The Guardians of the Galaxy from 2014 was a breath of fresh air for the superhero genre and showcased what the Marvel Cinematic Universe is capable of. Nobody would’ve thought that a movie starring a talking raccoon and a tree that only says three words would become one of the biggest hits of the year, but director and screenwriter James Gunn proved them wrong. Thanks to Gunn’s style of humor, high adrenaline directing, and a rockin’ soundtrack, some of the most obscure characters in Marvel Comics became household names.
As expected from the film’s success, a sequel was quickly announced after the first movie. With the exception of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, sequels in the Marvel Cinematic Universe tend to fall short because of high expectations created by the original product. Usually fans have to wait for an Avengers team-up or second sequel for the characters to feel fresh again.
However, the Guardians have an easier time with original concepts, settings, visuals, and characters as opposed to the rest of the Marvel Heroes, as the Guardians are able to explore the cosmos while characters like Iron Man and Black Widow are stuck in New York City. The question is, does Gunn keep the audience hooked, or did he not go all the way?
After defending the batteries of the Sovereign race in exchange for the imprisoned Nebula, the Guardians find themselves on the run from the advanced species after Rocket steals some of the batteries behind their back.
They are rescued by a celestial being named Ego, who reveals himself to be Star-Lord’s long lost father. Peter, Drax, and Gamora are invited to explore Ego’s planet and learn more about Peter’s heritage while Rocket and the now infant Groot stay behind to fix their spaceship. The two are captured by the Ravagers and are imprisoned alongside the former Ravager leader, Yondu, after his men staged a mutiny against him and the three attempt to escape. Nebula uses the Ravagers’ resources to go after her sister, Gamora, who starts growing suspicious of the planet and Ego’s intentions after observing his assistant, Mantis.
In the sequel, Gunn tries to balance the development of the team by pitting each of them (minus Groot, who’s mainly played for laughs) with either a new character introduced in the film, or someone who didn’t receive as much development in the predecessor. This means the team doesn’t work together as much apart from the first ten minutes and the film’s climax. It’s understandable why Gunn would take this approach to show how each character could work on their own, but the team’s chemistry played a large part in how the first installment succeeded, so it’s disappointing to see that minimized.
The multiple plot threads are a mixed bag, as some character duos are a lot more engaging than the other ones. Drax’s proved to be the weakest, as he was mainly used to establish the new Guardians member, Mantis. The two are occasionally entertaining to watch as they have the most alien behavior out of all the teammates, but contribute very little to the overall narrative and serve to get a cheap laugh once in a while. I think it would’ve been more beneficial to have Gamora interact with the two more, as her contrasting behavior to Drax could have a larger impact on Mantis’ character, but unfortunately she’s stuck in another feud with her sister, Nebula. This isn’t as bad as Drax’s subplot because we’re allowed to hear more of Nebula’s side of the story rather than treat her as a henchman like the first film, but it does lose some of the impact with how much this feels more forced on the plot than the other character arcs and that we have already seen these two before.
Learning Ego’s history and how it impacts Peter’s character was one of the more intriguing subplots. While most of the plot does start out with the typical “son filled with angst at the abandoned father” and Kurt Russell’s performance comes across as overly preachy, this is compensated with some of the film’s best visuals and world building. Ego’s planet contains some of the most colorful and bizarre imagery ever put in a Marvel film, and Peter’s conflict between his new god-like heritage and his human half does feel more genuine thanks to Chris Pratt’s performance.
But the best character arcs without question are Rocket and Yondu’s. In the first film, Yondu was a thief who would only help Star-Lord and his teammates if he got something in return. In this movie, Yondu’s relationship to the other Ravagers, his backstory, his reasoning for his behavior and questionable actions, and how he finds himself relatable to a two-foot gun-wielding talking raccoon are all explored. It’s enhanced thanks to Michael Rooker’s performance, as he knows how to be intimidating while also giving a sense that he’s hiding a personal struggle.
The scattered plot’s effect on the movie is thankfully minimized with the explosive actions scenes and Gunn’s sense of humor. While the first Guardians movie focused primarily on spaceship battles, this one showcased how tough they are in close quarters artillery combat. The most particularly memorable moments to me were Drax attaching himself to the team’s ship with a bungee cord to shoot down Sovereigns while Rocket and Peter navigate through an asteroid field, Yondu taking back the Ravager ship with one arrow, or one of the characters unleashing their untapped potential in the climax. There are more jokes in this than the previous installment, and while some either drag for too long or try to replicate the first film’s quirkiness, they’re sufficient enough to keep the audience laughing for 20% of the movie.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 won’t have the same impact as the first film due to its scattered plot and lack of special circumstances, but it’s a fun film with more care put into the directing than your average popcorn flick. Chris Pratt, Bradley Cooper, and especially Michael Rooker steal the show in a product guaranteed to satisfy movie goers and comic book geeks alike.
It’s been a blast working as a campus film critic for the last four years, and I wish my readers and fellow staff members who’ve improved me as a worker the best for their futures.