Movie Review: ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2’

Reuben Wolf, Arts Editor

It may sound like sacrilege now, but I did not care much for the first Guardians of the Galaxy, which became a huge hit in 2014.  The energetic, colorful, vibrant film was touted as a breath of fresh air by many.  But to this critic, it was just another story about a rag-tag team of anti-heroes who come together to fight for the greater good.  It also doesn’t hurt to mention how great the soundtrack was, too.

Again, I never thought it was anything to really write home about.

Now, we have the continuation of that story.  With Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, we have a very different approach than the first one took.

A lot has been said in the new business of cinematic world-building and their origins stories.  But not much is ever really said about the gamut of sequel formulas with which we have become familiarized.

Especially that of Marvel sequels, and how many have paled in comparison to their predecessors.

Many have tried the same thing, try to be darker than the original because the original was so fresh that we can now simmer into dark character story time.  Unfortunately, in the cases of Iron Man 2 and Avengers: Age of Ultron, it didn’t work out.

Guardians, on the other hand, is able to deliver the dark story with emotional investment that turns out effective results.

One trick director James Gunn has up his sleeve is to keep the elements that made the first Guardians shine.  This new film is just as colorful, filled with irreverent humor, and has just as cool a soundtrack as the first film.

Because he has that down, he can move on to the story, which weaves like this:

After protecting batteries for the Sovereign and having Gamora’s (Zoe Saldana) sister, Nebula (Karen Gillian), returned to her, the Guardians are chased down when Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) has stolen some of these batteries.  They are aided in escaping the fatal fleet by someone who is revealed to be Peter Quill’s/ Star-lord’s (Chris Pratt) father, Ego (Kurt Russell).

Ego is essentially a god-like figure and Quill, Gamora, and Drax (Dave Bauttista) are invited to his planet.  In the meantime, Rocket is to stay behind and watch Nebula, but is then thwarted by Yondu (Michael Rooker) and his pirates who were hired to recapture the Guardians.

If it sounds like there is a lot here to unpack, perhaps it is just because I have written it that way.  There is never a moment where you feel overwhelmed by the plot.  However, there are plenty of moments that are emotionally resonant.  By know mean is it the enthusiastic and energetic film you saw three years ago.  It is a welcome change of pace, though.

This new Guardians is mostly composed of quiet, somber moments.  There is more time devoted to learning about characters and their backstories than there is to high-octane action.  When the action finally does come in a great sequence towards the end, it all feels earned, not necessary.

Considering the surprise hit that the first Guardians of the Galaxy was, studios possibly gave Gunn license to take this new film in any direction he wanted.  I’d like to assume that Gunn is attached to the Guardians on a personal level more than anything he has ever worked on before.

Earlier this year, I reviewed a film he wrote but did not direct, The Belko Experiment.  It was also a film that needed to balance many character stories at once.  But that movie was a failure because Gunn was ready to kill off this large cast of characters.

It seems that Gunn is more talented when his objective is finding ways to keep characters alive, whether it be in spirit, emotion, or purely physical.

Guardians has five post-credit sequences, three of which you’d probably have to have prior knowledge of the comics and two that are purely funny.

This Guardians is still a fun space adventure, not meant for the whole family, with emotional punches that will leave you ready for Vol. 3.

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