Review: Gunn's 'Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2' is an Emotional Cosmic Adventure

May 3, 2017

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Review

In 2014's Guardians of the Galaxy, James Gunn introduced the world to a team of miscreants and misfits forced to come together and save the galaxy. To put it bluntly, they're a bunch of a-holes. With the sequel, titled Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, the latest feature from Marvel Studios, the writer-director is tasked with delivering a story that not only continues the epic and irreverent adventures of Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) and his gang of lovable weirdos, but furthers their evolution as characters as well. Set to the '70s soft rock stylings of Awesome Mix Vol. 2, the sequel picks up a few months after the first film ended.

After saving Xandar from Ronan the Accuser, the Guardians have become famous throughout the universe as world-class mercenaries, selling their services to the highest bidder. Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and The Great Gatsby), the high priestess of a genetically perfect alien race known as the Sovereign, has hired the team to protect her planet and the valuable goods on it from an interdimensional beast. As payment, the priestess delivers the criminal Nebula (Karen Gillian), sister to Gamora (Zoe Saldana), to the Guardians so they can hand her over to Xandar's Nova Corps.

This new business relationship is going great until Rocket (Bradley Cooper) steals a few of the planet's precious batteries on the way out, making an enemy out of the arrogant autocrat. Pursued by the Sovereign fleet, the Guardians fly through a quantum asteroid field and end up crash-landing on an uninhabited world where they receive help from an unlikely source: Quill's long-lost father, Ego (Kurt Russell).

As a celestial being and intergalactic explorer, Ego has been searching for his son for a very long time and wants to make up for lost time by recruiting Quill for an important mission. Likewise, since learning he is only part-human, Quill has been on a quest to unravel the mystery of his true parentage. He's dreamed his whole life that his father was somebody special—somebody important. When he finally meets his larger-than-life dad, it fills a planet-sized hole in his heart, but his bond with the other Guardians is strained.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Review

Kurt Russell, known for his iconic roles in films like Escape from New York, The Thing, and The Hateful Eight, is an exciting addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Who better to play the father of a charming, sarcastic scoundrel than the veteran actor who captured both the cynical badassery of Snake Plissken and the laid-back swagger of Captain Ron? Russell delivers another memorable performance here and his chemistry with Pratt makes for a convincing father-son relationship that emotionally anchors the film.

If the first movie was about a group of self-interested outsiders becoming a family, then Vol. 2 focuses on them being a family, and how hard it is to stick together when your inclination is to just push people away. Each member of the team is dealing with this in his or her own way. Rocket's journey is especially poignant as he comes to terms with the anger and emptiness inside himself, all while trying to take care of Baby Groot. Voiced again by Vin Diesel, the adorable little Groot doesn't have the memories of his adult form. Prone to temper tantrums, Baby Groot must grow up quickly to prove his worth to the team, who react to his newfound infancy in different ways—some good, some bad.

Gamora, meanwhile, is working through her issues with Nebula while Drax (Dave Bautista) develops a friendship with another new addition to the cast, Pom Klemeneff playing Mantis. An odd, insect-like alien with empathic abilities, Mantis can interpret the emotions of others. When she touches Drax, she feels the profound loss he has experienced. She understands Drax in a way few others do—they both see the world in a very literal, childlike way. It will be interesting to see how this relationship, and Mantis' role as a Guardian, plays out as the story continues in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Review

Every character is a different person by the end of the movie, but it never feels forced. While writing the first film, Gunn couldn't write for a specific actor's voice because the script was still in development. Now that he's returning to this world with an established cast, he can write specifically for the actors involved. And because no one knows these characters' voices and rhythms like he does, Gunn can play to each actor's strengths, resulting in pitch-perfect performances and fully realized characters.

Where Gunn's script falters, however, is when he strays from these organic character interactions and tries to cram Irreverent Humor™ and Witty Banter™ into every nook and cranny he can find. This happens more during the film's first act, where characters are in competition to one-up each other with increasingly crass punchlines in the hopes that one will find the mark. That's not to say Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 isn't funny—it is—but the funniest moments happen when these opposing personalities bounce off each other naturally, not when the characters are subjecting us to their stand-up routines.

Still, despite the occasional failed joke or forced pop culture reference, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is a far out follow-up with exciting set pieces, eye-popping imagery, and dazzling special effects that take us into the far reaches of Marvel's infinitely interesting universe. I love spending time in this world with all these characters. It's not every day you see a movie about a wise-cracking raccoon and anthropomorphic tree baby and feel an emotional connection to them. That's the magic of these movies, that they transport us—however briefly—to a time when we could be affected by, and inspired by, stories of the fantastic, before the responsibilities and crushing realities of adulthood hampered our ability to believe in the impossible.

Adam's Rating: 4 out of 5
Follow Adam on Twitter - @AdamFrazier

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- 1 out of 2 users found this review helpful. I thought the first 30 minutes or so we're amazing. The script was banging out line after line and the chemistry between them all was fabulous. I even turned to my partner and commented how good the script was and then it started to head down hill. The team got split up, the momentum slowed down and it felt like it couldn't really recapture the earlier mojo. It struggled to re- engage when they got back together but it felt bloated, self indulgent and dragged out. By the time the third act kicked in, some of the chemistry came back but it was lost in an orgy of energy tendrils, crumbling rock and CGI overload. Once one cliff wall has crumbled without a real sense of peril, you kinda feel yourself becoming a little bored. Don't get wrong I love the team but after shining so strongly at the beginning, it felt burnt out by the end which no amount of blue screen FX could repair. The strength of the film is in the team's interactions and I can't help but think they should have been focused on a little more than the obligatory flashes and bangs that had to dominate the last act. One final word about the mix tape. It was over played to the point where you weren't sure if they thought of the scene or the piece of music first. It smacked of 'try hard' with a little of 'what about this cool song that we got the licence to play 15 seconds of'? I did go into the film trying to keep my expectations low but I have to say that ultimately I was disappointed, especially after the really enjoyable opening part.

Payne by name on May 3, 2017



tarek on May 3, 2017


Drax The Destroyer is one my favorite character that stood out for me, Dave Batista totally knocked it out of the park again, i want to see his own spinoff, to know more about him, Drax is the only Guardian where we don't know what planet or race he's from, but we did know a little more of him in Vol. 2. Can't wait to see what Drax is going to do next in Avengers Infinity War

Mister Who on May 3, 2017


You might be a little disappointed as from my reading of Gunn talking about Guardians (and the lack of Thanos in any post credits sequence) I think he wants to do a Guardians 3 before involving them in any big Thanos interaction.

Payne by name on May 4, 2017


Which is a good thing. Thanos is a boring a cartoonish character.

tarek on May 4, 2017


But Thanos is in Avengers Infinity War right?

Mister Who on May 4, 2017


I believe he is but I don't think the Guardians will be.

Payne by name on May 4, 2017


Hmmm the Guardians are going to be in Avengers Infinity War as only supporting characters

Mister Who on May 4, 2017


No, I stand corrected, seemingly they will be appearing in the next film, which Gunn is an Exec Producer on to help ensure they don't screw up his baby. He confirms that G3 will then come after IW or Avengers 3&4 (not sure what to call them) with all the actors signed up for it. I have to say that it seems strange that if Gunn knows that they are going to be in Infinity Wars, why he wouldn't have wanted a little after credits scene to help 'fluff' us for what was is meant to be the mother of all showdowns. Talking of IW, is it still meant to be a two parter or is it now just IW and another as of yet unnamed Avengers 4 film? If it's just IW, the Russo's have a frightening amount of characters to involve.

Payne by name on May 4, 2017


Love those trademarks, Adam!

DAVIDPD on May 4, 2017


Gorgeous sequel, and the best 3D movie since Avatar.

JuanBauty on May 4, 2017


I think Im the only person who thought the first one was kinda dumb. It was FINE. Thats it. Anyway its all good. Hope it's good for those that like it.

ff on May 5, 2017


Ive NEVER smiled so hard at an opening credit before. #loveELO

Duane on May 7, 2017


I find it ok, interesting even in some respect. In fact, it was mostly funny but what I really liked is the irony connected with religious overtones in culture. For a long time I haven't seen a film which so bravely and in so raunchy manner ironizes and plays with the religion like this. This is nice pop allegory of what people imagine about religion and about its obsolescence in modern world. Highly imaginative, I must say ...

shiboleth on May 8, 2017

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