In 2014 James Gunn turned Guardians of the Galaxy, one of the most obscure properties belonging to Marvel into easily the most refreshing and fun comic book film in recent years. It had a wonderful oddball sense of humour, a menagerie of memorable characters and an unforgettable soundtrack. Now there were issues with the film, at times it was burdened with the overall narrative the Marvel Cinematic Universe is setting up and once again the villain was completely unimpressive. Thankfully though the charm of the film itself overrode most of its shortcomings. Now three years on and Marvel have decided to return to see how those intergalactic a**holes are doing in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.
Set a few months after the events of the previous film Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 sees the Guardians set up now as galactic heroes for hire. They are currently in the service of the Sovereigns, a race of perfectly bred individuals who don’t wish to sully their hands when an interdimensional monster comes knocking on their door. When the Guardians finish with it, in style might I add, they, unfortunately, cause an intergalactic incident and so they have to flee toot sweet. As they escape they are saved by a stranger who single-handedly obliterates the pursuing forces, when the Guardians meet with the stranger he turns out to be none other than Star-Lords (Chris Pratt) father and from there Peter and the whole universe’s destiny changes forever.
What Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 succeeds at is the spectacle. The scope and visuals of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 are fantastic as well the stuntwork for the battles which are equal parts funny and intense. The many locales the characters visit are brimming with character and look lush and vibrant in particular Ego’s Planet which has literal layers of depth to dissect. And with the visuals comes the other important factor, the music, or more specifically the soundtrack because the score is another element, and issue, for later. Once again Gunn brings a thumping soundtrack to the Guardians to help give them an appropriately badass theme song to every moment of their lives. In Guardians of the Galaxy, the soundtrack was a playful element that helped give the film a unique character outside of the rest of the Marvel movies. In Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 the soundtrack is a member of the team now, and one of the members that I sadly could do without. The first time we get a taste of the soundtrack is awesome and funny but as the film goes on more and more samples of the soundtrack are used it just felt forced, especially when characters are pausing the movie to turn on the next track. There’s then the continuing issue with the forgettable scores that Marvel has become known for. Tyler Bates does nothing to give the scenes the character they deserve apparently relying on the soundtrack to make up for his lack of skill.
On the character side of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, the returning cast are still the loveable fools we fell in love with from the previous film. Some are less charming than they were, for example, Drax (Dave Bautista) comes across far more obnoxious and annoying than he was in the previous adventure. There’s less depth to his character. Instead, he’s there now to give the cheap laughs, and it just didn’t work for me. Gamora (Zoe Saldana) is still a missed opportunity of a character, coming off as the nagging mother of the group instead of the supposed ultimate weapon the audience is continually told she is. Thankfully Karen Gillan’s Nebula gives Gamora some scenes to help her stand out. The characters that are given emotional arcs in the film include Star-Lord, Rocket (Bradley Cooper) and surprisingly Yondu (Michael Rooker).
It’s the new characters that are the real issue, Mantis (Pom Klementieff) is given nothing to do except spout exposition to the Guardians, and be the butt of every Drax joke. Ego is a fascinating character at first, filled with mystery and potential but the story never gives him anything to truly shine, on top of this the emotional resonance that should be there for a reunion between father and son is nonexistent. And that’s another worrying issue, what I loved about the first film was the emotional core, I cried, after all, it’s about a lost child finding a family. With Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, a lot of the emotional elements are undermined by poorly delivered dialogue or inappropriate jokes.
With the lack of an emotional core like its predecessor and another unambitious villainous plot Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is altogether a weaker film, still fun but weaker nonetheless. On top of that, it repeats a lot of the same beats of its predecessor instead of expanding on them reminiscent of Iron Man 2 instead of Captain America: Winter Soldier.