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