Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2: Review

Written by: Don Cabuhat

Film | Apr 26, 2017

film review GotGVol2 Guardians of the Galaxy Marvel Marvel Studios

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is an awesome visual spectacle with a lot of heart. It's a bigger, flashier, and an unexpectedly emotional ride that you don't want to miss.

The band of misfits returns to save the galaxy once again, but this time they realize that saving the universe is probably easier than saving each other from themselves. The Guardians are starting to become a family, and with that comes the growing pains of being in one.

James Gunn crafts an heartfelt superhero movie that smartly focuses on the characters rather than simply going bigger and noisier; as most sequels tend to do. It's not about looking for a place to call home anymore. It's about realizing your place in the universe.

By all accounts,
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is probably the most self-contained movie that Marvel has ever released. If this was the first Marvel movie you ever saw, it wouldn't have mattered. You don't need to know anything about the MCU to understand this film, as it is still a really good space adventure flick.

But being in a shared cinematic universe, this can be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it's great to see the story not get bogged down by mandatory scenes that give nods to other movies in the MCU. A lot of the previous Marvel movies have suffered from scenes that gobble up screen time just to remind us that they are part of a bigger universe.

On the other hand, this is still a MCU movie. We've come to crave these connections. So it's quite off-putting that there aren't any scenes in this movie that give any nods to other movies aside from the previous Guardians of the Galaxy. It's funny because this film feels like it needed a bigger scope, considering that it would be the set up for introducing the Guardians in the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War.

The direction of the movie is more confident. You know within 10 minutes into the film what kind of tone James Gunn was going for. Admittedly, it's basically the same tone as the first one, but it works.

What's different about this film is how visually stunning it is. I think it's the most beautifully rendered Marvel movie to date and coming off the heels of Doctor Strange, that's saying a lot. The vibrancy and the colorful palette just evokes an overwhelming sense of fun and warmth that characterizes the film very well. The man knows he's playing with pieces like a talking raccoon and a walking tree toddler and he confidently rolls with it. He knew he wouldn't be able to ground these guys the way Russos and Whedon did in the Avengers films, so he took it as an opportunity to create a unique Marvel film.

The biggest weaknesses in James Gunn's arsenal are his action set pieces.

I suspected as much in the first Guardians of the Galaxy, but this time it becomes more apparent. While there were a lot of cool scenes in this movie, like the ones that involve Yondu, Rocket, and Groot, the bigger ones were kind of muddled and a bit sloppy. They were by no means mediocre, but Marvel movies have been known to deliver some of the most beautiful and creative action sequences ever.

This movie had too many whizzing spaceships and space shooting scenes that they tend to become repetitive at times. The dialogue and character moments in between these shots would usually save the moment though, making them enjoyable nonetheless. While it is admittedly unfair of me to compare this movie to other MCU movies, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 didn't have that intimacy and personality in its action scenes that films like Doctor Strange and Captain America: Civil War had.

The soundtrack is as great as you expect it to be, but it feels a tad oversaturated. The movie was littered with so many songs from Awesome Mix Vol. 2 that it sometimes took me out of certain scenes. Granted, most of the songs were meant to ramp up the energy, but it made some of them feel lighter than they should have been.

The first Guardians of the Galaxy was a rousing success because of how James Gunn made the characters relatable. Marvel usually does this through humor and James Gunn is really good at hitting those comedic timings. Vol. 2 is no exception. The movie genuinely had me laughing out loud in the theater because they played with the fact that audiences are already familiar with the characters, rather than when we were getting to know them in the previous movie.

Chris Pratt is once again amazing as Star Lord; so much so that I sometimes see the comic version of his character on screen. This time, there's a certain vulnerability to his character that I loved; I just wish it was explored more than it was. His evolution as a character and his dynamic with everyone else is still the anchor of these movies.

Zoe Saldana's Gamora is still the most boring Guardians of the Galaxy member even with the addition of new characters to the team. I know she was relegated as the team's mom but how can the universe's most dangerous assassin be so bloody boring? Her character interactions with the rest of the team have gotten better though and her little character arc was nice.

Drax was disappointing. After being the breakout star of the first Guardians of the Galaxy, it seems he was demoted to being the comic relief. I can't remember anything cool or badass that he did in the whole movie. Dave Batista is an awesome actor and his comedic ability and timing are still second only to Chris Pratt's. His dialogue in this one was my favorite but Drax still has to kick some ass. This guy is one of the few beings in the comics who punched Thanos in the face, for crying out loud!

Rocket is still the heart of the guardians. His character arc perfectly encapsulates the theme of the whole movie. He had the best personal character beats and his evolution was the most natural and relatable one. He also had one of the two best action sequences in the movie. Non- comic book readers finally get to see what Rocket can really do; something I've been dying to see since the first movie.

Little Groot is adorable and steals the show every time he makes an appearance. It was fun seeing everyone take care of him the way he protected them at the end of the previous movie. Groot subtly binds the whole team together and still provides that warmth he had in the first film. I do miss his adult form though, as the extra muscle was sorely missed.

Yondu, Nebula, and Mantis are the new members of the team and they were all awesome. Yondu and Nebula's character arcs in particular were both really good. Both of their storylines were rooted to the theme of redemption and closure.

Nebula's arc didn't have as much impact as Yondu's but she had great heartfelt moments as well. Her storyline with Gamora was something I wish that could have been explored further in the movie. Karen Gillian is awesome. I still can't fathom how a sweet, lovely woman could transform into this angry yet grounded character.

Mantis was definitely a standout and a particularly great addition to the team. Pom Klementieff's acting was so genuine and full of life, you couldn't help but immediately take a liking to the character.  

As someone who isn't particularly fond of Mantis in the comics, I really found this movie's iteration of the character to be a welcome surprise. She brought a sense of innocence and purity that provided a welcome contrast in the dynamic of a group composed of assassins, thieves and bounty hunters. Not only was her chemistry with Drax one of the highlights of the movie, but her ability to meld seamlessly with other members was so much fun to watch.

Kurt Russell is quite good as Chris Pratt's father. My one complaint with is that he's been acting the same way in all of his previous movies. You practically can't see the difference between his character in this movie from the one he played in Fast and Furious 8.

Ayesha was the biggest disappointment for me. Her character in the comics has an incredible presence but in the movie, she's nothing more than the pompous ruler of a bunch of entitled golden-skinned aliens. This was particularly annoying because I thought that Elizabeth Debicki was perfect as Ayesha. She had a certain regality to her and her demeanor had an elegance and power that was never really tapped.

Most of the problems with Guardians of the Galaxy came down to how most of the characters were written. The villain problem that has become a running joke for the MCU wasn't really addressed in this movie, either. It's just another case of the villain being bad but not being memorable at all.

None of these issues stop Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 from becoming the entertaining summer blockbuster flick we expected it to be, though.

Was it better than the first Guardians of the Galaxy? No.

Should you still watch it? Definitely.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is a thoughtful, funny, and extremely entertaining movie that packs a very emotional punch. We've waited three years to rejoin this lovable gang; so watching them as they save the galaxy yet again is definitely worth your money and time.

P.S. There are indeed five post credits scenes. Three of them are goofy ones, while the other two have weight to them. One of the two definitely teases a very important bit of information that willsurely come up in future Marvel films. 

About the author: Don Cabuhat

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