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Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 – Movie Review

Guardians Galaxy Vol. 2 (logo)

I think it’s safe to call Guardians of the Galaxy one of the real breakout hits of 2014. If you had told me ten years ago that a movie about a D-list superhero team, featuring a giant tree man and a raccoon with machine guns, would’ve ended being so incredibly popular, I probably would’ve been okay with that because eleven-year-old me would’ve found that concept completely awesome. But I digress. The first Guardians of the Galaxy was a real smash hit, not just because of how fun and exciting it was, but because it also had a lot of heart and depth beneath the humour. The characters felt fleshed out and we came to really care for them. So, as the sequel shuffles its way into theatres, the one question that is on everyone’s mind is, “Does it live up to the first one?”

More or less, yeah.

Guardians Galaxy Vol. 2 (poster)Now, I will say it’s definitely not as narratively tight as the first one and there’s definitely a lot more in the way rough edges. The original Guardians movie was well-paced and engaging from start to finish and this movie doesn’t quite get that balance right. But Vol 2 also has a lot of really great moments that more than live up to the first movie’s quality. There were moments which touched me or made me laugh just as much as the first movie, if not more. So yes, there are flaws in the movie, and they’re relatively noticeable, but I think the high points more than make up for it.

One of the things I liked most about Vol 2 was how it managed to give satisfying character arcs and moments to pretty much everyone on the team, especially Nebula and Yondu. One of my bigger problems with a similar sequel in the same Marvel universe, Avengers: Age of Ultron, was that, due to limited screen time, some of the team either ended up getting side-lined or stuck with lousy plot-lines (like Thor or the Hulk/Widow romance). Vol 2, on the other hand, has a good character moment for pretty much everyone on the Guardians team (except Groot, but his rather limited dialogue probably makes that difficult) and nearly every moment really hit home. I’ve often thought that the characterisation of their heroes is probably one of Marvel’s biggest strong points as a franchise and it’s clear that director James Gunn really gets these characters and knows how to use them. As a result, it’s little surprise that the characters are probably the best thing about the movie for me.

The visuals were also a strong point. The movie has such a great, psychedelic colour pallet and visual imagination that really sets it apart from most sci-fi films these days. Even when it’s doing rock-smashing super brawls or large-scale space battles, it’s still fantastically gorgeous to look at. Now, I’m not going to name names here, but it really makes you think that another certain superhero studio should consider adding a little more visual brightness to – Ah, who am I kidding, ZACK SNYDER, PUT SOME ACTUAL COLOUR IN YOUR GODDAMN FILMS!

…Ahem. Anyway, as I was saying, the movie looks great and the visuals really match the light fun attitude it has going for it. Also, I don’t know what it is with Marvel and de-aging their characters, but damned if they haven’t gotten really good at it. I won’t spoil it for you all, but the opening scene involves a certain famous actor de-aged down to his 20s and I’ll be damned if I could tell it was CGI. Really impressive stuff.

Guardians Galaxy Vol. 2 (poster detail)

Now, I have been hearing a lot of complaints about the movie having no/little story and, while I think that’s technically incorrect, I do kind of understand the sentiment because there’s not really a solid story in this movie for the first third or so. There’s no major driving motivation for the Guardians compared to, say, the first movie where they were trying to keep/sell the orb and that’s what drove their actions. In this one, however, they’re just reactive characters, reacting to what’s going on around them for about the first half or so. And that can feel a little meandering and narratively unsatisfying. I don’t think it ruins the movie, but it’s something to keep in mind. Also, I initially thought Rocket was a bit too jerkass-ish/annoying to begin with in the first third or so, but that ended up having a great payoff, so I’m okay with it.

Also, this is the first Marvel movie where I think the claim ‘too much humour’ actually holds some weight. Admittedly, I don’t think it’s too much humour that’s the problem so much as poorly placed humour, but it is noticeable. Don’t get me wrong, the movie is funny. Very very funny. There were a lot of moments that had me cackling in my seat. But there are also times when the movie takes a scene or a moment with a relatively serious tone and shoves in a cheap gag that really doesn’t feel fitting and takes you out of the moment. Compare to the dance-off in the first movie, where the serious atmosphere and build-up of a Ronan as a no-nonsense antagonist was what actually made the joke so funny, by being a completely unexpected subversion of expectations (while still being completely in character for Quill). Here, they take a serious moment and interrupt it with just cheap gags, with little build up and, rather than working off the serious atmosphere, just undermines it and the joke in the process. (A certain moment in the climax involving a video character in particular was guilty of this.)

Guardians Galaxy Vol. 2 (concept art)

That said, I really did like this movie. It was colourful, exciting, hilarious at times, touching at others, and never really left me bored throughout its running. The antagonist worked just fine. Not exceptional and probably not enough to break the Marvel Villains Curse, but he had some genuinely really good moments to shine. Yondu was definitely my MVP and had some of the best scenes with Rocket. But overall yeah. It’s a movie with clear flaws, but more than enough really great high points to make up for it, I think. It’s the sort of movie I can see people just sitting back with friends and family and just enjoying it. So yeah, here’s looking forward to the next one.

Oh, and keep an eye out for the 5 separate post-credit scenes.


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