‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2’ Review: Does the Sequel Live Up to the Original?

In our ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2’ review, we take a look at James Gunn’s ambitious sequel to one of the biggest surprise hits in the Marvel Cinematic Universe…

By Damon Martin — Editor/Lead Writer

If you didn’t know who the ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ were prior to the 2014 film directed by James Gunn, don’t feel too bad.

Even hardcore comic book fans [like myself] had never even heard of this rag-tag group of space adventurers before the film was announced, but virtually everybody who saw the first film fell in love with the group and it was one of the biggest surprise hits of the year.

Admittedly no one really had lofty expectations for the first ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ movie because there were no preconceived notions about what the movie was supposed to be. Unlike some iconic characters such as Spider-Man or Batman, who have an entrenched history in pop culture where the slightest change can set off fan boy nation, the Guardians of the Galaxy had no such problem.

That’s part of the reason why Gunn was able to take so many chances with his original film and it paid off because ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ ended up as one of the best installments in the history of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Fast forward to three years later and the sequel to the film is now out as ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2’ landed in theaters on Friday. Unlike the last release, ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2’ was one of the most highly anticipated films of the year and there has been a ton of curiosity surrounded the movie and whether or not Gunn could pull off the same magic a second time.

Well the good news is Gunn not only delivered a sequel on par with the original but he may have even found ways to surpass the first film with even more humor and heart by the time the final credits roll. ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2’ is not only one of the best action-adventure films you’ll see this year, but it’s also one of the funniest.

Maybe you don’t look for humor in your superhero films, but Gunn has found a way to inject hilarious interactions between his characters while also filling the story with an interesting plot, several twists and turns and a finale that will absolutely pull on your heart strings.

With that said, let’s get to our review for ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2’…

Plot

Following the formation of the Guardians of the Galaxy, the group is now engaged in a heroes for hire situation where they will help out staving off monsters and creatures of all sorts for a price. When the movie begins, the Guardians have been hired by a particularly advanced race known as the Sovereign, who have bargained a price with them to ensure that an oncoming creature doesn’t steal a set of powerful and precious batteries on their planet.

The Guardians do the job well enough and they receive their bounty but that’s when the mayhem ensues when one of the members of the group sets off a battle with the Sovereign, who are determined to make them pay for the transgression.

In the middle of all of this, Peter Quill finally meets his father — a powerful entity known as Ego the Living Planet, who brings his son and the rest of his friends to their home world where he tries to reconnect with him. Needless to say, not everything is what it seems when it comes to Ego much less his connection to his son, Peter.

Add to that, the Ravagers get mixed up in all of this thanks to the grudge being held against the Guardians by the Sovereign and it all comes together in one pretty epic galactic battle.

Acting

Between ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ and ‘Jurassic Park’, it’s safe to say that Chris Pratt has become just about everybody’s favorite action hero with a heart of gold. Pratt delivers once again in ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2’ as he ranges from fall down funny to several heartbreaking scenes that might end with a few tears rolling down a cheek.

Zoe Saldana is definitely the Spock to Pratt’s Kirk because she plays serious as well as anybody in the Marvel Universe while still managing to deliver real emotion throughout the movie.

Actually it’s safe to say everyone in the cast delivers from Pratt to Saldana to Michael Rooker and everyone else in between.

The one person who I want to single out from the cast in this movie, however, is former WWE superstar Dave Bautista, who not only improved dramatically from the first film to the sequel but he might just have the best comedic timing of anybody in the Marvel Universe today.

Bautista is a brutish brick wall made up of muscle but he’s also absolutely hilarious throughout this film and it’s clear Gunn had a ton of fun writing scenes for him, particularly his interactions with Pom Klementieff, who plays newcomer Mantis in the film. Bautista might just be the best part of the entire sequel, especially when he’s riffing back and forth with Klementieff or Pratt because those scenes are some of the most memorable in the movie.

Directing and Writing

James Gunn has always been an incredibly fun director and writer to watch over the years, but he’s really come into his own through the first two ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ movies. His constant mix of heart and humor define this film franchise and he hasn’t skipped a beat from one film to the next.

While the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been leaps and bounds ahead of anybody else in the industry when it comes to superhero movies — and yes that’s a direct slight at the house of disrepair happening over at DC right now — some of the sequels have been good but still not as enjoyable as the original.

The first ‘Iron Man’ film helped launch the new Marvel Cinematic Universe, but the subsequent sequels didn’t really deliver as much as ‘Captain America: Civil War’ gave us a much more fully realized Tony Stark. The second ‘Thor’ film titled ‘The Dark World’ was as cookie cutter as superhero sequel could get.

And ‘The Avengers: Age of Ultron’ felt a little bit like Joss Whedon just stopped having fun making Marvel movies after wrote and directed one of the best of all time with the original ‘Avengers’ film.

So it’s amazing that Gunn has managed to not only make a worthy sequel to his original, but a true compliment to the first film. ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2’ is well written, well directed and only makes you want more by the time the movie is over.

What’s Wrong with the Movie?

The first ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ film tied back into the Marvel Cinematic Universe by showcasing Thanos as the shadowy figure lurking behind the scenes, pulling the strings of his daughter Nebula as well as Ronan, while they tried to steal one of the infinity stones to hand over to ‘The Mad Titan’.

If there’s one complaint about ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2’ it’s that the film really doesn’t push the group towards becoming part of the Marvel Universe with ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ coming out sooner rather than later. It would have been nice to see even a cameo by Doctor Strange or Thor or anybody else for that matter interacting with the Guardians so the narrative could begin shifting towards the epic two-part film that will bring all of the Marvel elements together in one grand story.

We know that the Guardians of the Galaxy are part of the ‘Infinity War’ story but how they get there much less how they team up with the other heroes remains a mystery. The “cosmic” heroes in Marvel comics have largely been detached from their Earth-bound counterparts, but they always seem to find a way to come together when a galactic villain threatens to collapse the entire universe.

If there was one complaint — albeit very minor — it’s that the Guardians still feel like a stand alone movie far, far away from the rest of the Marvel Universe. And that’s all fine, except for the fact that we know the Guardians will play a part in the ‘Infinity War’ still to come.

Final Verdict

‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2’ gets it all right. From the story to the dialogue to the plot and the film even manages to create a believable villain, which has admittedly been an issue with some of the Marvel films in the past. ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2’ is definitely the most fun you’ll have at the theater this summer and don’t you dare get up out of your seat when the film is finished. There are several post credits scenes to make sure stick around until they are all completed.

‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2’ gets five out of five on the Skolnick Scale:

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