Let’s get this out of the way immediately: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is an incredibly fun film. It sets a fantastic tone starting from the opening scene and continues from there. Each scene ramps up the comedy and hijinx in creative and funny ways. There is also a surprising level of pathos for some of the characters within the film.
This movie follows the exploits of the now established Guardians of the Galaxy as they take on jobs and talk shit to everyone, including each other. Things get complicated when the team gets saved from a space armada by a mysterious man claiming to be Peter Quill’s (Chris Pratt, Parks and Recreation) long lost father. While Peter, Gamora, and Drax investigate his claims, Baby Groot and Rocket fight off the pursuing Ravagers.
The plot for the film is incredibly straightforward, complete with the expected plot twists of a standard action film. While the actual plot is nothing amazing, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 excels in its use of humor throughout its narrative. Amusingly, the opening scene does a great job lampooning the opening moments of the more recent Marvel films. Rather than having the team work together in a cohesive unit, they fumble through the battle while occasionally mocking each other. Not only does it strongly juxtapose the Avengers as a team, but it helps to establish the relationships between the characters. They are a team, but they still clash quite spectacularly. Rocket and Peter spend a lot of time hilariously bickering over arbitrary things during life or death situations. Baby Groot is adorably ineffective at almost everything. Gamora is endlessly suspicious and angry at everyone. And Drax… well Drax is incredibly literal and just annoys everyone on the team. Despite their quirks, these characters continue to stick together and work (fairly) effectively when they need to. Their shared care and concern for Baby Groot did a lot to show this. The way they often checked in with him (“Groot, put on your seat belt!”) as well as how the wordlessly passed him around showed a connection between them that transcends their petty annoyances with each other.
Visually, this movie takes the wackiness of the first film and kicks it up a notch. The bright colors compliment the inventive visuals quite well. At the very beginning of the film, we are treated to the Guardians taking on and interdimensional being that is shooting rainbow colored flames out of its mouth. The visual diversity only gets more inventive as the movie continues. The ridiculously gaudy Sovereign race are in stark contrast to the Guardians and the Ravagers. While we don’t get to see much of their culture, the glimpse we get of their throne room and their remote control starships says a great deal about how they view themselves in relation to other races. The use of color and contrast is quite striking in many scenes throughout the film. During a scene where the characters as are passing through multiple space jumps, the visuals almost turned into a cartoon which leads to one of the best and most outlandish visual gags in the movie.
Vol. 2 actually takes quite a bit of time focusing on characters. Each of the main cast have moments of pathos or instances where they get to connect with someone on an emotional level. Unlike many of the other Marvel heroes, the Guardians are screw ups first and foremost. With the exception of Baby Groot (Vin Diesel, The Fate of the Furious), everyone has baggage that weighs heavily on them throughout the film. Interestingly, Rocket (Bradley Cooper, Limitless) and Yondu (Michael Rooker, The Walking Dead) get a surprising amount of focus throughout the film. As two overly aggressive thieves, their paths in life begin to parallel each other, giving the two of them a lot to talk about. Peter and Gamora (Zoe Saldana, Star Trek Beyond) have arcs that are directly connected to alienated family members. While on their own, the stories are a bit cliched, both of them have moments of catharsis that they have long been waiting for. Interestingly, Drax (Dave Bautista, Spectre) and newcomer Mantis (Pom Klementieff, Old Boy) forge a hilarious and charming friendship. Their shared lack of social grace leads to them having some great scenes with each other. It was fun to see Mantis get intimidated by Gamora’s cold glare, only to use her powers to manipulate Gamora’s emotions later in the film. Kurt Russell (The Hateful Eight) plays Peter’s father, the powerful Ego. His swagger is as fun to watch as he waxes poetic about his own impact on the universe to an astonished Peter. Russell brings an undeniable sense of fun and menace to his role as well, making him a great addition to the cast. Baby Groot gets a special mention because the adorable plant alien is used very well in the film. He gets some incredibly fun visual gags and somehow manages not to be overbearing or annoying.
Director James Gunn and his team took an interesting direction for the action scenes in this film. There are very few moments of the heroes engaging in drawn-out hand to hand combat with a bevy of unnamed soldiers. Any of the scenes that involved the main characters taking on a lot of enemies were used for creative set piece scenes. Rocket fighting a group of Ravagers was a highlight, as he had to use his wits to mess with them rather than just jumping in to fight them head on. Another standout scene is Yondu using his arrow. This scene makes the parallel encounter from the first film laughable by comparison. Thankfully we also get some great action in outer space as well in a scene that mirrors an iconic moment from Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. By the end of the film, we do get a more traditional superhero punch-up, but ultimately it is the Guardians working together as a team that saves the day. This works well for the film as it emphasizes te fact that this is an ensemble film. The Guardians work well as a group of dysfunctional friends, so it is great to see Gunn focus on this fact in both the plot and the action beats.
As one would expect from a Guardians of the Galaxy sequel, the soundtrack compliments the action incredibly well. This movie comes with a plethora of hits from the 70’s, featuring songs from Cheap Trick, Parliment, and Electric Lights Orchestra to name a few. While there are a couple slightly awkward instances where a character essentially points out the music that is playing, the songs are all still well placed within the film. Music is an important part of Peter’s life, so it is interesting to see that those closest to him are starting to use music as much as he does. The music during the end credits is pretty damn good as well so make sure to stick around for that.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is a great film that sets itself apart from the other Marvel Films in an interesting way. While there are references to infinity stones and Thanos, this and the previous Guardians film work very well as stand-alone films. Honestly, this is the most fun I have had in a Marvel Cinematic Universe film since the first Guardians of the Galaxy. This is just as enjoyable as the first one. If you are looking for a charming action comedy, you can certainly do worse than Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. I definitely recommend checking this one out.