Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is the Empire Strikes Back of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Making a sequel to a hugely successful blockbuster film is not an easy feat to pull off, let alone creating one that equals or surpasses the original, but I’m happy to say that Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 does just that. In fact, it’s jam-packed with so much awesome that it’s like an awesome overload that will take multiple viewings just to allow your mind to take in all said awesome. Did I mention it was awesome?
Yes, James Gunn and company have nailed it once again, taking everything that was so loved and adored from the first film, while also adding even more depth to each member of the team, and newcomers alike, allowing Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 to evolve into a true action-packed, comedic powerhouse film of its own.
Let me put it in more blatant terms: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is the Empire Strikes Back of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Now the MCU has had some fantastic sequels, no doubt, but the Guardians of the Galaxy are still sort of on the outside of that universe (at least until Avengers: Infinity War in 2018), so their sequel is less a furthering of the greater MCU plot, and more a continuation of the adventures of Star-Lord, Gamora, Drax, Rocket and Groot, and to a surprisingly (yet welcome) equal level, Yondu and Nebula as well.
One of the things that The Empire Strikes Back did so well was it allowed its characters to grow over the course of the second film, instead of just leaving them as carbon copies of what audiences loved the first time out. That’s exactly what James Gunn has done in GotG Vol. 2, as we get to delve deeper into every character’s history, with a major theme being the importance of family and belonging. And while GotG Vol. 2 is packed with laughs from start to finish, the overall tone, much like in Empire, is quite a bit darker, and has a greater emotional weight to it in comparison to its predecessor.
Something I always enjoy is when teams get separated for the better part of a film. It allows us to see them in a new dynamic, which, in turn, sees them to grow in new ways. This will be a spoiler-free review as far as plot points go, but I will say that early on, Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and Drax (Dave Bautista) separate from Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) and Baby Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel), as Quill gets a lead on whom his father may be and the trio head out to investigate.
This separation leads to some great story arcs for the entire team. While the core of the overall story is about Peter Quill learning more about his father, Gamora and Nebula (Karen Gillan) continue to battle over their “daddy” issues brought on by the Mad Titan Thanos, and Rocket and Baby Groot have their own adventure alongside Yondu (Michael Rooker) and his fellow Ravagers.
That’s as far as I’ll get into the plot, as spoiling various surprises, characters and jokes wouldn’t add anything to this review and if you’re like me, it’d probably take away from the delight of discovering it all for yourself when watching the film. I will say that this is clearly a movie that will only get better with repeat viewings, and I know that because I guarantee I missed quite a few jokes because I was laughing so hard at the ones that came just before them.
Marvel films cover a wide spectrum when it comes to mixing various genres with their signature action sequences. Iron Man is very technology based, Thor has fantasy covered, and Captain America the political side of things, while Guardians of the Galaxy masterfully rocks science fiction with no fear of thinking outside the box and pushing the boundaries of imagination.
GotG Vol. 2 has some amazing looking action sequences, with plenty to enjoy when watching in 3D, but never reliant on it to the point where it’d be less enjoyable if you can’t find an IMAX 3D or simply don’t like the glasses. The space battles are fun, intense, and visually stunning. The Guardians do battle on the brinks of known galaxies and beyond, and while it’d be easy enough to have them simply fight in the darkness of space, Gunn smartly chooses to show off these unique locales, be it space or planetary, with beautiful and often vibrant backdrops.
On the acting front, it’s like returning to see old friends, as everyone fully embodies their characters and leaves it all on the intergalactic floor. Pratt once again shows why he’s quickly climbed to the top of Hollywood A-listers, and the same can be said for Saldana, who has become a staple in top tier, sci-fi blockbusters. Dave Bautista surprised many with his performance as Drax in the first film, and he’s even better this time out. His comedic timing is great, and his delivery for Drax is perfect, which is good because Drax is having a lot more fun this time out than he did when he had nothing but pure vengeance on his mind in the first film. I mean, he was often hilarious then too, but Drax’s growth shines greatly through the humour he uses this time out.
Bradley Cooper voice work as Rocket is superb once again, really allowing for Gunn to take Rocket anywhere he needs to emotionally or comically with no worries of it not turning out the way he’d hoped once Cooper gets ahold of it. Diesel as Groot is even more comedic this time out, as he’s now at the baby stage of his regrowth after his full grown form was destroyed at the end of the first film. If you ever watched any behind the scenes work of Diesel voicing Groot, you know he took great care in each and every “I Am Groot!” to get the different emotions across. This time out, his voice is heavily altered, but the care is still there, and dammit, Baby Groot is arguably the cutest character ever to appear on the silver screen. Heck, I’m tempted to even take arguably out of that sentence and not think twice about it. Baby Groot is a scene-stealer every time he shows up, both comically and adorably.
Getting quite a boost in screen time and character development is Yondu, played perfectly by Rooker. Yondu was a fun character in the first film, and Gunn really allows him to grow and shine this time out, with Rooker clearly having the time of his life doing so. Gillan also gets some more time in the spotlight as Nebula, and I hope that spotlight continues to grow moving forward.
A newcomer I can talk about briefly is Pom Klementieff as Mantis. I won’t go too much into her character, but the innocence she brings to the film is refreshing, and her chemistry alongside the team – especially Drax – is a perfect fit, and loads of fun. The one person I won’t talk about, but who you’ll know about as soon as the film begins is also a pitch-perfect choice to play the part given to him.
Lastly, the soundtrack! The soundtrack was such a vital part to the first film, and is yet again here. Now I’ll admit that I’m not a music aficionado, and while I did grow up in the ‘80s listening to my dad play his favourite songs from the ‘60s and ‘70s on the radio, I’m not as familiar with the tunes used this time out as I was with those used in the first film. That said, once again, the songs and meanings behind them do fit in with the moments they’re chosen for, which is why listening to the lyrics afterwards and then watching the movie again after is an extra treat.
As far as sequels go, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is everything you could hope for with an extra side of awesome. It tells a satisfying story while allowing the characters to grow, and it does so in such an entertaining, hysterical and awesome fashion that I wanted to restart the projector and watch it again from the top as soon as all the post-credit goodness (and there’s five of them this time out!) was finished. In the end, maybe it’s all best summed up this way: I am Groot. I mean, you can’t argue with that, right?
Director: James Gunn Writers: James Gunn Notable Cast: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Pom Klementieff.
Brendan Campbell was here when Inside Pulse Movies began, and he’ll be here when it finishes - in 2012, when a cataclysmic event wipes out the servers, as well as everyone else on the planet other than John Cusack and those close to him. Brendan’s the #1 supporter of Keanu Reeves, a huge fan of popcorn flicks and a firm believer that sheer entertainment can take a film a long way. He currently resides in Canada, where, for reasons stated above, he’s attempting to get closer to John Cusack.