When it arrived in 2014, Guardians of the Galaxy was considered the “risky” MCU movie but it went on to make not only a ton of money at the box office (It was the third highest grossing movie of the year) but it also made household names of bizarre cosmic Marvel characters like Rocket and Groot. The gang’s all back for the sequel that, while it still contains all the bombast you’d expect from a movie that is kicking of Summer Blockbuster season, is even more satisfying on a character and humor level.
Picking up a few months after the first movie, the Guardians are now heroes for hire who have taken a job from The Sovereign, a genetically perfect golden race, to defend their valuable energy source from a giant interdimensional monster in exchange for Nebula (Karen Gillan), who disappeared after Ronan’s defeat on Xandar and the Guardians are looking to turn over to Nova Corps. Rocket (Bradley Cooper), in his usual dickish manner, manages to piss off The Sovereign and gets the Guardians stranded on a nearby planet with the Milano a wreck but help comes in the unexpected form of Ego (Kurt Russell), Peter Quill’s (Chris Pratt) father. The group splits up, with Drax (Dave Bautista), Peter and Gamora (Zoe Saldana) going to Ego’s planet while Rocket, Baby Groot and Nebula stay behind to fix the ship. The strength of Guardians Vol. 2 is that everyone not only gets something to do, but it’s something that grows them as characters whether it’s Peter finally realizing his dream of meeting his dad, Gamorra realizing she was just horrible a sister to Nebula as Nebula was to her or Rocket bonding with Yondu (Michael Rooker) over their wall of assholery they put up to protect themselves. The cast is as fantastic as they were in the first movie, with Drax and Rocket being the standouts for me, the former turning into a non-stop humor machine and his interactions with Mantis (Pom Klementieff), Ego’s assistant are delightful and she’s a great addition to the team with her “empathic” abilities that allows some hilarious joke setups but also play a key role in the final battle.. Speaking of Ego, Kurt Russell is fantastic as always and perfectly cast as Chris Pratt’s swaggering father (the only other possible choice is maybe Harrison Ford) and even when things start to appear not as rosy as the Guardians first think on Ego’s planet, Russell’s charm makes you keep hoping for the best. Michael Rooker also nearly steals the show as Yondu, bringing back that OP whistle arrow in one of the craziest action sequences of the movie and providing some surprising emotional depth as well.
It’s clear in pretty much every scene that James Gunn loves this crazy Cosmic side of the MCU and he goes all in with Guardians 2, pulling in cameos and references that are either setups for future movies, like none other than Sly Stallone potentially leading a team of old school Ravagers that are actually an incarnation of the OG, 1969 comic version of the Guardians, or the return of Howard the Duck. If you’re looking for updates on Thanos however, you may be disappointed as the Mad Titan is only talked about but never seen, nor are there any new Infinity Stones.
The movie also looks absolutely gorgeous, picking up the baton from last year’s Doctor Strange and going all out with crazy colors and worlds, especially Ego’s planet or a sequence where Rocket and Yondu perform an insanely dangerous number of warp jumps that ping pongs them around the galaxy. Add the new Awesome Mix Vol. 2 to those visuals and Guardians is just a fun, visually spectacular ride all around.
There are some minor nitpicks like the fact that the final battle feels a little generic and the movie might be a tad too long as it indulges in lots of extended comedy bits but the character payoffs make it all worth it and the Guardians end up as an even stronger team than before. With possibly Doctor Strange and definitely Thor Ragnarok playing in the Cosmic universe as well, that side of the MCU is definitely the much more interesting and exciting side going forward and I can’t wait for more adventures with these lovable a-holes.
It’s a rare thing when a sequel outshines its predecessor. The Godfather Part 2… Terminator 2: Judgment Day… The Dark Knight… Clearly, it’s been done. And for my money, you can now add Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 to the list.
First, my feelings in a nutshell: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 does everything it needed to do in order to surpass the first. The story is bigger. The characters are familiar and just as fun, though they have all evolved (or grown, in Groot’s case). Most important, the emotional stakes are higher, and the team is tested like never before.
If that sounds good to you, keep reading.
Just like the previous installment, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (GotG2) kicks off with a flashback to the American Midwest in the 1980s. We again witness a major event that will forever shape the man who will be known as Star-Lord. But this time, it’s his creation. (Or the moments leading up to it, at least.) For the film nerds out there, it may also provide the best example of digital de-aging we’ve seen to date. (Editor’s Note: Apparently it was mostly makeup and pure Kurt Russellness)
It isn’t long before we’re thrown into the middle of the Guardians’ latest adventure, which serves as the proper opening of the movie. And it’s a doozy. In typical James Gunn form, we’re treated to equal parts comedy, action, and cosmic fun…with a very welcome emphasis on the favorite character of Marvel’s marketing department, Baby Groot.
From here, we’re subtly introduced to what will become one of the main plot points of the movie in the form of some kleptomania on the part of Rocket Raccoon. It isn’t long before the space sh*t hits the fan, and the Guardians are once again on the run. This leads to *MINOR SPOILER* Star-Lord finally meeting his father, Ego, played by Snak…er…Kurt Russell.
It’s at this point that our team is split, with half joining Star-Lord’s family reunion and half sticking around to repair their damaged ship. This is where the story gets its legs under it.
Some highlights include:
- A particularly great subplot between Yondu and Stakar Ogord, leader of the Ravagers, played by Sylvester Stallone. (Sly is rumored to be a major player in the coming “Phase Four” of the MCU, and for what it’s worth, you can sign me right up for that.)
- A heavy-handed – but welcome – Howard the Duck cameo.
- The comedy stylings and powerful presence of Dave Bautista, who manages to make Drax the Destroyer the highlight of every scene he’s in.
- Actual family drama that weighs heavily on characters you genuinely care about.
- Space fights. Lots of space fights.
- Lots of classic rock.
- Lots of feels.
- Michael Rooker.
- Razzle. Dazzle.
- 5 pre/intra/post-credit scenes.
There’s actually a lot you can’t talk about without completely spoiling a lot of great stuff. And to be honest, this movie is so well-made, it deserves to be seen spoiler-free. So consider this a favor, because there’s a LOT I want to say! (Note: catch the next Everything Actioncast for a full GotG2 “show and tell” by Zach and Chris.)
But suffice it to say, GotG2 has me arguing that this is the hottest property in the MCU. And coming from the guy who talked more crap about the original film leading up to its release than anyone on the interwebs, I’d say that’s pretty high praise. (As I’ve said, I’ve never been happier to be wrong about a movie.)
So even if you thought the first movie was “just OK,” go see GotG2. And if you can, see it in IMAX 3D. It’s worth every penny and the pinchy glasses.