Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 Review: A Personal Epic
Sequels are always a difficult thing to do right – especially if the first installment was a surprisingly popular hit that everyone loved. So what do you do? Do you double down and follow the axiom that bigger is better? Do you reel back and focus on more of a character oriented story? Well, if you’re writer/director James Gunn, you do both.
Set just a mere four months after the conclusion of the first Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 picks up in the middle of some adventurous shenanigans as the team try to grow into their new-found roles of being The Guardians of the Galaxy. Stemming from this initial escapade, the story then focuses on Peter Quill and his quest to discover his biological origins. What follows is a fun romp, full of laughs and unexpected heart.
James Gunn delivered in spades, once again, with excellent comedic writing, three dimensional characters (yes, even the villain, which has been a shortcoming for many Marvel movies) and an engaging story. As for the characterization, Gunn gives us more of the same – which isn’t a bad thing- and adds in small subtle development for characters like Drax. He also does a wonderful job of exploring the idea of a chosen family vs your genetic one. Gunn also keeps a great pace for the film, despite it being a quarter over two hours, as it feels as though it’s barely over an hour and half – especially since the film spends a majority of its run time going back and forth between two locations, as the team is split up early on.
Just about the whole cast returns from the first installment and give pretty much the same performances they did in the first film – again, that’s not a bad thing! Though there were a couple stand outs for me. Dave Bautista turns in a better performance as Drax than he did in the first installment. That’s not to say that he did badly the first go round, but Drax was written with a bit more depth and Batista showed it with a beautiful subtlety. He even managed to steal some great scenes from his co-stars. Also, Michael Rooker as Yondu surprisingly was the anchor of this movie’s heart. Rooker is a solid actor who doesn’t get enough recognition and he definitely made his mark on this film.
Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel turn in performances that show they are clearly having fun and have a love for the characters. Kurt Russell and Pom Klementieff also do well as Ego an Mantis, respectively, with Pom upstaging Russell a bit with her character’s awkwardly jubilant naivete that makes her endearing. Karen Gillian returns as Nebula, serving as a mirror for Saldana’s Gamora to have her turn at familial reflection, which gave both of their characters some interesting back story. Also making an appearance is Elizabeth Debicki as Ayesha, High Priestess of the Sovereign.
As with the first Guardians, Vol. 2 has a ton of great music, and they again knock the song selection out of the park. The special effects, as well, were incredible! From showcasing a de-aged Kurt Russel to a bodily reconstruction that would make Dr. Manhattan jealous, WETA Digital created an absolutely beautiful looking movie. Especially impressive is the de-aged Russell, as he doesn’t seem to have that uncanny valley look. It seems with each successive film, Marvel and WETA are dialing this in more and more!
For me, when I walked out of that first Guardians of the Galaxy, I felt like this was Marvel’s answer to Star Wars: Episode IV. Now with Vol. 2 out, I’d say this is probably their answer for Empire Strikes Back. It’s a more personal story with emotional stakes that still operates on an epic scale. Maybe that’s blasphemy to some, but it’s how I see it. Go see this movie: It’s a ton of fun and has great characters and tugs at the heartstrings. And stay through the credits, because there are FIVE stingers throughout and at the end of the credits!