REVIEW: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 – Mo’ Daddies, Mo’ Problems

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 1 set movie screens on fire in 2014, surprising everyone by hitting it out of the universe and cementing Marvel’s box office power. The reason it was able to do this – Marvel’s brand name recognition aside – was its delightful sense of adventure and joy. Both those aspects are thankfully still present in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, though perhaps in smaller quantities than before.

It’s odd for me to say that, because a lot of the film is about discovering the living planet Ego – and yet the portion of Guardians dedicated to the planet was more focused on waiting for the other shoe to drop than in really making new discoveries. But first let’s focus on the positives: incredible visuals, strong performances from the entire cast, and a great deal of interesting character work.

Even though they don’t drive the main plot, Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and Nebula (Karen Gillan) were especially compelling in a way that made use of the story from the previous Guardians of the Galaxy film. Though Thanos is not in Vol. 2, his presence is felt in the physical and metaphorical scars he’s left on his daughters. The push and pull between the sisters nicely complimented Peter’s (Chris Pratt) burgeoning dynamic with his father (Kurt Russell), and at times felt more emotionally honest. The daddy issues that Peter had to deal with were understandable, but the sense of foreboding was overpowering from the first trailer that showcased Ego – which didn’t help the storyline feel natural.

Yondu’s (Michael Rooker) parallel plot was much more entertaining and heart-warming, both in terms of his connection to Peter and his interactions with Rocket (Bradley Cooper). The boys and Groot (Vin Diesel) provided a lot of the fun and adventure during the entire middle section of the movie, which otherwise dragged a little with its focus on Peter’s surface-level turmoil. Yondu’s adventures were another instance of tying the first film beautifully into the second. His actions in the original Guardians of the Galaxy come back to back to bite him in the biggest way possible, and the through-line is immensely satisfying. If there’s any complaint to be made, it’s that he should have spent more time with Peter instead of simply remembering him.

Still don’t care about these guys…

While the villains of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 weren’t anything to write home about – they could’ve done without the perfect golden aliens altogether, if not for the fact that they led to the larger plot – there were a few new faces that were more than welcome. Mantis (Pom Klementieff) is a delight, and her innocent dynamic with the literal-minded Drax (Dave Bautista) brought more than its fair share of laughs. Sean Gunn also did excellent work as Yondu’s lackey Kraglin, and I look forward to seeing more of both newcomers in future films.

Overall, James Gunn delivered yet another epic and entertaining team-up film filled with fully fleshed-out characters who can make audiences laugh and cry in turn. There are plot points which are too drawn-out, or perhaps a little too much like a rehash of the first Guardians of the Galaxy, but they don’t take away from the fun of the film as a whole.