This should be obvious by now, but I have to say it anyway. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is a vibrant explosion of fun, and I don’t know what you’re doing with your life if you haven’t seen it. Now that that’s out of the way, we pick up where we left off from Guardians of the Galaxy…
After pissing off the Sovereign high priestess Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki) and narrowly avoiding her attack, the Guardians of the Galaxy—Peter Quill/Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), Rocket (Bradley Cooper), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista), and Baby Groot (Vin Diesel)—crash-land on a planet only to be rescued by Peter Quill’s long-lost father Ego (Kurt Russell) and his “pet” Mantis (Pom Klementieff). Peter, desperate to connect with his father, goes to visit his home planet with Gamora and Drax while Rocket and Baby Groot stay behind with their prisoner, Gamora’s sister Nebula (Karen Gillan). Unfortunately, Rocket, Groot, and Nebula are captured by Yondu (Michael Rooker) and his gang of Ravagers, who’ve been hired by the Sovereigns. After the Ravagers mutiny, overthrowing Yondu for his “softness” toward Peter and the Guardians, Rocket and Groot join forces with Yondu to track down their team and defeat a great evil hiding at the center of Ego’s planet, saving the galaxy once more.
Since this is the second chapter in the Guardians of the Galaxy story, the sequel needed to accomplish the following to improve upon the first film and keep building its world: 1) showcase the group’s new dynamic, 2) further develop individual characters, and 3) raise the dramatic stakes for the characters and the world in which they live. So how’d the movie do?
As far as showcasing the group’s new dynamic goes, mission accomplished. The first film was all about bringing a group of reluctant criminal weirdos together to save the galaxy. Vol.2 starts by showing the Guardians working as a team, but then drives a wedge between them (specifically between Peter and Rocket, who both think they’re the leader) to show that they aren’t whole-heartedly working together just yet (similar to Avengers: Age of Ultron). Adding new members to the team (Nebula, Yondu, Mantis) creates a new dynamic as well. This sets up storylines and conflict for the Guardians in Vol. 3, as well as Avengers: Infinity War.
Where the film starts to wobble is further developing its characters. Unsurprisingly, a lot of time is spent with Peter’s story. He’s the team leader, and he was the audience’s view into this goofball universe in the first film, so it makes sense that we’re still following him a majority of the time. The downside? In an ensemble film, that’s not ideal. We do get a few glimpses into Drax’s previous life, Nebula and Gamora’s sibling rivalry, Rocket’s issues with being a team player, and Yondu’s fall from grace among the Ravagers. But because we spend so much time with Peter, we’re still baby-stepping our way with these characters and their arcs.
The biggest issues with Vol. 2 lie in its conflict, its dramatic stakes. Here, the screenplay’s weaknesses start to show. There’s the “unspoken thing” between Peter and Gamora, which, if I’m being honest, I couldn’t give a shit about one way or the other. Be together, don’t be together, cool. There’s the “Oops, the villain you saw in the trailer isn’t actually the villain” à la Iron Man 3. Yes, it’s an effective tactic for hiding bigger plot points, but we were promised an Elizabeth Debicki golden bitch queen. Of course, that’s because the true villain is Peter’s dad. What?! A character named Ego turns out to be the antagonist? Shocking! Now, I will say this—Ego is a decent villain (thanks to Kurt Russell’s infectious charisma), and the narrative surrounding Peter, Ego, and Yondu has gravitas because parent/child drama is something everyone can relate to. The problem is it’s a dramatic stake for Peter, not for the whole team. Yes, there’s a “destroy the galaxy” element to Ego’s villainy, but again…whose dad is it?
Criticism aside, THIS MOVIE IS SO MUCH FUN I WANT TO WATCH IT AGAIN AND AGAIN. This is what I think separates Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 from other sequels with sloppy plots and not-so-great character development—it kicks up the comedy, the action, and the visuals to an 11, making it much easier to ignore plot inconsistencies and character weaknesses.
From Baby Groot’s opening dance sequence and Drax’s never-ending laughter (He steals the movie, by the way) to Yondu’s amazing destruction of the Ravagers (set to the very catchy “Come a Little Bit Closer” by Jay & The Americans), this movie is exactly the kind of movie you want to sit it for two hours. It makes everything outside of the theater (or your home, if you watch it there later) go away. I don’t know about you, but I could use more escapism like this. It’s colorful, includes trash panda jokes, and has excellent music. I’M MARY POPPINS, Y’ALL.
Also, stick around for the five (Yes, five) mid-credits and post-credits scenes. For brevity’s sake, I’m not going to cover them, but you can learn more about them here.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2: A-
Listen to my Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 review on “Pat & JT in the Morning” here (at 37:14).