Movie Review | Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
Movie Summary: The Guardians must fight to keep their newfound family together as they unravel the mystery of Peter Quill's true parentage. (IMDb)
Pulling off that difficult second album is always a tricky task, one which James Gunn mostly succeeds at with Vol. 2, but still falling just that little bit short of matching up to the incredible debut that introduce the world to Star-Lord, Gamora, Drax, Rocket and Groot.
Sequels are generally hard to do in general; even if there are plenty of excellent sequels that can be listed (somewhere else, go look), the number of poor sequels is far, far higher. To be fair, Vol. 2 is the second-best sequel in the Marvel Cinematic Universe so far, with only Captain America: The Winter Soldier ahead of it.
Vol. 2 has one distinct advantage over the original, by not having to set up the team coming together. Instead, we get to jump right into the action – after what seems like is becoming an MCU tradition of an opening flashback – with Baby Groot dancing to ELO’s Mr Blue Sky as the others fight a huge, tentacled monster in the background.
Like Star-Lord dancing through the ruins in the opening credits of the first film, if you’re not on-board with the film by the time the song ends and the film really starts, then this probably isn’t going to be a film you’ll enjoy all that much.
There is an irreverent streak that runs throughout the running time, both from a story and a character point of view. This is because the characters themselves tend to be pretty irreverent themselves, continuing right where they left off from last time and still coming together as a team.
The only issue is something that affects Joss Whedon and Quentin Tarantino’s work occasionally too, when there is a massive shift in tone mid-scene that doesn’t quite work. Age of Ultron and Django Unchained are perfect examples for these two directors, with both films suffering from an almost-schizophrenic approach to each scene.
This happens only a handful of times in Vol. 2, but it does make the scenes affected fall a little flat. Especially one scene at the end, which is still emotional, but could have been a legitimately great scene that has its legs taken away by suddenly, and inappropriately, turning comedic.
That being said, that is pretty much the only heavy piece of criticism I have for the film. Yes, it’s not as fresh and original as the… original. It can’t be. It’s a sequel. It’s a direct continuation of story and character development from the first film, taking place in the effectively-serialised MCU.
I will admit that the Awesome Mix Vol. 2 isn’t quite as good as the first though – the song choices made by Gunn fit the film perfectly where used, but is just lacking that special something that made the soundtrack of the first film so wildly popular that Suicide Squad tried to rip it off.
In trade though, the score is better than the first film – Tyler Bates did both and the score for the first film works just fine – with a far wider range of tones and style that reflects the expansion of the story this time out. The Guardians theme is used several times to great effect and also to prove wrong that modern blockbusters don’t have recognisable scores anymore.
As for the story, the group is split up much like another sequel, Empire Strikes Back, with Star-Lord, Gamora and Drax heading off with the mysteriously-motivated Ego and his ‘assistant’, Mantis. Rocket and Groot end up facing the Ravagers and their leader, Yondu, who gets a much bigger role in events this time out.
Also returning is the fantastic Karen Gillan as Nebula, who has the best sub-plot of the film, with her ‘sister’ Gamora and their extremely tempestuous, decidedly non-typical relationship and rivalry. I really, really can't wait to see her eventually face Thanos.
When taken as a whole, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is a blast from start to finish and, even if not quite as good as the original, is still yet another high-quality Marvel Studios film that not only leaves me eager to see how the gang fit into Avengers: Infinity War, but already has me looking forward to their return in Vol. 3 in 2020.