Review Date: 5/10/2017
Rating: 3/5 Peanuts
In a Nutshell:
Though still thoroughly enjoyable, Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 falls short of capturing the magic of the surprise hit that preceded it.
Though you may not be able to tell based on what reviews I have actually posted here so far, I'm a huge fan of the super hero genre. I've avoided writing reviews of the many, many super hero films I've seen for a number of reasons, not the least of which being that there's a lot of them and it would be exhausting to cover them all. Today I'm breaking my one rule even though I'm terrified that in doing so the next thing I'll feel obligated to do is come up with a definitive ranking of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I must stay strong!
First let's address the big question people ask of any sequel: was it better than the original? This is actually the hardest question to address because the honest answer is that it depends. Visually, Guardians 2 is absolutely beautiful. As Iron Man 2 & 3, Captain America 2 & 3, Thor 2 (& probably 3 based on the trailer), and Avengers 2 have already proven, Disney is more than willing to throw a lot more production dollars at your movie if you're coming off a proven original concept. The special effects are bigger, better and more prevalent, the action sequences are spectacular, and there are way more of them that last a whole heck of a lot longer, and the shear volume of celebrity cameos boggles the mind. So visually Guardians 2 surpasses the original.
Though (as my girlfriend will tell you) I am no authority on music, Awesome Mix Vol. 2 is also better than the original in my humble opinion - though part of that may stem purely from the better attention to thematic tie-ins to the action on screen than that of Vol. 1.
As for plot, pacing and themes, this is really where Guardians 2 falls flat. The movie is long, and it certainly feels like it drags along throughout the ponderous 2nd act. Much attention is paid to the concept of family, be it fathers & sons, sisters, or surrogates, and unfortunately it feels like director James Gunn has broken the show-don't-tell rule, spending considerable screen time hitting viewers over the head with the gravitas of a given relationship. I think a streamlined version of the film is undoubtedly out there somewhere, with precious minutes shaved off - albeit at the expense of Ego, Yondu, Rocket and Nebula screen time.
The action and comedic elements are also a mixed bag. Guardians 2 offers plenty of both, but it certainly feels like a shooting version of the script had multiple instances of [insert joke here] or [insert $10M action sequence here] until late into production. What I'm really saying is that, very much unlike the original, the action and comedy didn't feel earned in this second outing. This is a minor point that will not be reflected in Marvel's box-office gross, but will undoubtedly lower the number of times fans re-watch this movie 3-10 years from now.
As far as acting is concerned, this is definitely the film's strong point. All the original Guardians are back, and I'll watch anything with Bradley Cooper, Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, and/or Kurt Russell. Karen Gillan also returns as Nebula, a sort of tragic anti-hero eye-rolling her way throughout the narrative. Were it not for the buffoonery of Bautista's Drax and the motley crew of Ravagers (looking at you Taser Face), I'd have called it too much, but in-scene I was right there with her. And let's not forget about the amazing cast of cameos, from Sly Stallone to Michelle Yeoh to a blink and you'll miss it David Hasselhoff appearance. And yes, Stan Lee makes his presence known in what may be the closest we'll ever get to an Uatu fan theory confirmation. What a time to be alive!
Finally, I'll speak to the characters. As I've said many times before, a movie is only as good as its villain, and while I loved watching Kurt Russell ham it up on screen, I found his character uncompelling and the betrayal so obviously telegraphed that I don't feel I even need to warn you about spoilers. The subplot involving the Ravagers was fun and interesting, but again pacing here made what could have been a fun aside involving Rocket and Baby Groot ended up eating valuable run time.
So, in conclusion, is Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 worth seeing? Absolutely! It's an enjoyable popcorn crunching flick adding to the ever expanding MCU cannon. The deeper question of if it will stand the test of time remains to be answered, but my money's on you forgetting they made 2 of these after Marvel's Phase 3 wraps.