Set to the backdrop of ‘Awesome Mixtape #2,’ Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 continues the team’s adventures as they traverse the outer reaches of the cosmos. The Guardians must fight to keep their newfound family together as they unravel the mysteries of Peter Quill’s true parentage.
While I do very much enjoy how interconnected the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is, there’s something to be said about the independence of the Guardians of the Galaxy films. They have loose threads that lead back to the rest of the MCU, with the team presumably going against Thanos alongside the Avengers next year, but more than any other Marvel film they are able to do their own thing, far away from Earthly concerns.
What I’ve loved about these movies, under writer/director James Gunn, is how unafraid they are to get weird, established at the onset with team members including an anthropomorphic tree and a talking raccoon. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 doubles down on weird sci-fi stuff in spectacular fashion. The star of the show in this regard is Ego (Kurt Russell), the extraterrestrial father of Peter Quill aka Star-Lord (Chris Pratt). While he has a humanoid body that he uses to explore the galaxy, Ego’s literal body is a giant glowing space-brain, and I couldn’t be happier that this was part of the film. It’s ridiculous on paper, but it works.
The Guardians are also caught up with the Sovereign, a race of beautiful golden people so advanced, decadent, and self-important that for an individual of their people, going to war is akin to a video game arcade. At first the team is enlisted to aid the Sovereign by killing an interdimensional creature. Afterwards Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) steals valuable batteries from them, prompting attack from their fleet in retaliation for this grievous offense. The galaxy as it’s presented is just so big and diverse that there’s room for crazier concepts like all these to exist and form the backbone of the storyline.
The plot is rather different from the first film, doing a good job of avoiding the typical sequel convention of telling “the same story but bigger.” They’re still guarding the galaxy against a colossal threat, but narrative beats feel distinct. This time around there is no MacGuffin like the infinity stone, instead conflicts arise more from friction between people, desires not lining up, and a certain someone having a far too inflated sense of importance and purpose. Everybody’s motivations are clear, and while there are a lot of different players factoring into the story, it was never unclear who wanted what and why. Everything just fit together nice and seamlessly.
Cemented by this film, I think the Guardians of the Galaxy might be the best superhero team I’ve seen on the big screen. While it is clear that Star-Lord is a core protagonist, this never takes away from other team members’ involvement. No role felt wasted to me, and every member feels like they have a part to play. To varying degrees, they each have their own little stories going on as well, never feeling like any one of them has been sidelined or short-changed screen time. They all have great chemistry with each other as well. The word “family” gets thrown around a lot in team movies, but here it feels the most real and natural. It’s not just a word they throw around, we see it in how they laugh with or at one another, fight together, and challenge each other.
The film’s sense of humour is great, but also one of the most divisive things about it for me. It doesn’t take itself seriously and the characters are boisterous and fun, which I like, but at times this was leaned on a little too heavily. As much as these films can be comedic they also have a lot of heart, involving characters who are dealing with sincere issues of loss, trauma, and/or insecurities. At numerous points these more dramatic aspects are executed upon really well. However, there are also a lot of instances where a character is being gravely serious or threatening, only to be undercut by another character making it funny. There’s nothing wrong with how any of these instances were done on their own, but the amount of times it happened was just too much for me. It reached the point where I was anticipating it happening, which only served to kill the joke a little.
That’s honestly the only real gripe I had with the movie. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is a sequel that takes the strong foundation of the first film and excels beyond it. Free from adding to the mounting conflict with the infinity stones, the film is full of laughs, thrilling action, and drama, telling a story ultimately concerned with family, be they by blood or by bond, and the love and turbulence that comes with it.