Sequels, by their very realistic definition, tend to suck. Whether it is because a director chooses to make something bigger and presumably better, or to craft something that is a departure from what has occurred before for something new, fans will never be happy.
But what most of them lack is the spirit of the original, and this is the one thing that director James Gunn has kept intact from his masterpiece, and expanded upon in this delightful sequel that will make you love the saviours of the galaxy once again.
If you loved the original, don’t expect anything new with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2, as Gunn has loaded up on what made the first one work so well. That amazing soundtrack? It’s back, with a selection of new songs. The humour that enthralled audiences? Check. Drax (Dave Bautista) and his non-sense of humour? Yep. Nebula (Karen Gillan) and her machinations? Ditto. And who can forget Groot (Vin Diesel), because he’s like the lovable baby of the team that even the bad guys adore.
But these elements are also what drags the film down a little. The humour can be a little misplaced and too much of a good thing. The songs are only as iconic as audiences remember them to be, and can there be too much of a Groot thing?
What enriches the film are the new elements that Gunn has developed. By now, the trailer shows that Peter Quill aka Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) finally meets his father, Ego (Kurt Russell), and Yondu signs up with the team as well. Mantis (Pom Klementieff) is the latest Guardian, and also new to the universe at large, since she has been raised by Ego alone all this while. And is it safe to say that Kraglin (Sean Gunn) is an unofficial member of the team?
Instead of the usual universe destroyer (don’t worry, there’s still one), the movie focus on family. Unlike the Fast and the Furious franchise (the latest, Fast & Furious 8 coincidentally also stars Russell and Diesel), which spends each movie drilling in the theme of family by having every actor say it out loud, GotG Vol. 2 spends the first half of the movie dealing with relationships. Quill and Ego, Gamora (Zoe Seldana) and her sister Nebula, the sisters and their father, Thanos, Yondu and Quill, Yondu and Stakar Ogord aka Starhawk (Sylvester Stallone), Quill and Gamora, as well as what it means to be a member of the Guardians of the Galaxy.
This focus on relationship meanders during the first half, and it makes you wonder who the movie’s big villain is, and then you realise it can only be one individual. Take away these relationships though, and the movie’s storyline becomes its weakest link.
The film’s most underused character is actually one of the franchises’ most important one. Without her desire to topple her father, Gamora is left with little else to do, but look pretty. Sure, we all want her to have a meaningful but not openly discussed relationship with Quill, but their on-screen interaction leaves audiences wanting more.
The same goes for Drax, who avenged his family in the first movie. While there is something established between Drax and Mantis, the neither-here-nor-there relationship plays out like a schoolyard crush, which is kind of fitting, considering her innocence and his nature of only speaking in truths.
Yondu gets a bigger part in this movie, and his bonding with Rocket (Bradley Cooper) is an interesting one. His reasons for breaking away from the Ravagers is also revealed, as well as the reason why he never surrendered Quill to Ego all those years ago. It’s a touching storyline and Gunn masterfully pieces these elements together nicely.
In a way, GotG Vol. 2 is the least Marvel Studios movie ever made, but it is also the most rewarding one. There is a lot of heart put into this one, and the Gunn is smart to tap on this emotion, even if the characters are not as well known as the other heroes in Marvel’s library.
If anything, fans of Marvel Comics and the 80s in general will get a big kick out of this movie. Stallone’s take on Starhawk poses an interesting question as to what Marvel and Gunn have planned for him in the already greenlit GotG Vol. 3.
There are also plenty of cameos out there, including a returning space duck, some dude named Adam in a cocoon, Pac-Man and an 80s star with his talking car. You just have to see it to believe it.
Also, Gunn has found it fitting to fit 5 post credit stingers at the end of the movie. Two are made for laughs, while a third, starring Stan Lee, basically establishes his cameos across all the Marvel Comics movies he’s ever been in.
The last two, which includes appearances by Ving Rhames (Charlie-27), Michelle Yeoh (Aleta Ogord) and Miley Cyrus (Mainframe) won’t make much sense unless you’re a huge fan of the comics, but they do tease something incredible for Vol. 3.
Another thing Gunn has managed to impress with is the visual effects. Sure, Ego might be played by Russell, but his original, comic book form also makes an appearance and looks pretty amazing. The jaunts across the galaxy, the de-aging of Russell, the beautifully crafted planets and battles, as well as the introduction of the Sovereign continues and expands on the galaxy building started from the original, and the only way to enjoy it all is with IMAX. From the opening scene on Earth circa 1980 to the closing battle, IMAX offers a visual experience filled with colours and details that should not be missed.
GEEK REVIEW SCORE
Very few things can be as surprising and rich as the original, and Vol. 2 delivers on the visuals and feels. If the original was a solid 10, this is an amazing 8 that delivers on the action, and meaningful characterisation across a much larger cast of characters.
Story - 6/10
Direction - 8.5/10
Characterisation - 8.5/10
Geek Satisfaction - 9/10