When the Marvel Cinematic Universe was conceived in 2008 with the first Iron Man, clearly, producer Kevin Feige’s task was to establish a number of Marvel favorites in their own solo films and if successful, they would assemble for The Avengers, which not only ended up being a huge hit, it led to the possibilities of where Marvel Studios could go. Following the likes of a space Viking and a World War II super solider, what many considered Marvel’s riskiest project back then was a space opera comprised of a gun-toting raccoon, a talking tree and a soundtrack of featuring music primarily from the 1970s.
However, writer/director James Gunn – whose career began with Troma movies – injected a witty and inventive personality into a title that not every comic book fan was familiar with – Guardians of the Galaxy. Now, Marvel has unleashed the next chapter in its space franchise with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.Three years have passed since that lightning in a bottle that was the first volume, so can Gunn strike that same chord with this sequel?
For the most part, yes!
Taking place a few months after the first film, Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax (Dave Bautista), Rocket Raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper), and Baby Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) are renowned as the Guardians, who become targets of the Sovereign race, ruled by Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki). As the Guardians try to escape from this threat throughout the cosmos, they come across a figure who reveals himself as Quill’s father Ego (Kurt Russell).
Although there is another franchise that Vin Diesel stars in – and no matter how much the Fast & Furious series tries to shove the message of family down our throats – I get more of a sense of family toward this pack of dysfunctional aliens than those car fanatics. You soon realize that the plot is secondary to the characters being front and center, and most of the film, it is the comedic banter between the characters that drives it all than the expensive pixels projected in nearly every frame.
There are times when gags are overly stretched and even getting in the way of the action, but when the film opens perfectly with Baby Groot dancing to “Mr. Blue Sky” by Electric Light Orchestra while his fellow Guardians battle a giant monster in the background, right away you are drawn back into the adventures of these cosmic outsiders. The dynamic between them is still the likable same, but in Empire Strike Back mode, the characters become divided whilst new additions are added to the cluster from known players such as Karen Gillan’s Nebula and Michael Rooker’s Yondu (both of which get more to do this time round), to Pom Klementieff as newcomer Mantis who adds a mixture of adorableness and awkwardness that feels fresh to the team.
Although this volume doesn’t fall into the trap of other MCU sequels such as Iron Man 2 and Avengers: Age of Ultron, in which the narrative is succumbed by the studio’s desire to expand their cinematic universe, Gunn is wrestling with a plot that tries to do too much and suffers from problems that even the first film had, with most of the villains underused and the third act that relies too heavily on CGI.
Despite Gunn trying to do something different from the predecessor, which had an element of surprise, no matter how much bigger this sequel goes with an Awesome Mix Vol. 2 under its belt, it is slightly overshadowed by what came before.