Film Review – Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
After three years, Marvel Studios has final returned to one of their most vibrant properties in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. The first film was a surprise hit so naturally it was only a matter of time. Thankfully, all the core elements were brought back together to provide another rollicking adventure.
This time the plot revolves around the parentage of Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) and why he was able to hold the Infinity Stone at the end of the first movie. While in the midst of one of their adventures, the Guardians cross paths with a man named Ego (Kurt Russell) who claims to be Peter’s father and who wants to explain what happened. This goes beyond just this relationship, though, as the big theme of the movie is family, between the Guardians and their relationships to people in their lives before they joined together. Along the way they run into many of their foibles from the previous film such as Nebula (Karen Gillan) and Yondu (Michael Rooker), whose relationships with the Guardians continue to grow and mutate.
One of the strongest attributes of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is the writing and direction by James Gunn, whose playful style is almost a character. Most of the Marvel movies feel a bit robotic, devoid of much personality. It has become harder and harder to tell one film apart from the others. This cannot be said for the work of Gunn, who injects a lot of humor and humanity into his characters. Despite this being only their second movie, the Guardians are already a more engaging group than the Avengers. This is because they exist in a gray area where, while they are heroes, they aren’t quite the one-dimensional characters of many other Marvel heroes; they are all flawed, but it is their internal struggles with those flaws that truly make them relatable.
Unlike the previous film, the story arc of this movie is a little more mysterious, but also a bit more methodical. The first film felt like a gradual build to a predictable end battle against a maniacal villain. This time the core conflict takes longer to appear before building to an even more frenetic ending. This leads to a stronger last act, but there are parts in between that feel less essential and perhaps could have been cut down or removed entirely. The core story line has more heart this time around (and felt like a Fast and Furious movie with the number of times they referenced family), but it still feels like it could have been fleshed out a bit more with a little bit better pacing.
The breakout star of the movie is Baby Groot (who was already a fan favorite the first time around), who not only ends up being the basis of many of the comedic moments, but also a lot of the action plot points, as well. It is great that the movie was really able to get a lot of mileage out of the character, but as far as the whole experience goes, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 feels less cohesive than its predecessor. The original Guardians of the Galaxy felt very much like a team effort, similar to The Avengers, but here it isn’t quite as well balanced. In particular, Zoe Saldana and Dave Bautista (and even to a certain degree, Chris Pratt) feel underutilized and are not really given material for their characters to work through.
Kurt Russell’s presence is one of the bright spots (and even the CGI younger Russell isn’t too off putting), which shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. He is currently in the midst of a bit of career renaissance (between this and his role in the Fast and Furious series) and continues to be able to show a good amount of charisma as an actor. His chemistry with the rest of the cast is effortless, showing that pretty much any film benefits from the addition of Kurt Russell. He takes on a monumental task with an incredibly complex character in Ego (one that is larger than the other characters…you’ll see) and makes it come across as totally natural.
Not unlike films like Star Wars, one of the interesting questions this film raised for me, is how much longer before a film like this will be done entirely in CGI. An important portion of the cast members are all CGI; a huge amount of the locations are created with CGI; a large portion of the action scenes are done in CGI… It doesn’t quite have the grounded nature other Marvel movies due to it largely taking place in space. This is not to say this is a problem in this movie, but does give it a bit of a video game-like feel at various points.
Without more context of the comic backstory, Guardians of the Galaxy‘s place in the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe is still a bit separated. However, this film helped bring that gap one step closer for Avengers: Infinity War. There are certainly elements of this movie that will continue to resonate with me, but it is hard for me to think back about the whole film and see a fair amount of material that is fairly forgettable. One viewing is essential, but I feel less compelled for additional repeat viewings (except to maybe try and catch the many Easter eggs that come at the viewer fast and frequently). Overall, it is a solid effort and even a moderately successful Guardians movie is better than most of the other Marvel offerings. If nothing else, the opening sequence is able to live up top the high standard of its predecessor.