This trend of calling a sequel a ‘chapter’ or ‘volume’ instead of ‘[Cashgrab] 2/3/4/800’ seems trite to me, but in the case of Disney’s Marvel’s James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2, it works pretty well. It’s colourful. It sticks out. And these few sentences are enough to describe the movie as a whole.
The ‘Volume’ part, of course, comes from Peter Quill a.k.a. Starlord’s mix tapes, which embody the Guardians franchise with their quirky, 60s and 70s beats. It almost annoys me how modern movies parrot the original’s marketing choice – to replace the Inception fog-horn with something that actually sounds good – because they miss what Guardians is aiming for: raw fun, vibrant (and often beautiful) imagery, and characters you can tap your foot to. Whether Thor: Ragnarok and D.C.’s Justice League measure up to this standard is yet to be seen, but I’m not entirely hopeful.
In any case, Guardians, like Deadpool, has revolutionised the superhero genre: where Deadpool proved the obvious, that R-rated superhero movies are a goldmine, Guardians has pinpointed why people like superheroes in the first place. Colours! Clever, snappy dialogue! Good versus evil! I, personally, would rather watch a movie about a talking raccoon fighting space pirates than yet another ‘darker and grittier’ sequel to a mediocre original that only survived through brand recognition, existing as nothing but a bridge to the inevitable team-up movie–
I’m getting off-topic.
Guardians 2 is witty, heartful, and very beautiful. The plot moves at a sensible pace, and is very easy to understand, yet builds towards a satisfying conclusion with loads of punching and shouting, and no blue laser going up into the sky.
…Well, maybe a little. Disney’s Marvel’s sky lasers take many forms – they are omnipresent – and the movie needs some kind of galaxy-wide threat in order to engage the CGI team. Personally, I don’t think villains need to be omni-hungering psychopaths, but I understand why Marvel has so many of them. When the focus is on a team of heroes, and the way they play off each-other, there isn’t much time to establish a nuanced villain. This is why I worry about the eventual ‘reveal’ of Thanos, his personality and motivations. Marvel has had a number of after-credits sequences to establish something about the character, but what we know so far amounts to, “He’s a bad guy.” In Guardians 2, we are told, not shown, a little more about him: “He’s a bad father.” The credits feature about a hundred individual sequel hooks, specifically designed to get ‘nerd’ podcasts squealing about potential characters they neither know nor care about.
…It happened again. Marvel, I love you, but you have issues. Stop making me lose focus.
If Marvel villains are dull, then Guardians 2’s villain is not-badder-than-most – without going into spoilers. Something that often distracts me in these movies is the shared universe: if a villain is currently destroying cities, where the hell is Thor? Why hasn’t Iron Man shown up yet? Guardians solves this handily with its distant-space setting. Though Ronan the Accuser was a generic, undefined mess, Guardians 2 at least affords some depth to its antagonist.
The real treats, here, are the Guardians themselves. Chris Pratt is still excellent as Starlord, the dancing rogue who lives life to his own tune (literally). Dave Bautista continues his cinematic career as Drax the Destroyer, and is…much better than in the first movie, where I found him to be grating. My favourite character arc was that of the ever-entertaining Rocket Raccoon, though Gamora and Nebula got some nice development this time around, too. Bound up in Rocket’s story is Yondu (played by Michael Rooker, ‘Merle Dixon’ from The Walking Dead), whose cowboy drawl and filthy, black-toothed grin are still, somehow, very endearing. He also gets the best scene in the movie – and possibly all of the Marvel Cinematic Universe – so there’s that.
Of course, Vin Diesel returns as the voice of Baby Groot, with such nuance and raw, heartfelt dialogue that it’s hard not to shed a tear. “I am Groot”, indeed. Sniff.
It’s nice to see a sequel where the writer remembers the character’s arcs from the last movie. At the beginning of Guardians 2, each character is noticeably different from how they were at the start of Guardians 1. That seems like the most obvious thing to say in all of movie reviewing, but many modern films forget that simple concept. Why develop characters when you can revisit the same arc over and over? Marvel is pretty good at this kind of thing, however: I’m confident in saying they have some pretty good writers on-board, who seem genuinely interested in exploring their witty, gritty heroes without (usually) taking the ‘darker and edgier’ route.
The CGI in this movie is spectacular, and a good example of how CGI should be used: when practical effects couldn’t do it better. It works seamlessly, with few if any moments of, “That looks fake.” The screen rarely becomes too cluttered to follow what’s going on, and the action takes place with a cartoony conservation of the laws of physics, allowing the writers to add whatever compliments the mood of a given scene.
Overall, I would recommend Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 to anyone who has enjoyed a Marvel movie in the past. It is well-written, well-acted, fun and bouncy, with plenty of emotion mixed in.