Everybody rejoice! The Guardians of the Galaxy are back for another adventure after 3 years since their introduction in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The sequel (aptly titled Vol.2, after Star-Lord’s mixtape of nostalgic pop songs) is helmed once again by James Gunn, and it stars Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper, Karen Gillan, Michael Rooker and Kurt Russell. Oh, and this time around Vin Diesel also mo-capped for Baby Groot.
After a short flashback, the movie starts with a cold open of our favorite space gang fighting a giant tentacle monster. Following the recent trend of having tracking shots at the start, the opening credits are a prolonged take of Baby Groot dancing to Electric Light Orchestra’s Mr. Blue Sky (one of my favorite songs of all time) while the rest of the group is fighting. It will remain one of the most amusing moments of the movie, so savour it while it lasts. Then we get to the real story: Peter Quill is found by his father Ego (Kurt Russell), the living planet, and the gang gets separated after a series of unfortunate events.
I was a huge fan of the original Guardians movie, mainly due to the humor, music, pacing and likeable characters. This follow-up suffers a lot from sequelitis: since everybody liked Baby Groot in the ending of the first film, get ready to watch a small tree dance, kick ass and be adorable for the entire runtime; the original’s soundtrack became a smash hit especially for how it was used diegetically, now you get more on-the-nose tracks that feel kinda forced. The list goes on and on.
All of the returning cast members fit their shoes fairly well. Bradley Cooper brings a lot of vitality to the talking racoon Rocket, Zoe Saldana is just meh as the most uninteresting character Gamora, Vin Diesel brings a lot of variety by repeating the same sentence over and over again, Dave Bautista is still the funniest and most charismatic member of the group, and Chris Pratt… oh boy. It seems to me that Chris Pratt is following in the footsteps of Jennifer Lawrence: once funny and entertaining, now he just seems bored and tired in all these movies. In the original he gave me some of the biggest laughs, and he was genuinely fun to watch on screen, trying to be a real hero while in reality he was nothing more than a mumbling idiot. Here, his negative attitude felt very mean spirited, and that can be found in most of the “jokes” that are in the script, with plenty of characters insulting one another repeatedly instead of building clever gags.
The newer members are all a welcome addition: Kurt Russell is one of the highlights, mostly thanks to his strong screen presence and decent chemistry with Pratt, Pom Klementieff as Mantis is a cute and extremely convenient character, and Sylvester Stallone is nothing more than a glorified cameo that only fans of the comics are going to understand.
While the main themes of the first movie were friendship and building a family, this time around the core of the story is the meaning of family: Gamora is constantly fighting with her sister Nebula (Karen Gillan), Star-Lord is torn between his real father Ego and his father-figure Yondu (Michael Rooker). There are many more emotional moments here, but they do not feel very earned, especially in the end when you are supposed to care about Yondu and Peter Quill even though they never shared the screen together for the majority of this (and the previous) movie. James Gunn gives more weight to the characters, but I do not think he managed to make them neither more nor less interesting than they already were.
In its 136-minute runtime, the pacing is tight and the characters entertaining to watch, but it ultimately does not feel as satisfying as the first time around. There are some jokes that hit (and when they do, they hit hard), but also many more that fall flat. The production design is gorgeous, but it does not feel as lived in as in the previous movie. The action is fun, but ultimately there is very little tension for the characters. It really is a movie full of “buts”, yet I cannot deny that I enjoyed watching it. The insane amount of mid/post-credits scenes (an unprecedented amount of 5) just feels like a cheap way to keep people in the seats, with a couple of them that could have been added to the movie and others that could have been easily cut out.
The more I think about it, the more problems I find, but the actual experience in the movie theatre was highly enjoyable. I do recommend that you check out Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2: even though it does not reach the greatness of the original, it is a must-see for MCU fans and for those who enjoyed the first. It is more of the same, but not as tasty.
Visual Effects: 8.5
Violence & Gore: 7.5
Sex & Nudity: 5
Drugs & Profanity: 5
Intensity & Horror: 4
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