Before diving into my review of Guardians of the Galaxy vol 2 let me give you some context into my feelings on the first film. I LOVED it! For me it was a new Star Wars film before we got Star Wars back. It wasn’t a typical Marvel movie but it was a space opera and I loved seeing our team of misfits form and search for their orb/infinity stone. I loved the humor, action, charismatic actors and bright color palate. Just a great movie. 9/10 or A grade from me.
So let’s talk about this sequel. Naturally loving the first film I was very excited for the follow up but I still tried to enjoy it as its own film and not compare it too much. In the end, I feel Guardians of the Galaxy vol 2 is at best a mixed bag. It’s not awful but I had major problems with it.
At the outset of the movie our team is commissioned by a leader Ayesha to guard a series of batteries. This leads to a great opening that heavily features the world’s favorite adorable creation- Baby Groot! Of course, we have seen Baby Groot all over the marketing for the movie and he did not disappoint. Soooo adorable!
This scene also features everything you like about the first film. It has witty banter from the entire team, fun action as they fight a monster and a catchy song. I thought ‘Oh boy! This is going to be awesome!”
Unfortunately just a few scenes later they make a massive mistake that had a large impact on my enjoyment of the film: They divide up the team!!! Peter meets his father and half the crew go with him while half stay behind and end up with Yondu and his crew.
This was such a terrible choice for a number of reasons:
- Hurts the humor- When you have a large group of characters the humor can be a mixture of all their types of comedy. So you will get one Groot joke mixed in with Drax, Peter, Rocket etc. When you have just Rocket and Groot then their type of jokes become repetitive and tired very quickly.
- Hurts the emotion- It’s the same with emotion. We are with a character and they have an emotional moment. Then they leave that character for a long stretch hurting their story and emotional arc.
- Hurts the team- Characters aren’t able to feed off each other and create that winning chemistry I loved so much in the first film. Sometime this can help you get to know characters better like in Star Trek Beyond but that was not the case here.
- Hurts the action- Because they are all split up the action is pretty sparse. For instance, Drax is sitting talking almost the entire movie. He’s Drax the Destroyer for goodness sake, and he doesn’t destroy anything.
I guess all of this would be fine if the story was compelling but it is not. They try to set up several different family dynamics. There is Peter and his father, Peter and Gamora, Gamora and Nebula, Groot and Rocket and Yandu and Peter. While I appreciated the message of family, the film became too cluttered with relationships that they weren’t as developed as they could have been.
The villain is another surprise villain. About the 10,000th one I’ve seen in recent years and I’m tired of it. It was so obvious and the plan for world domination makes no sense unless he or she wants to be completely alone in the whole galaxy. Even if he or she did, it still strains credulity to believe this insane plan (and the way it is explained is hard to follow or feel invested in).
I was also disappointed in the Nebula/Gamora storyline. I liked Nebula in the first film when most people didn’t. I thought she had a wounded quality to her that I wish had been more developed. Well, unfortunately she is seen more here but Karen Gillan overcooks it in the villainy department. Also she flips around from good girl to bad in ways that didn’t work for me or feel authentic.
So, from all that it seems like I had a miserable experience at this movie. No. I didn’t but I’d be lying if I didn’t share those major problems I had. However, there are some things I liked.
First, like I said, I liked Baby Groot and a lot of the comedy did work. It would have worked better if they hadn’t divided the group but a lot still made me laugh. Drax gets some funny lines with a new girl named Mantis. Rocket has a lot of humor including a hilarious sequence with Baby Groot getting him things for a jailbreak.
Second, Michael Rooker is great as Yondu. I didn’t think Yondu would be the most fleshed out and interesting character in the film but he was. We learn about his association with a band of ruffians called The Ravagers. He has upset them and we get to find out why through the course of the movie. We also learn about why he took Peter and his connection to Peter’s father. Yondu also has the best action scene in the movie with an arrow thing he uses to take out a fleet of men (Sorry I don’t know what the arrow thing is called).
Third, even if it could have been more focused, I still loved the overall message about family. I think Vin Diesel might have carried this over from the Fast and the Furious movies because they are all about family. I particularly appreciated the focus on alternative families- that families are not always about blood but so much more.
Fourth, it is a beautiful looking movie. James Gunn has done it again with amazing cinematography and special effects. The planet Peter’s father lives on was beautiful and lush. I loved all the bright colors and dazzling world building. The special effects on Rocket and Baby Groot are flawless. You forget they aren’t actual talking raccoons and walking baby trees.
There also is a joyous feeling to the picture which makes it pleasing to watch. While some of the jokes grow tired it never made me angry or annoyed like other fantasy films. I mostly wasn’t bored although there were a few moments that dragged.
The soundtrack was a bit of a mixed bag. There are some great songs but a few of them felt very on-the-nose Also, I didn’t like that characters mentioned the songs so much. In the original they are this awesome background gift to enjoy (aside from Peter listening to them they don’t work into the story and he doesn’t repeat lyrics or talk about the individual songs). Here there is even one song where the lyrics are repeated verbatim and the life experience fits perfectly into the situation at hand. It makes the song choice feel uncreative and obvious when they were so great in the original. Still, there are some good songs. Cat Stevens and Electric Light Orchestra are used particularly well.
In the end, Guardians of the Galaxy vol 2 is a mixed bag leaning towards the negative. I have really struggled with what grade to give it and whether to make it smile or frown worthy. Other films I have given smiles to like Ghost in the Shell feel less worthy than this film but this is way more of a disappointment and downgrade from the original film. It’s really tough…
I’m torn but I think my disappointment is going to rule the day:
Overall Grade- C (It is without a doubt in my bottom 5 Marvel movies. No question)
Also this is pretty raunchy for a Marvel movie. It definitely earns its PG-13.
You can all hate me now…
Check out my podcast with my friend Trevor from How to Love Comics where we break it all down
31 thoughts on “Guardians of the Galaxy vol 2 Review (Spoiler Free)”
The main problem I had with this movie was how weak the story was, particularly on Peter’s end as at least Rocket, Groot and Yandu were given an objective and obstacles – that was my own issue with splitting up the team, but otherwise I felt the emotion and character interactions still worked. (I especially liked those between Rocket and Yandu.) I also felt the family dynamics explored were sufficiently compelling, and as for the villain’s motivation, it could be argued that he’s not human and thus cannot be expected to think the same way. I also didn’t fall in love with Baby Groot like everyone else did – I certainly didn’t dislike him, but I was relieved that he didn’t take over the film as he took over the opening credits. So overall, I felt it was far from the best MCU movie – I’d put it 10th out of 15 – but I still found it a positive experience.
I can see what you mean about Peter’s story and I agree. I guess it is an interesting point about the villain being non-human. I hadn’t thought about it quite that way. There was definitely fun to be had in it which is why I struggled to write the review and decide on my grade
Fascinating. I wasn’t enamored by GotG, and started to find the fan fervor insufferable for a while. At first, I was nervous that the movie would be a lame retread of a film I wasn’t that keen on to begin with. So, you can imagine my surprise when it went to great lengths to develop the characters, introduce a better villain and provide a more interesting story. I think we can live to see another day if Drax doesn’t get an action scene if the story itself is more focused and less sequential.
You found the splitting up of the team detrimental to the film, I found it was a successful experiment that allowed individual Guardians to develop their relationships with each other. All of them all tie into the overarching father-son/family theme, certainly better than F8 of the Furious. The reason it worked for me is because each of the family relationships fed into the dynamic between Peter and his father, even when it takes a dark turn. And best of all, the finale and resolution is NOT a cop-out – as in no “dance off, bro!” scene, which practically killed the last film for me.
But it isn’t perfect like you said; not every joke works, and splitting up the team does slow down the pacing. The 80s soundtrack isn’t as memorable, even if the orchestral score is better. The first act felt like it was going to be a weak retread of the first film, and Rocket was a jackass for the first half. Thankfully, it did pull together in the end for me. But I do feel bad that you found it disappointing.
Shrug. You win some. You lose some. Glad it worked for you. I did have some positives so I understand some of what you are saying but yeah especially dividing up the team really didnt work for me
I mostly agree with that. The soundtrack (which I agree was not as interesting) was taken from the 60s to 70s not the 80s. In addition I think Rocket being a jackass did pay off when we got to see why he was like that.
Well, wasn’t expecting that.
Yep. Me either
It’s definitely not as structurally sound as the first one but I still very much enjoyed it. Didn’t have a problem with the group being split up myself, but I agree that their dynamic as a whole is the film’s main selling point
Yeah like most things it comes down to the writing
I thought splitting them up actually helped Vol. 2 much in the same way the storyline in The Empire Strikes Back did the very same thing. It built upon its predecessor. I loved being introduced to Guardians team in the first film more. I suppose James Gunn could have delivered another copycat film but he took a risk. He changed it up and made Vol.2 funnier, formed relationships to more emotionally resonant which strengthened the overall chemistry amongst the team. The action setpieces are bigger and more awe-inspiring too. I loved it.
I’m glad all those things worked for you. Thanks for reading. I didnt want a copycat but I think the positive traits of a franchise should be built upon not taken away. To me dividing up the team hurt the comedy, characters and emotion. Anyway different strokes I guess. There were some things I liked
I loved it…after it sunk in. Yeah, when I left the theatre I was reeling because I was so emotional over Yondu and everything, and for a while I couldn’t really decide how to feel about the movie as a whole. But the more I thought about it, the more I fall on the “I like it just as much as the first part” side. It has some problems…some jokes I would have removed or shortened, and there are a few exposition dumps too many in it. But I actually like leaning back and just watching the characters interact with each other and with new characters.
I’m glad you enjoyed it so much
I honestly think that what you and I are looking for from these movies is just completely different. I know it will surprise you that I even went to see this movie, but not only did I see it, I put a lot of time preparing to see the movie, too. I watched the trailer for the original several times, listened to the music, and read the first two chapters of the novelization at the store. I really did try to get myself in the right mindset to see this movie, and honestly…
I wasn’t disappointed, I was completely blown away. The opening scene in the original did not set the tone for the rest of the film at all. I didn’t know how to feel about Peter watching his mother die. It’s sad but we didn’t know them yet so it’s hard to care about them, and then when Peter was abducted by aliens afterwards I had no clue how to react. This film, on the other hand, sets the tone perfectly right off the bat, showing us a happy scene with the sadness (and eventually darkness and tragedy once the truth is revealed) lingering under the surface. And from there we are thrown into scenes that are as you said a good mix of comedy and action, just as the original should have been.
But from there the pace actually slows down and the movie evolves into a very character-driven drama. And we start to get everything I wanted from the original, character development, story development, insight into the characters’ backstories, and it feels like we are in a fully-realized world instead of just being thrown around place to place to planets with crazy names. Everything builds upon the original, rather than simply repeating it. The movie is over two hours long, and I was thoroughly wrapped up in it from start to finish, and didn’t care how long it would last.
I honestly disagree with all of your criticisms. I think splitting the team up was a good idea because it allowed us to look at them individually, and it explored new dyamics and character contrasts such as the relationship between Yondu and Rocket (here, even the talking raccoon gets to have depth!) I think this movie was more than just a comedy, and we already got to see how they worked as a team in the start and in the original. I think it makes the film more interesting to go back between the two, so we can take a break from one storyline without it all trying to be crammed into a jumble featuring all of them that could be overwhelming. Drax is the least-developed in this movie, true, but at least they stopped those Godawful Amelia Bedelia jokes about how he can’t understand metaphors.
I thought the twist was shocking and dramatic, and it really was effective in showing how the connections we make can be meaningful, and just having blood with each other is not always what matters. It’s an area Kung Fu Panda 3 and Finding Dory didn’t have the nerve to explore. Adoptive families and parents can be true parents, and the film showed that, and demonstrated the value in interpersonal connection. I was really sold on how seriously Feige took this movie when I read an article about how (SPOILER: he didn’t want to kill Yondu, but had to because it was what was best for the story. I think that’s why it’s very important that both Yondu and Ego die.) This film really gave me everything I could possibly want! In addition to the things I’ve already mentioned, people making connections with each other, a positive message that finally gave this series meaning, real characters! Better than The Avengers, and damn well better than the original! I think I might have actually loved it, and all I really want is to see it again. XD
I’m glad you enjoyed it so much. Thanks for sharing your pov. I feel they took what was most special about the first and hurt it greatly. In fact it exposed the problems with the characters that you and others had told me about. These flaws were minimized because of the team dynamic. It felt like a movie that didnt know what made it special and was all over the place and very predictable. But yeah for me my 3rd worse Marvel movie no question. Shrug. Different strokes
I remember quoting Confused Matthew saying “All we get from the characters is their backstories. There is never a moment for them to develop personalities.” I think this film solved that problem and elaborated on the characters’ backstories, using it to build the characters’ personalities. Confused Matthew even mentioned on Facebook that anyone who didn’t cry at the ending had a heart of stone so I assume even he liked it. But I have to admit I don’t know what made the original special, either, so what do I know?
What’s sad is I really did hope that we would finally have 1 movie that we could just love together and agree on.
It’s pretty simple. You love different movies for different reasons. What made the first one special was the team and how the dialogue and characters flowed together. With this movie they took away that team dynamic and I found myself getting annoyed with the characters. Think of it this way. A clown works great when he is part of a circus. He’s this piece of a larger fun experience. However, when you have just the clown for say 15 minutes he gets annoying. That’s what happened with every character here. I loved them as a mixture of personalities but not on their own with this script.
And I didn’t hate the movie. There were things I liked and the Yondu funeral was emotional and effective. But I found I could not recommend the film because of the choices it made.
I’ve been pretty disappointed with most blockbusters lately. They feel hollow and unsatisfying so maybe it is just me but I did my best to explain my reasons. It’s hard to have an unpopular opinion but I’ve got to be honest.
Maybe I liked this more because I haven’t been watching the modern blockblusters. I still say that it would be interesting to watch a clown for 15 minutes if you develop the clown as a real individual human being outside of his place in the circus, so that we could get to know it as being something more than simply being a clown. And I did like the individual dynamics, but, oh well. Forget about it.
I guess James Gunn can write the circus but not the clown for me. You are in the majority on this one so nothing wrong with that opinion. I will be curious if this movie holds up for people in 2 or 3 years. Like everyone loved Jurassic World and I was a rare meh on it and now most have come around to my view. Or maybe it wont. Who knows.😕
And I completely disagree with Confused Matthew but what else is new. In original all we got is personality and that’s what made it great. The personalities as part of a team is what worked. Here we got the backstories and it exposed the shtick of the characters weakening them, not building them up. It made them kind of generic when they were special together. Shrug
Did it change how you felt about the original? I haven’t seen it in 2 and a half years now…
No. If anything it made me love the original more for how special it is in my opinion
I do have some complaints about the music, though. I still don’t think the 70s was that great an era for music, and music from the 80s might have been better. Mr. Blue Sky is a good catchy tune (and thank God that apart from Megamind, it finally had a better use than in that horrible Doctor Who episode) but it’s not really exciting enough to fit an action scene with a team fighting a monster. “Surrender” by Cheap Trick is so good, though, it shouldn’t have been saved for the credits. I also know that they wanted to use new songs so they wouldn’t be accused of rehashing the original, which I respect, but I think they should have used Hooked on a Feeling again at the end. It would have been awesome and it would have given the viewer a sense of nostalgia for the original, that I think would have been earned.
It was more how the songs were used that was my problem. In original they were this little gift or embelishment. Here characters talked about them and the Brandy song was so on the nose it made me groan
I watched the movie again and still loved it, and enjoyed this time keeping count of the little comic bits as they went along. I appreciated how the music was used much more, and I really do like the theme of how music means something to people, and the idea of how Peter listens to the music to inspire him throughout his life because it’s his last tie with his mother. The only scene they really talked about the music in was the Brandy scene and I think it was a well-done moment, and a nice touch, to give us an idea of why the music actually meant so much to Meredith Quill. It helps make it more than just fun music to listen to in the background.
I thought the Brandy scene was way too on the nose instead of being this background gift and there are other times where they talk about the music such as the argument at the beginning. Anyway glad you enjoyed it