Whether or not you love the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, there’s no denying that the first Guardians of the Galaxy was both a serious breath of fresh air and a perfect standalone film apart from the rest of the franchise. It was the complete antithesis to everything we’d been delivered up until that point and left us craving for more. Three years following the original, it’s time to load up Awesome Mix Vol. 2 and revisit our favorite antiheroes.
While mostly a great ride it becomes hard to ignore that it’s mostly one person’s story. I get it: Chris Pratt is super appealing and should be carrying far more movies than he actually does—but even if he’s the most marketable, there’s still other characters in this story that deserve as much depth and emotional growth. Picking up shortly after the events of the first one, the Guardians haven’t entirely gotten the routine down in saving the universe, but they’re at least in demand. There’s somewhat of a lack of communication and understanding, making tensions high—especially between Peter and Rocket (Bradley Cooper).
So after some misdeeds get them in trouble with the Sovereign, they’re rescued by Ego (Kurt Russell) who claims to be Peter’s long-lost father. Doubts and suspicions arise, and soon the Guardians find themselves separated. Much of the same humor is back, and we no longer have to worry about getting introduced to all of the characters—but that doesn’t mean we get much more.
Gamora (Zoe Saldana) still struggles over the relationship with her sister Nebula (Karen Gillan), Drax’s (Dave Bautista) lack of sensitivity creates issues, Rocket still feels like a monster who nobody wants, and Baby Groot (who absolutely steals the show) is just happy to be apart of the team. So there’s some depth, but it doesn’t get farther than the ankles.
The problem I think most critics are having with the sequel is that it doesn’t quite feel as fresh. But if you think about it, there was no possible way you could really top it—except maybe if they had waited longer. The first one came at a time where we had already been inundated with nine movies in the MCU. The gap between these two movies is less than half of that, yet once you look past that there’s really not much else you can complain about besides the excessive characters with too little to do.
Two thoughts occurred to me throughout the film. One is that the Guardians sub-series of the whole MCU could very much become as formulaic as the rest. Take the gang, throw in them into a big dilemma, toss in group discord, sprinkle in some rockin’ tunes, and you can just let them write themselves. The other thing is that—without spoiling anything—it seems as though Marvel is setting up spin-offs within the realm of the Guardians involving some of the supporting characters. I can see a complete sub-genre of Marvel Space Movies that explore the vast reaches of the universe without coming anywhere near Earth. I can get behind this, but at the same time is it really necessary to expand that much more?
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 doesn’t reinvent the wheel like the first one, but it shouldn’t have to. It embraces its charms and quirks all while continuing to deliver stellar comedy, action, and more emotion than you’d expect. There’s still a lot to work with though, and they need to desperately avoid falling into the formulaic pitfalls that they’re starting to dig—but for the time being it delivers exactly what you’d expect and a little more.