Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Review

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017) Movie Review – Non Spoilers
Director: James Gunn
Starring: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, Pom Klementieff, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Kurt Russell

It’s been a couple of days since I’ve watched Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and I’m still chuckling over some of the hilarious lines. Vol. 2’s natural sense of wacky fun is stronger than the heavy-handed sentimental moments. That’s just a minor blemish in an otherwise stellar sequel which gives us more of what we love from the original 2014 blockbuster.

Guardians of the Galaxy has always been about family. They are a bunch of misfits who don’t belong anywhere else in the cosmos except with each other. Family isn’t always blood, they are the people you choose to live your life with. In the case of the Guardians, if they aren’t making fun of one another, they are yelling at each other. Yup, sounds like a family.

The first Guardians film ended with a question that this sequel picks up on. Who is Peter Quill’s father? Some of the clues were already laid out. Nova Prime (Glenn Close) hinted that Quill’s father is something ancient and unknown. Plus Quill survived holding an infinity stone in his hand. That and Quill has mad dance-off skillz. (Hint: It’s all in the hips.)

Director Jame Gunn’s script makes a good decision to make the identity of Peter Quill’s father integral to the story rather than borrowing a plot twist from Empire Strikes Back. The father and son dynamic is best when it’s played for laughs although not all the jokes hit the mark. Chris Pratt shows once again he’s got ample comedic talent on top of being a charismatic leading action hero. The message behind what Peter learns in the process is clearly defined but it lacks the emotional underpinning for it to resonate as strong as the film wants us to feel.

Peter isn’t the only one with daddy issues. Back in the mix is Nebula (Karen Gillan), daughter of supervillain Thanos, whose competitive sibling rivalry with sister Gamora (Zoe Saldana) is taken to the extreme. It gives Gamora her own personal subplot and doesn’t take away from the main story line, neither does it add a whole lot. 

Arguably the strongest story line is following Rocket, Baby Groot and Yondu’s side adventure. Baby Groot’s adorableness is milked for all its worth and I’m still left wanting more. One moment Rocket’s sarcasm makes you laugh and then the next scene you feel empathy for him when he’s the butt of a joke.

With the great CGI special effects, vocal performances and the way they are written, it’s easy to buy into “Twig” and “Trash Panda” as core characters which was once thought might be a hurdle for fans to fully embrace. 

Pairing Rocket with Yondu (Michael Rooker) makes sense as they both have their reasons for carrying a chip on their shoulders. Yondu’s role is heavily expanded and he’s important to the story. Fleshing out Yondu and Peter’s relationship a bit more could have helped, even if only as quick snapshots of memories.  

Some of the funniest material is given to Drax. Dave Bautista’s comedic delivery is spot on. His unfiltered interactions with just about every character especially Peter and Mantis is so much fun. Mantis is a new addition to the Guardians family. She has an innocence about her that’s amusing and it compliments the grittier team members. 

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is loaded with solid action scenes. Even if none of it can compete with Civil War’s airport battle, it’s really how the Guardian characters are taken care of that matters. All of the returning characters have a purpose and their moments to shine. Vol. 2 does a better job at incorporating the main villain yet something is still lacking. Because the focus is always on the Guardians and their strong team chemistry, it makes it easier to overlook the villain issue.

Part of the appeal of the original film is the fresh and otherworldly feel of taking the Marvel universe into outer space. It’s hard to catch lightning twice in a bottle. The addition of Peter Quill’s father along with Mantis keeps things cosmic and strange. Ayesha, the high priestess of the Sovereign, is a campy side villain not to be taken too seriously. So on one hand we have familiarity with the Guardians and also some off beat new elements to explore without ruining the formula.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is a dysfunctional family reunion you actually don’t want to miss out on. All of the Guardians are back and just as lovable as we remember them. The sequel recaptures the quirky banter and zany charm. It’s hard to find fault in giving us more of what worked in the first film. Where it misses a step is not earning the emotional punch it wants to achieve. Director James Gunn is obviously a comic book lover, yet he’s wise never to pigeonhole Guardians as a comic book or superhero team movie. The not-so secret to Guardians’ success is it’s a rollicking space adventure with a lot of infectious fun. “I am Groot!”

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