Getting to Know You: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Review

The Guardians of the Galaxy return with their sophomore effort: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is more of what you love from the original and also something completely different. Favorite characters return with more of the spectacle and great irreverent banter that made the first film such a triumph.  Unlike many other Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) films, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is the most standalone of any of the films yet, opting to focus on expanding individual character’s stories over pushing along a greater MCU narrative.  

Getting to Know You Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Review Group

Old Habits Die Hard

Vol. 2 opens with the Guardians as heroes-for-hire, as their fame has spread across the cosmos. Star-Lord, Rocket, Drax, Gamora, and baby Groot are hired to protect some highly valuable batteries by an alien species known as the Sovereign: a group of gene-manipulating, egocentric humanoids. In return for the protection of their precious power source, the Sovereign offer Gamora’s slightly psychotic sister, Nebula, as reward.  Of course, it wouldn’t be Guardians of the Galaxy without some mischief, and Rocket can’t help but pilfer some of the very items that the Sovereign hired them to protect. This leads to the easily offended, narcissistic Sovereign leader Ayesha deciding that the Guardians must die. In a move clearly showing the Sovereign’s easily offended senses, Ayesha unleashes hundreds of her fleet of fighters to destroy the Guardians before they can make the jump out of the system.

On The Run

The Guardians are not the most cohesive team. This issue rears its ugly head as Quill (Star-Lord) and Rocket fight over control of their ship, each professing to be the better pilot. As the two argue, their ship is badly damaged and the Sovereign fleet descends upon them. Just when it seems that all is lost, a random ship appears and takes out the entire Sovereign fleet. The Guardians make a jump in what is left of their ship, crash landing in a forest.

Immediately, Quill and Rocket take shots at each other, unwilling to shoulder the blame for ruining the ship and almost killing the team. Shortly after, Quill’s father, Ego, shows up with new character Mantis and takes Quill, Gamora, and Drax with him to his home world, leaving Rocket, Baby Groot, and the captive Nebula behind.  Meanwhile, Ayesha hires Quill’s old Ravager boss Yondu to hunt down and kill the Guardians of the Galaxy.

Getting to Know You Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Review Starlord Peter Quill

Character Development Vs Overarching Narative

These opening events lead to the most dramatic change from the formula established in the original Guardians of the Galaxy.  Whereas the original film focused on bringing the team together, Vol. 2 is more about the family dynamic of the team and the flaws and scars that each individual carries with them. This leads to a slightly disjointed story, as fleshing out a cast this large is challenging and requires significant individual film time.  The film jumps between their individual story lines frequently. Sadly, this choice also relegates the Sovereign to being more comedic foibles, as they fail over and over again to take out the Guardians in hilarious fashion, which prevents them from being taken seriously as antagonists.  However, it affords the movie the opportunity to expand greatly on the personalities and motivations of several of the characters.

The narrative focuses on Peter Quill and his sudden discovery of his erstwhile father, Ego, a celestial god and the abandonment issues he has with him and the loss of his mother to cancer. Gamora and Nebula’s issues with each other and their tyrannical father, Thanos also come to a head in the film in spectacular fashion. Perhaps the biggest surprise is the direction that Director James Gunn decided to go with the Ravager leader, Yondu, a bit player in the first film who you could make a strong argument is the real star of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. Michael Rooker, who plays Yondu, gives a stellar performance and is truly the heart of the movie. Whether you, the viewer, will prefer this change in course depends highly on what you like best in films: character building or the overarching narrative.

Getting to Know You Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Review Yondu

Galaxy-sized Dose of Laughs

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 will make you laugh, a lot! The humor picks up right where it left off in the first film and hits the ground running right from the opening scene. It doesn’t necessarily bring anything new to the table; Drax is still the concrete thinking tough guy with no filter and Rocket is as crass, angry, and sarcastic as ever, but it turns up the “funny” to eleven.  By taking the character development route, it offered Gunn more opportunity to insert comedic moments as he continued to expand on the relationships between characters. The dialogue between Mantis and Drax in particular is a riot, with Drax stealing the show. The comedic performances are a nice juxtaposition to the darker narrative of pain and loss that is the more subtle backbone of the story.

Personal Thoughts

I loved this film. Despite there not being as many tie-ins to the MCU as the previous film, I did not leave feeling like I had been robbed of a good experience or a good story. I personally am a fan of character development and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 fleshes out the characters both as individuals and their appreciation for each other in surprisingly touching ways.  If you were hoping that this film would have major implications on the next Avengers film or the larger MCU as a whole, you may come away a bit disappointed. For those who wanted more background and more of the humor that was so beloved in the first film, Vol. 2 just gives you more reasons to love these characters. The action and cinematography are fantastic, in particular Ego’s home world is truly breathtaking.

Opting to flesh out the stories of the characters came at a price to the cohesion and flow of the film at times, but never to the point of being overly confusing. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 more than makes up for this by giving insight to the characters and making them more relatable. The laughs come easily and often, and there is a heart to this movie that no one would have suspected going in.

Positives:

+ Amazing cinematography/special effects/CGI

+ In-depth character development

+ Great dialog and humor

+ Surprisingly touching story

Negatives

– Disjointed story at times

– Didn’t seem to add much to overarching narrative of the Marvel Cinematic Universe

Review Score: 9/10

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BigBabyMoose

Old school gamer who started on Pong and never stopped playing. Lover of first person shooters and RPGs. Navy Hospital Corpsman veteran. Married to a 6' tall Amazonian redhead and has two beautiful daughters. Still trying not to grow up.