Published on May 5th, 2017 | by Dan Nicholls


Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2

The Guardians of the Galaxy are back in a still irreverent and eye-popping extravaganza — not all of it works, but most of it does.

For a franchise kickstarter starring C-level comic book characters, 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy was something of a palette-cleansing genre-tweaker when it announced itself largely, loudly, and proudly. It’s a relief then that Star-Lord, Gamora, Drax, Rocket, and Baby Groot are all as likeable here as they were three years ago. They defied the odds and charted an unprecedentedly successful path to the hearts of millions of fans and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 will solidify anyone’s fondness for this intergalactic team. It doesn’t quite have that new car smell but it’s still upper tier blockbuster fun.

Having established a genuine dynamic by the end of the first movie our heroes are now thrust into the improbable position of being go-to world savers. Their latest adventure hits a bit closer to home for the crew. Some daddy issues get worked out, and some harsh lessons are learned. There may even be a death or two! But throughout it all there remains an emphasis and a dedication to the Guardians’ little oddball familial unit.

You would be forgiven for tiring of the themes of family in action adventure movies by now. Present here as in The Fate of the Furious a few weeks before it, the concept of family is leaned on heavily. It all works in the case of these Guardians because the group itself is actually stronger together than individually. But yeah, it would be nice if every big movie didn’t make itself into a drinking game for each time they say the words family or love.

A large part of the first film’s charms were found in smaller moments between this band of misfits as they explored the “forming” and “norming” stages of their group. In Vol. 2 they’re sent off separately in storylines that contain far too many scenes of slow, solemn speeches largely concerned with MCU world building. This is a mistake on the part of the filmmakers, but not nearly a fatal one. Fear not, there’s plenty of space spectacle and thrills to be found. The film’s also extremely funny at times, perhaps even matching the first’s gags and goofs.

It isn’t a surprise anymore that legendary actor Kurt Russell appears in Vol. 2 as Peter Quill/Star-Lord’s father. Following his appearance in the aforementioned Furious flick it’s nice to see the erstwhile Captain Ron back on screen as a sailor (the character actually refers to himself as a self-proclaimed “sailor” on multiple occasions).

What Russell’s character, Ego, has to do with the plot will remain unspoiled here. It’s fair warning to note that this is a Marvel Studios film and therefore a certain formula is visible throughout the layers of eye candy. Still, like the team itself, the film is stronger than the sum of its individual parts. Despite some tedious moments of deep talks and reflections at the start of the movie’s second act it all clips together at a decent enough pace.

The best fun is to be found watching the core group play off each other; everybody gets a moment to shine and the support to do it. Also of note is Sean Gunn’s sequelized character and resulting performance. The actor is the brother of writer/director James Gunn and you might best know him as Kirk on Gilmore Girls. He’s a lot of fun here.

Also a lot of fun is Dave Bautista, arguably serving as the franchise’s most underrated asset. The always likeable Chris Pratt is sadly underserved here and not given a whole hell of a lot to do physically until the final act. The rest of the main cast is uniformly solid: Zoe Saldana, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, and the voices of Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel are all on the exact same wavelength and the harmony is at times pleasant just to bask in.

There are comic book Easter eggs and post-credit scenes galore – a staggering five, to be exact, in the case of the latter. Being a Marvel film and all, the ingredients are all there. But with the charms of Gunn’s subtly sly and funny screenplay and the cast’s undeniable chemistry it works better than it does in a lot of these superhero movies. It doesn’t contain the sophistication and stakes of its fellow Marvel picture Captain America: Civil War but it doesn’t need to. Due to the laws of diminishing returns, however, it also isn’t as fresh and original as 2014’s first volume of the franchise. Guardians of the Galaxy was a breath of fresh air but Vol. 2 at times feels all too much like a backdoor prequel to some larger role in the upcoming Avengers movies. But the movie’s best parts rival those of the first Guardians in terms of pure cinematic enjoyment.

So what if the movie isn’t perfect? Or that it’s not as good as the first one? Few sequels are, we all know this by now. But Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is still a fantastic Marvel production all around. No expense was spared in the razzle-dazzle department and the above the line talent all bring their best with them on screen. Its retro magnetism once again rides high thanks to a finely calibrated soundtrack. Who could ever hate on a movie that’s exposing countless young folks to the timeless tunes of E.L.O., Cheap Trick, and Cat Stevens?

The Marvel faithful and fans of the first film are going to get their money worth here. Even casual comic book fans are going to enjoy it more than, say, Batman v Superman or Suicide Squad. And while it maybe isn’t quite Captain America: The Winter Soldier it is above Thor: The Dark World and Iron Man 2 by leaps and bounds.

These movies are a lot to keep up with. And don’t feel bad if you can’t quite maintain pace with all the references and hints to deeper mythology – Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is first and foremost here to entertain and inject the genre with a healthy dose of irreverence and offbeat charm. It’s a worthy sequel that, for the most part, does right by its predecessor.

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is a Vancouver-based, lifelong movie geek who's been a projectionist, critic, director, (accidental) actor, and writer in the industry since E.T. phoned home. @dannicholls

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