Their interactions, which involve bickering, mocking and sometimes – and I can’t stress the ‘sometimes’ enough – supporting one another. Vol. 2 might have a 100% success rate on jokes – oh except the Stan Lee cameo, which might be the worst one yet.
The main thing that Vol. 2 had going for it was that we had now dispensed with the introductions; we knew who the Guardians of the Galaxy are, and so now in this film it means there is a lot more time that can be dedicated to playing around with the characters. Instead of having to shoe-horn in back-story to dialogue, they are instead free to have fun with the characters; have interactions which have you belly laughing, but also build upon them individually; exploring more of what makes up these oddities, and adding a little more depth. Vol. 2 achieves all that and much more when the characters are concerned. Not only do I love these hilariously weird people even more, but I also have a better understanding of them – which is a luxury you are not often afforded with the Marvel superhero films.
And I have to give a little love to Drax – played by Dave Bautista – who for me was the standout in the film. He had the majority of the funniest lines/moments, and he even had one of the most subtle yet emotionally resonant scenes in the film. And while I of course love seeing the antics of all the characters (Baby Groot’s hunt for the fin being a particular highlight) it was Drax who for me was the most memorable.
*Heads up: I will avoid getting into specifics as to the identity of the villain, so as to avoid spoiling it for people who may not have seen the film, but if you have then I’m sure you know who I’m talking about.*
So perhaps the most incredible thing ever is that this will be the first review of a Marvel film in quite some time where I do not have to lament the failings of the antagonist. Vol. 2 actually succeeds in setting up and paying off a villain in a powerful, meaningful way. While their ultimate plan does boil down to destroying the universe – not the most original plan, that’s for sure – there are deeper more personal elements within that grand plan that help to ground its impact and have it feel more potent and cruel. In fact, I think my only major gripe with the villain is how the final battle with them goes down. It’s pretty generic and slightly sucked the emotion out of experience — fighting a large CGI version of the villain is never the way to go.
But there was an underlying issue – one that ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ seems to struggle the most with: tone. Vol. 2 really flip-flops in terms of the emotion it is trying to elicit in a scene. A single scene can go from some genuinely funny jokes to an emotionally charged character moment that brings everything to what feels like a screeching halt. There were multiple times were the shift in tone felt really jarring, which in turn made knowing how to feel, difficult. I wasn’t sure if during the more heartfelt moments, they were going to see it through to its deserved outcome or if they were going to end-cap it with a joke. Never knowing how to feel or begin preparations for a certain emotional response was distracting, as it would remove me from the moment and cause me to look at the film from a critiquing eye, rather than as a participant of the moment. Thankfully it was not an issue that was constant, but it is something that I feel the Guardians films need to get a handle on (especially now that I’ve seen two films with a similar issue).
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 had a really tough job: it had to follow its predecessor; a film loved by many, and considered the best Marvel film by many as well – director, James Gunn and his team had that weight upon them when trying to follow their first film. Well from everything I’ve now seen, I think they took that challenge head-on and overcame it. It’s still too early to say if I liked Vol. 2 more than the first (a second viewing would be required) but It’s certainly likely to be what occurs, as I feel that Vol. 2 overcomes many of the issues that I had with the first film, and it also adds to the things that I loved about the first; giving me more of the charactery goodness.
But in the meantime I am going to recommend Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. It delivered on more of what I wanted; memorable and rewarding character interactions. And it fixed one of the main issues that I had; the structure of the main plot. So while I’m sure you already have gone and seen the film, if you haven’t, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed with what you get, so enjoy.
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