Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 review: Family Matters (as does pacing)
Part of what makes the Marvel formula such a success is that the studio is willing to take some chances; it doesn’t stray too far from the baseline, but it does mix things up now and then. That’s part of why the first Guardians did so well. It was still a traditional movie about a band of misfits coming together to save the day, but it was new for Marvel and it offered a wild new setting.
It also had a fairly amazing cast. Like, a crazy good cast with borderline A-list stars headlining and legit, established A-list stars in supporting roles. So that helped.
Vol. 2 doubles up on that, bringing back the full cast and adding Kurt Russell in a major role, along with Sylvester Stallone in a role that will pay off in later MCU films (most likely the recently confirmed third Guardians of the Galaxy movie, maybe even Avengers: Infinity War).
I should probably mention at this point that Guardians of the Galaxy may be my favorite Marvel film. It depends on my mood and the day of the week, but it (along with Avengers, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and Captain America: Civil War) is a movie I could watch repeatedly and still find something new to embrace. That will color my review of its sequel, but at least you know where I’m coming from. If I thought the original were a pile of turds, that would probably lead to a different review.
The trailers and marketing for this film also have an impact on my review. If you follow Marvel movie news (*ahem*), then you probably already know a lot about the plot of this movie. And given Disney’s marketing machine, a team that is probably just a few years away from beaming ads directly into your brain, a few of what would otherwise be big surprises have been revealed in the ads.
Still, I will issue one minor spoiler warning about Kurt Russell’s character. If you already know who he plays, read on. If not and you want to remain in the dark, here’s your review: Vol. 2 isn’t as good as the original, but it is a solid addition to the MCU and possibly the funniest Marvel Studio film to date. Thanks for stopping by.
Assuming that didn’t scare you away, Vol. 2 picks up a few months after the end of the first film. Groot is still an adorable little scamp, the team is still learning to work together, and everyone has a lot of unresolved issues. After accepting a contract from a group known as the Sovereign (hardcore, longtime comic fans will recognize that name), the team saves the day, but can’t help themselves from making an enemy of their leader Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki), another familiar name to longtime fans of the Guardians comics.
Things quickly go tits up, and Ayesha turns to Peter Quill’s (Chris Pratt) old boss/kidnapper Yondu (Michael Rooker) to hunt the team down. Thankfully for the team and those hoping for a movie longer than 20 minutes long, they meet up with Quill’s absentee father Ego.
The bizarre reunion also introduces another familiar face from the comic series, Mantis (Pom Klementieff), an empath capable of sensing the emotions of those she touches. With Yondu and his ravagers in pursuit, the Guardians stumble upon another threat to the galaxy, which once again helps to confirm the title of the film.
Director James Gunn – and a team of VFX artists that probably number in the hundreds – have a knack for creating and depicting incredible looking worlds, and that continues in Vol. 2. Gunn, who also wrote the script, also knows these characters and can turn almost any situation into a funny one. There are a lot of laugh-out-loud moments in this film, with Drax (Dave Bautista) and Baby Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) stealing most scenes they are in.
That leaves the heavy emotional lifting to Quill (and his dad) and Gamora (Zeo Saldana), who is dealing with the consequences of having a slightly psychotic sister (Karen Gillan). And at its core, that’s what Vol. 2 is all about. The first film was a traditional team adventure in an untraditional world. They second shifts the focus and goes all in on the theme of family. It’s an idea that is repeated in almost every characters’ storyline, and it is at the core of the movie.
That is something of a natural shift for a sequel – the first film introduces, the second develops – but it comes at a cost. Vol. 2 has some significant pacing issues, specifically in the second act which at times comes to a grinding halt. The witty banter and snappy dialogue help keep the plot for stagnating, but it does drag at times. Part of that might be due to how many significant moments are designed to pay off in the next film (or Avengers: Infinity War). Makke sure to stay through the credits for the five extra scenes, a few of which are indicators of what’s to come.
The pacing isn’t a deal breaker by any means. Compared to most action movies the pacing problems are minor, but compared to the original Guardians, they are notable. Still, it’s a solidly entertaining movie with a charismatic cast, good dialogue, and development that fans will love – plus it mostly adheres to the tried and tested Marvel formula (bad guy or guys have an unforgivable plan that looks unstoppable, hero or heroes amazingly manage to save the day at the last moment). It’s only in comparing it with the previous film that it comes up a little bit lacking.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 review conclusion
The second Guardians doesn’t quite live up to the first, but it does do a few things even better than the original. It is arguably the funniest Marvel movie, by a decent margin. It struggles with the pacing a bit, however, and part of that is due to the plot, which focuses on a single idea and refuses to let go. It’s also competing against the original, which is a difficult task given that part of what made the first so good was intangible – namely that it felt original (at least relatively).
With that said, Vol. 2 still knows what made the first work and it builds on it. The team and their relationship with each other are a major part of the film, so the chemistry that worked so well in the first film is expanded on significantly. All in all, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 doesn’t quite live up to its predecessor, but it confirms that the Marvel machine is operating at peak efficiency and shows no signs of slowing.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is rated PG-13 with a running time of 137 minutes.