Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) was such a pleasant surprise when it was released. Despite the fact that many feared the near enough unknown team of misfits would be responsible for Marvel studio’s first financial flop. Yet the opposite occurred, with the film grossing over $750 million dollars worldwide, more than Captain America the Winter Soldier (2014) the same year. Proving that audiences had their trust in Marvel confirmed, a sequel was inevitable, and I was certainly excited to see what Director James Gunn had in store for us this time. And whilst Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 (2017) isn’t a terrible film, it is unfortunately a disappointment.
Taking place a couple months after Star Lord, Gamora, Drax, Rocket and Groot saved the Galaxy from Ronan in the first film; the team has now bonded and are continuing their intergalactic adventures of fun, excitement and danger. On one mission, the team encounter a mysterious man with incredible abilities who has an incredibly personal connection to Star Lord, his father Ego. From there, the film explores the father son relationship, as well as the frantic escapades of the remaining Guardians. Not only that, the film explores new characters such as the telepath Mantis, and returning side characters Nebula and Yondu.
So with that setup, it sounds like we are in for another amazing thrill ride, filled with intelligent and hilarious jokes, whilst developing the characters that audiences have been enthralled by. Sadly, I left the film incredibly frustrated with Vol 2. What made the first film so fresh was the perfect balance of drama and comedy, connected through meaningful character development. In Vol 2, there is a complete abundance of jokes, dismissing the equally crucial elements to a secondary concern. That crucial balance of blending comedy with meaningful and impactful drama is what connects us to the characters so effectively throughout the many instalments of the MCU. Here, there is a clear deviation from said formula, which sounds like a brave and exhilarating new direction for Marvel to experiment with, yet it comes across as bland for the most part. There are jokes that do work, especially from the hilarious Drax and insanely cute Baby Groot. But most of the time, the one liners are awkward and have no purpose in advancing the story or developing the characters like they did in the original.
Speaking of characters, there is a sense of disparity of the Guardians as a team. Now this could work, if there is a sense of engagement with each individual subplot that concerns each team member. And whilst it’s certainly intriguing to see the relationship between Star Lord and Ego form (With great performances by Chris Pratt and Kurt Russell), the other members suffer as a result. The narrative as a whole constantly bounces from one sub plot to the other, with no real sense of flow. Thankfully the characters were wonderfully constructed in the first film so that we could truly care about them. Therefore, there is a carryover of that empathy that is engraved into the team, yet the displacement of Gamora, Drax, Rocket and Groot is felt, with Star Lord’s story easily being the most developed. Nonetheless, there are a handful of characters that are layered to a far greater degree in this film, most notably Yondu. Michael Rooker gives a standout performance to a character that I didn’t particularly care for in the first film, so much credit should be given to him. We also receive some required backstory for Nebula, which is much appreciated. However, I felt Mantis was a bland character overll, and her presence in the story was wasted. As for the main team, I just found Rocket to be objectively unlikeable in this film. I understand his personality is meant to be somewhat controversial, yet I feel it went overboard this time around.
That being said, the film is a visual delight. One of the greatest aspects of the MCU is that it can transcend beyond Earth and can transport us to stunningly beautiful environments, such as Asgard in the Thor films, to pretty much any of the locations found within the Guardians films. The camerawork captures the incredible dedication of the special effects department, who must be considered for an Academy Award at the beginning of 2018. There are also some welcome cameos from the realms of Marvel comics, most of which only truly engrossed fans will understand, yet provide entertainment for general audiences. Unfortunately, the soundtrack, which was perhaps the most memorable aspect for the first film for some viewers, is a let-down here. There are some brilliant songs this time around, such as Mr Blue Sky which is incorporated brilliantly in the film’s opening action sequence, yet for the most part, the songs aren’t used as effectively as in the first volume.
So overall, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 was a huge disappointment for me. It’s not an awful film by any stretch, yet compared to not only the original Guardians, but also to the standard of the MCU in general, this is a step backwards. I wasn’t going in expecting this to be better than the first, as Guardians of the Galaxy was so fresh and original, it would almost be impossible to maintain that effect. But being honest, I left this film considering it to be my least favourite in the MCU thus far, and that may still hold true.
I give Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 5.5/10