The Marvel sequel machine is always a gamble: some, like Winter Soldier and Civil War, are even better than their predecessor, and widely regarded some of Marvel’s best films. Others, like Iron Man 2 and Thor: The Dark World, are stuck at the very bottom of the rank, merely pieces in the larger Avengers’ puzzle. And now comes their latest sequel, to their most beloved film – Guardians of the Galaxy. It has the jokes, it has the soundtrack, but does Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 have what it takes to sit up the top with the best of the best?
In Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, our Guardians, now working as heroes for hire, are trying to figure out how to work as a team and function as a family when they run into trouble with the Sovereign Race – but not before Peter’s (Chris Pratt) real family starts causing trouble as well, with the sudden reappearance of his long-lost father, Ego the Living Planet (a perfectly cast Kurt Russell). Vol. 2 is an unabashed family drama, allowing the film to pack in a huge amount of emotional drama by really fleshing out the relationships of characters both new and old. Peter is reconnecting with his biological father Ego and learning about his family history both on Earth and in space, and here director James Gunn is really exploring very moving ideas about what it means to be a father by bringing back into the fold Yondu (Michael Rooker), the Ravager who took Peter in when he was a kid. As the emotional core of the story, Peter’s arc takes you on a heartbreaking and compelling journey that, whilst being so satisfying and devastating, doesn’t leave much room elsewhere for the rest of the film’s arcs.
Because Vol. 2 also attempts to introduce a second layer to the strained sisterly relationship between Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and Nebula (Karen Gillan), daughters of Thanos (and presumably the Guardians’ tie to Infinity War); but surprisingly this story took a backseat, instead rehashing much of what was already explored in Vol. 1. Similarly, the overarching plotline of the Guardians themselves becoming a makeshift family was also underdeveloped: the beginning of the film sees the Guardians starting to take on roles in their little family (Peter as father, Gamora as mother, Baby Groot as a child, Drax and Rocket the drunk uncle and older brother), but once the team splits in two early on in the film, this entire dynamic all but disappears, sidelining what seemed to be the film’s most promising idea and making the smaller Rocket and Groot storyline with the Ravagers pale in comparison to Peter’s relationship with Ego. Combine this with the inclusions of both Ravager politics AND the Sovereign as a secondary antagonist, and Vol. 2 is just trying to do too much, with few sections really making an impact.
But despite its crowded plot, Vol. 2 succeeds because of its irreverent, fun tone, its gorgeous visuals and its commitment to its characters, having so much fun itself that you can’t help but have fun too. From the gold-clad Sovereign ships to the stunning colours of Planet Ego, James Gunn has made Vol. 2 a must-see on the biggest screen you can find, an epic, colourful spectacular that really must be commended for its beauty. Flying fast and furious, the film’s jokes and banter were hilarious and utterly quotable, though some were a bit repetitive, and allowed the film’s newer characters such as Mantis (Pom Klementieff) and Yondu to become standouts.
In every frame of this film you can feel Gunn’s love for the Guardians and their source material, with each character making an emotional impact that really endears them to your heart, both old and new, allowing the actors’ performances to really shine. Chris Pratt and Kurt Russell had such charisma and chemistry together, as did Zoe Saldana and Karen Gillan, who have always been able to perfectly translate the ups and downs of sisterhood to the screen. Of course, Rocket and Baby Groot were brilliant and adorable, but the film’s standouts were definitely Pom Klementieff and Dave Bautista as Mantis and Drax, whose sweet and funny friendship was wonderful to watch unfold. And, as I said earlier, Michael Rooker’s heartfelt performance was a highlight of the movie, adding a surprising but perfect layer to the film’s family drama.
So, where does this film sit in terms of sequels? Certainly better than Thor: The Dark World, that’s for sure. Whilst it doesn’t reach the heights of the original Guardians of the Galaxy, which was such a compact, intimate story, Vol. 2 is a completely different film to the first, in terms of scale and in story, and, since it’s a completely different viewing experience, should be treated as such. Its epic nature, deep family drama and total sincerity makes it such a heartfelt and heart-wrenching film that you can’t help but enjoy.
I love the Guardians cast so much, and here are my top five favourite films starring the cast of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2:
- Parks and Recreation – Chris Pratt
- Doctor Who – Karen Gillan
- Gilmore Girls – Sean Gunn
- Man from U.N.C.L.E – Elizabeth Debicki
- This Is Us – Chris Sullivan
Photos taken from IMDb.com: