Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2, is directed by James Gunn and stars Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Michael Rooker, the voices of Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel and Kurt Russell.
There are three things this movie accomplishes: (1) it’s a lot of fun with jokes and sequences that have you laughing out loud frequently. It’s not a comedy, but it is definitely light-hearted comic book fun that doesn’t take itself too seriously and the characters are actually in on it throughout; (2) it answers the questions raised in the first Guardians movie and is heavy on character development, giving more form and substance to each member of the team by providing a lot of backstory and exploration of motivations; (3) it continues the Marvel Cinematic Universe timeline racing towards the Infinity War, which of course the Guardians are going to be part of.
Now it’s the second of these three points that is the real strenght of this movie. Whereas the first movie had so much to introduce, so much world building of the Marvel galaxy off Earth to do plus telling an entertaining story that it didn’t have time to get in to really heavy details of where the characters were coming from or why they did what they did. Probably Gamora got the most backstory attention as the daughter of Thanos, the big baddie which Marvel has been building up for years, while Peter Quill was simply someone who was stolen from Earth and raised by space pirates, etc etc. So here we know who each of these characters are and what they are doing together and there is more time to dig in. Some of this is satisfying and some of it isn’t really, with some forced emotional engagement that didn’t really engage me, mainly between Gamora and her sister Nebulae, played by a wholly unrecognizable Karen Gillan. The main focus of the film is on Peter Quill reuniting with his father, a character named Ego played by Kurt Russell, and which I will say no more about because…spoilers.
Now perhaps because of this attention to character, there is not as much attention to a plot that is as exciting or refreshing as the first one. If you recall when the first film was being teased, a lot of people were looking at Guardians of the Galaxy with some trepidation as a Marvel Universe film until they saw it. It had a talking raccoon, for crying out loud, plus Vin Disel playing an animated tree. There were very good reasons to have some doubts as to what was coming but James Gunn did such a masterful job of story telling with great humor and dialogue that Guardians was a great movie-going experience. The same can be said of this movie, except less so. You have two primary drivers pushing the characters from place to place, and I won’t give any spoilers but I’ll say that there is this race of golden people who probably looked and sounded better on paper than they do on screen.
Another consequence of the character building is there is a lot of exposition, characters explaining things by giving short speeches or talking to each other in ways that they wouldn’t unless there is an audience watching. One comes to expect that sort of thing here and there, but in Guardians there is a LOT of that, mainly to either give context to what is about to happen or to explain some vital piece of backstory which we need to know so the character’s motivations and actions make more sense. I did not enjoy this.
Despite these distractions, the third act of this movie finally brings things together with some emotionally affecting scenes of surprising power that, of course, bring our characters closer together and resolve the various plot lines of this film. There was one resolution for Quill’s character in particular that I did not see coming and which was very satisfying even if somewhat bittersweet.
One other thing I’ll mention, just because it was so well done, is the character of Baby Groot. I don’t know what Vin Diesel was doing, because his voice is hardly recognizable, but this is a fully realized and unbelievably cute character who gets a lot of focus and deservedly so. The CGI artists did a frankly amazing job with his facial expressions and body language and you are not going to be able to resist totally falling in love with him.
So all in all, I’m giving Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 a rating of Pretty Good. I had a good time and I think you will too. The action, dialogue and story are worth your time and money. Let me know in the comments what you thought and if you think I got this right. Of course, if you haven’t subscribed to the Critical Picture, then now is a great time to do so and please share this review. I’ll see you next time. Thanks for watching.