With the exception of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has so far struggled with sequels. Iron Man 2, Thor: The Dark World, and even Avengers: Age of Ultron to some degree all significantly faltered in comparison to their predecessors and simply reiterated what the first film did rather than improve upon the foundation they built. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 breaks that mold. Rather than go bigger and further explore the universe around them, Vol. 2 looks inward on the characters and explores the relationships that define the Guardians.
Word of the Guardians has spread throughout the universe as Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax (Dave Bautista), Rocket (Bradley Cooper) and now Baby Groot (Vin Diesel) work as space mercenaries to the highest bidder. Unfortunately they’re still quite new at things because their latest mission for Ayesha, the leader of the Sovereigns, goes horribly wrong and they end up being hunted down by their entire race. Thankfully they end up being saved by a mysterious man named Ego (Kurt Russell) who claims to be Peter’s father. He reveals that he is an eternal being known as a Celestial and that Peter is destined for greatness by his side.
The first Guardians introduced audiences to this wacky array of characters who all seemed like misfits brought together to form the most unlikely superhero team. Vol. 2 focuses on their interactions with each other and how they function as said team. The film is all about family, in both the literal sense of Peter coming to terms with meeting his father, and the metaphorical family created by the Guardians. Of course you can expect the same amazing visuals, rocking soundtrack, and adorable humor from the first film, but there is also less action and more exposition on this trip through the galaxy.
What Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 does well is that it greatly expands beyond just the Guardians. Yondu (Michael Rooker) and his group of Ravagers return for the sequel but in a much bigger role. James Gunn has stated in interviews that Yondu is the main character of the film, and I completely agree with him. This time around he’s so much more than just a whistling blue alien with a cool golden arrow as Rooker gets the chance to really develop the character from a selfish Ravager to a full fledged Guardian.
The introduction of Mantis (Pom Klementieff) to the team is a nice addition as well. She mostly interacts with Drax, which leads to some pretty hilarious situations. Her innocent and socially shy persona is a perfect contrast to Drax’s dry and blunt personality.
Further reinforcing the family dynamic of the film is the relationship between sisters Gamora and Nebula (Karen Gillan), although I believe this to be the weakest element of the film. At times it does feel like there is simply too many storylines going on at once, and Nebula suffers the most because of it. She’s nothing more than an angry daughter who’s out for revenge, first against Gamora and then against Thanos. There are inklings towards her reasons for revenges but they are barely touched upon.
The biggest emotional pull comes from Peter finally meeting his father, Ego. Chris Pratt and Kurt Russell have some fantastic scenes together. In one they actually get to play a futuristic sci-fi version of catch together, and it’s absolutely heartwarming. These scenes make Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 much more dramatic than the first, which I truly enjoyed. There’s still more of everything that made the first one so great, however.
Two words; Baby Groot. Groot was great in Guardians of the Galaxy but Baby Groot in Vol. 2 absolutely steals the entire film and is perhaps my new favorite character of the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe. He’s just so damn adorable in everything he does. Hands down he’s the best thing about the film. Also, huge props to Bradley Cooper voicing Rocket as well. The way he has fully immersed himself into the role is nothing short of phenomenal.
I thought the first film was visually stunning, but Vol. 2 ups the color palette by 1000%. It’s a two hour and 16 minute eyegasm. Everything, from the characters to the environments to even the explosions, is vibrant. Oftentimes it does even make sense, like why would a giant octopus monster shoot rainbow explosions from its mouth? It doesn’t matter though. The film is nothing short of visual nirvana.
The one aspect Vol. 2 comes up short when compared to its predecessor is the soundtrack, however. It’s good, but it’s not Awesome Mix Vol. 1 good. Some of the tracks are great and work perfectly with the scene they’re in, like Cat Stevens’ "Father and Son". Others are just okay.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is how you properly do a superhero team up movie and how a sequel should be. I still prefer the first film more overall, but Vol. 2 definitely packs a bigger emotional punch. Its focus on each individual member of the team is commendable as the film feels much more than just another “we’re the only ones who can save the universe” storylines, even though at its basic level that’s exactly what it is. The humor is fantastic, the characters are interesting and complex, and it’s all wrapped up in a shiny, vibrant, rainbow. It’s difficult to capture lightning in a bottle twice, but James Gunn has come close with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.