First Word: When the first Guardians of the Galaxy blasted into theatres in 2014, it was a surprise and a revelation. It came out in late July-a certain sign that producers didn’t expect much from the movie. The movie featured a bevy of second-tier stars playing more obscure comic book characters. Three years, a Chris Pratt supernova and three-quarters of a billion dollars later, Vol. 2 didn’t sneak up on anyone. So whether you loved or completely avoided Guardians, that choice will likely decide what you do with Vol. 2 because this sequel flies in the same content universe.
Synopsis: Starlord (Chris Pratt) Gamora (Zoey Saldana), Drax ( Dave Bautista), Rocket (Bradley Cooper), and Groot (Vin Diesel)) are back for another adventure. The Guardians are called to defeat an interdimensional beast at the behest of a race known as The Sovereign. Part of the payment for this feat is Gamora’s semi-cyborg sister, Nebula, whom the Guardians want to turn in for the substantial bounty on her head. But when Rocket steals a boatload of batteries from the rather touchy Sovereign, the planet’s leader hires Yondu – the blue-skinned pirate who kidnapped a young Peter decades ago and essentially raised the boy- to haul the Guardians back to face their crimes. And if that wasn’t enough to make for a super-awkward family reunion, in comes Ego, a turbo powered galactic Celestial who claims to be Starlord’s father. Oh and in addition to looking a bit like Kurt Russell, he simultaneously serves as his very own planet. Ego has been an absentee father all these years, but he’d like to make it up to Starlord by taking him home. It’s a tempting offer. But now that he has found his father what does it mean for his other family- the family that bonded over heroism, wisecracks and classic rock? The universe can be a cold, empty void. When you find someone to fill that void, it’s hard to let go. 7/10
Characterization: James Gunn did an excellent job of giving each character special moments in this film. While in most superhero sequels the director only seems to focus on bigger and better action sequences, Gunn focuses on his characters. Perhaps the greatest misstep of “Vol. 2” is Gunn’s insistence that the follow-up play by sequel rules, separating the Guardians for most of the run time. After watching them fight to become a team in Guardians of the Galaxy, it’s disappointing to watch the dynamic group disappear for round two. The screenplay portions out individual challenges, including Gamora’s ferocious fight with Nebula, fueled by long-simmering jealousies. Rocket finds himself stuck with Yondu, with the pair forced to rely on Baby Groot to engineer a jail break when the Ravagers catch up to them (the subplot also gives birth to a running gag about one Ravager’s poorly chosen nickname). Drax is repulsed by Ego’s personal empath, Mantis (a delightful Pom Klementieff), but can’t keep his eyes off her antennae (the movie’s largest laughs are found here). And Peter remains caught between the possibilities of life with Ego and his team responsibilities, including his love for Gamora. Separation is meant to inspire fresh character motivations, but there’s a certain snap lacking from “Vol. 2,” which occasionally remains in one place for too long. 7.5/10
Cinematography: Visually, “Vol. 2” is a resplendent movie, with exemplary design elements and CGI work, including an eye-popping visit to Ego’s planet, which is a Technicolor paradise, giving the feature amazing expanse. Gunn also utilizes slo-mo to capture grander scenes of destruction, with one of Yondu’s Yaka Arrow attacks creating a rainfall of dead bodies as the whistler struts to his freedom. There’s a lot to take in while watching Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, and while some of Gunn’s decisions aren’t strong (the 45-minute-long climax is more about noise than spectacle), he constructs a worthy continuation. 8/10
Conclusion: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 is a good sequel that doesn’t play too many MCU games of set-up, remains flush with cameos and surprises, and stays relatively aware of what fans enjoy about the characters in the first place. It’s tremendous fun, even when it could be a little better.
Final Score: 7.5/10