Certified critic on Rotten Tomatoes. Member of the Houston Film Critics Society. Also writes for Bounding Into Comics and GeeksHaveGame.
All Groot's People
While Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is only fifteen minutes longer than its predecessor, it certainly feels like writer and director James Gunn beefed up the story in comparison to the first film. The sequel has a lot of ground to cover, which mostly revolves around Peter Quill aka Star-Lord (once again played by Chris Pratt) reuniting with his father (played by Kurt Russell). But Vol. 2 still manages to give the appropriate amount of screen time to each character you’ve grown to love on this team of a-hole loner outcasts and adds depth to each of them in an effort to expand their backstory and have the audience relate to them even more than they already do.
The film begins with what is perhaps the sequel’s biggest achievement; an incredible musical montage that has nearly the entire Guardians of the Galaxy team fighting this giant, tentacle-bearing, slime-spitting, and teeth-infested monster taking place in the background as Baby Groot (once again voiced by Vin Diesel) dances to music in the foreground. The scene is a magnificent achievement since it not only plays with perspective in an impressive manner, but it also showcases the visuals the sequel can now boast over the original film. It’s not like the special effects were under par in the original film, but the sequel has computer generated effects that are somehow even more intricate and visually remarkable. Ego’s planet alone is stunning to behold, but the lucid backgrounds seem to pack as many colors into a rocket launcher as humanly (or alienly) as possible before shooting them directly into your eye sockets. Quiet moments in the film seem to tell a story all on their own because of how beautiful these sequences are.
While Vol. 2 has throwbacks to the original film and it has the obvious similarities, it feels like the formula was tweaked just enough to feel like a different experience. One-liners still have the chance to zing, but the majority of them seem to have been scrapped for longer setups, more complex punchlines, and sequences that may or may not go on longer than they need to (we’re all looking at you Taserface). The comedic atmosphere is still there, but it’s evolved to include more backstory and character development. Everyone on the Guardians team seems to have their a-hole meters cranked up as high as they’ll possibly go. While most of this is addressed in the film, you can’t help but feel a little overwhelmed by it at times.
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This is probably a personal preference, but it would have been nice to see Kurt Russell be a bit more outrageous in his performance. Russell is pretty much the straight man of the picture with wicked intentions that are borderline logical, but you can’t help but miss what he brought to Death Proof especially in the tail half of Vol. 2. The film already has a Looney Tunes kind of quality to it, especially after Yondu, Rocket, Groot, and Kraglin begin taking 700 of those warp jumps through space. Seeing Russell bring a little of Christopher Lloyd’s Judge Doom from Who Framed Roger Rabbit would have been completely fitting. However, Russell is great in his role and his screen time is generally enjoyeable overall unlike Sylvester Stallone who mumbles incoherently and you couldn’t care less about his character. Vol. 2 showcases all of these factions of the Ravager group Yondu is a part of, but the issue is you’ve never seen any of these characters before, so while it’s nice to see the likes of Michelle Yeoh and Ving Rhames in a Marvel Studios film you have no connection to them one way or the other since they’ve had no introduction and their 45 seconds of screen time certainly doesn’t help matters.
Certain elements of the story begin to dig at your brain after you’ve seen the film. You adore the fact that Rocket is given more meaning given his unbelievably douchebag-riddled behavior over the course of the film, that Drax’s sorrow at losing his family to Thanos is brought to light through the powers of Mantis (played by newcomer Pom Klementieff), and that the sexual tension between Peter and Gamora is as annoying for them to endure as it is for us to witness, but other aspects of the story don’t really sit well with you. Nebula’s story is so murky as she travels the road of an antihero. Her lust for revenge is practically ditched for some interesting character traits and wanting to be loved by her sister. Peter doubts his father from the minute he arrives, but after he plays catch with his old man he suddenly becomes his biggest defender. Between juggling Nebula’s issues and Peter’s, Gamora has little room to flourish on her own and we learn nothing about her in this film. Rocket shines brightest when he’s tending to Groot since he’s basically the twig’s babysitter, but even Groot can get on your nerves from time to time. The antics of Baby Groot will make you miss adult Groot immensely.
Drax is Dave Bautista’s greatest on-screen role, so he naturally steals scenes whenever he appears. Drax has gotten the hang of comedy since the first film as he jokes quite often in Vol. 2 and laughs nearly every time he’s showcased. Michael Rooker will be the guy everyone is talking about once this is over though. Yondu is absolutely integral not only to Peter this time around, but the entire team. Rooker still has that bad ass quality he had to him in the previous film that made him a bit rough around the edges, but Vol. 2 seems to dive into that concept of Yondu loving those little trinkets he puts on the dashboard of his ship in the last film. Yondu is basically stripped of everything in Vol. 2 and he realizes that all he has is Peter. Rooker brings this heart to the character that easily makes his character the highlight.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is an extraordinarily entertaining sequel featuring what is quite possibly the most charismatic and chemistry infused film ensemble working today, but it’s not quite as fantastic as the original film. In a nutshell, the sequel seems to have too much of a good thing with comedy being exaggerated for far longer than it has any right to be and the story feeling like it could have been edited slightly to trim excessive bickering, lengthy father/son matters, and a specific Taserface joke that loses its oomph due to overuse. The five after credit scenes are proof that certain things could have been cut, especially since only one of those scenes is really worthwhile.
The film is still hilarious with jaw-dropping visuals and a cast any director would kill for. Vol. 2 is even worth seeing more than once in theaters, but it lacks the finely crafted and quirky brilliance that the first film had. That eccentric essence is still there, but the formula was altered just enough to feel like a wrinkled pair of pants that you thought fit you but is actually a size or two too small. The original film made the Guardians feel like a band of outcasts gathering together to become a family. The sequel makes them feel like actual family you can only tolerate for short periods of time; you love them to death but you have to get away from them in order to walk away without killing anyone.