Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Movie Review (Spoiler Free)
The sequel to the highly praised Guardians of the Galaxy manages to be a fun galactic ride, even if it loses much of its predecessor’s charm.
Genre: Action / Fantasy / Sci-Fi
Director: James Gunn
Cast: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Michael Rooker, Kurt Russell, Pom Klementieff, Karen Gillan, Elizabeth Debicki, Sean Gunn, Chris Sullivan & Sylvester Stallone.
Run Time: 137 min.
US Release: 05 May 2017
UK Release: 28 April 2017
German Release: 27 April 2017
Welcome back! Next on my list of Marvel reviews, leading up to Avengers: Infinity War, is Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, which I missed writing about last year. Since the first Guardians is one of my favourite comic book adaptations ever made, this film was one of my most anticipated of 2017. Given the fact that it was released just one year ago, I will keep my review spoiler free. James Gunn returned to direct the sequel and managed to deliver a fun, yet, somewhat disappointing second part.
Officially recognised as heroes after saving Xandar, the Guardians are called upon by many planets and races to help with their problems. The biggest yet comes in the form of Ego (Russell), a celestial being that claims to be Quill’s (Pratt) father. Along the way, the Guardians need to fight through a horde of new enemies, while old foes turn to unlikely allies.
Let me begin by saying that this sci-fi blockbuster opens up with a blast of highly entertaining musical-action. While the first Guardians of the Galaxy was more of an introductory piece, giving each character an equal amount of screen time, Vol. 2 focuses more on Peter Quill’s lineage and his relationship with Yondu. The past of other characters is also explored but this is primarily Star-Lord’s personal story. It also expands on the mythology of the galaxy that is established in the first movie, without changing too much of the successful formula, like amping up the humour. It also includes a good amount of action and emotion.
However, compared to its predecessor the pacing is not flowing as smooth and feels very disjointed at times, especially when it comes to the second act where the characters split-up. More time is invested in Quill’s and Ego’s relationship, even though their arc is the less juiciest and thus the narrative can drag at times. It would have made for a less bland flick if the focus had lain more on Rocket and Yondu. It is also worth noting that due to the uneven storytelling, all the little side-plots make the movie seem more packed than it actually is.
The banter between each member of the team is the main source of humour, with more 80’s pop-cultural references thrown into the dialogue. It is mostly well written and delivered by the cast, although it is also used as exposition, to explain certain aspects of the film extensively.
This sequel ups the game by introducing new characters, as well as delving deeper into the past of already established personas. Yet, these new characters never truly feel like a part of the galaxy established in Vol. 1 - especially the race of the Sovereign sticks out like a sore thumb. Baby Groot, one the other hand, is utilised phenomenal without him ever becoming too cute or annoying.
Chris Pratt returns to play Peter Quill/Star-Lord and gives a well-rounded performance by exploring the character’s temperament, feelings of loneliness and fear of emotional rejection. Quill is also the central character, as much of the screen time revolves around his personal heritage, finally finding out who his father is. It is nice to see that his relationship with the other members of the Guardians has also deepened, giving a natural progression to their friendship and fleshing him further out as a person.
Problems arise when it comes to the other main characters; Gamora, Drax, Rocket and Groot are pretty much sidelined in this blockbuster, since the stuffed narrative can’t make enough space to focus on their personas as well. Gamora, depicted by Zoe Saldana, is mostly used to push the romantic side-plot between her and Peter forward. Saldana has good chemistry with Pratt but it is sad to see a strong female character, as hers, be played down like that. Drax is dumbed down to serve as the comedic anchor and Rocket is used as a tool to reflect Yondu’s personality, to make him more accessible to the audience.
Kurt Russell was a great casting addition and gives a memorable rendition of Ego the “Living Planet”. Ego himself is a powerful entity of the galaxy, though, his character is not written very interesting and his motives, while understandable, are very clichéd. Russell has great chemistry with Chris Pratt and is believable as Quill’s possible father.
Yondu, played by a magnificent Michael Rooker, is given more of an important role in this sequel. The blue-skinned space pirate’s turbulent background is explored, as well as his history with Quill. Rooker gives one of the best and most emotional renditions, moving the audience in the theatre and me to tears. Karen Gillan, who portrays Nebula, is also given more screen time. Her dramatic past as Thanos daughter is explored through conversations with her sister Gamora, however, she seems to over-dramatise every scene she is in.
The cinematography is once again superb. Action scenes are well choreographed, captured in adrenaline-fueled wide-shots and beautiful close-ups. The neon blues, greens or pinks give the setting of the galaxy a vibrant touch, at the same time, the great lighting gives the picture a strong and clear look. The special effects are mostly extraordinary, specifically the make-up and costume designs. Computer graphics-wise, this feature is a mixed bag. While the design for the characters of Rocket and Groot look realistic, as well as those of other characters or settings; some of the battles that are designed via software do stand out, distracting from the segments displayed on screen.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2 picks up music-wise were the first one left, with an expansion of 80’s popular rock songs by well-known bands. Again, the music is used to amplify the emotions exhibited in different scenes.
Verdict: I expected more from Gunn’s sequel to the fantastic space opera we obtained back in 2014. While the story wisely focuses on telling more of a personal tale, other than an explosive sequel with more action, the pacing is incoherent due to the uneven amount of time given to each plot. The cast gives a good performance, while the past of the main characters are examined. Yet the main focus lies on Peter Quill and his lineage. Smaller roles are not integrated as well into the settings as was the case in the first sci-fi blockbuster. The camera work and special effects are fantastic, capturing the big battle scenes wonderfully, while the colours and lighting compliment the world around these characters. The CGI effects, on the other hand, are a mixed bag. In the end, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is a good sequel, even if it was a little bit disappointing. I will, therefore, grant it an 8.0 out of 10. Were you as torn as me about this sequel? My next Marvel review will be for Thor Ragnarok, so keep an eye out. Thank you for reading and if you like my reviews make sure to subscribe!