Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, by Cameron J. Czaja

When Guardians of the Galaxy was released back in 2014 it became a pop culture phenomenon. From the action, to the humor and retro soundtrack, it was something that everyone enjoyed.  It was no surprise that a sequel, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017), was already in the works. Before I watched the sequel, I was both excited and hesitant at the same time: excited because the cast and director James Gunn were returning, but also hesitant because it’s rare that a sequel will out do its predecessor. Did lightning strike twice for James Gunn? As usual let’s find out, and there will be spoilers in this review.

Taking place months after Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 (which is what I’m referring this film from here on out) features the Guardians that we fell in love in the first film. There’s Peter Quill, a.k.a Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista), Rocket Raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper), and Baby Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel). At the beginning of this film we see them take down an alien creature that’s been causing trouble for Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki), who is the leader of the Sovereign Race. After successfully defeating the alien creature, Ayesha rewards them by handing over Gamora’s estranged sister Nebula (Karen Gillian), and from there they head out on their next journey. It’s not until they get into space when the Sovereign’s start attacking them. They do this because Rocket (by his nature) stole the batteries that the Guardians originally protected, which leads them into a high speed chase through an asteroid field. Just when all hope was lost, a mysterious figure saves the Guardians and later meets them on a nearby planet. This mysterious figure just happens to be Peter’s long-lost father Ego (Kurt Russell) and invites him, Gamora, and Drax to his planet to explain to Peter his origins. Meanwhile, Rocket, Baby Groot, and Nebula stay behind to fix the ship that was damaged during the chase. Meanwhile, Ayesha and the Sovereign track down Peter’s old mentor Yondu Udonta (Micheal Rooker) and hire him and his crew to capture Peter and the rest of the Guardians, which leads to more conflict for our heroes.

I wish I could say that I enjoyed Vol. 2 as much as the first film, but I would be lying if I did say that I did. When I first saw it I couldn’t figure out what it was that made me not love it. I then watched it again a couple of days later with my brother and we both came to the conclusion that the humor and the direction wasn’t as strong as the first film. That said, Vol. 2 does have a character that reminded me of a very important biblical figure that a lot of people can relate to, but I’ll touch on that later.

Guardians of the Galaxy, for the most part, is a fun film and if anyone told me that they loved Vol. 2 I wouldn’t argue with them. But the main problem for me with it is that it feels like an inferior film to the first one, from the humor to certain action scenes. I didn’t notice it as much during my first viewing, but when I saw it the second time around it was clearer. To me the dialogue felt a lot more juvenile and not in a clever way like the first one did. In fact, there’s only one bit of dialog that made me laugh out loud, which was when Yondu says the line “I’m Marry Poppins y’all!” It was something that caught me off guard and it still makes me laugh to this day. As far as the action scenes, they were serviceable, but at the same time there were moments where it felt a little oversaturated. This is something that is a bit of a nitpick as most people will enjoy them. For me, however, I feel like it could’ve been toned down just a bit, at least to the level as the first one.

If there is one thing that Vol. 2 does right that didn’t feel inferior compared to the first film, it’s the soundtrack. Everyone who saw the first film fell in love with Peter’s Awesome Mix, the cassette tape that originality belonged to his late mother, and his new mixtape was something I deeply enjoyed. Not only were the songs great, but I liked how they incorporated the songs into the story this time around. Whether it’s Baby Groot dancing along to Electric Light Orchestra’s “Mr. Blue Sky” at the beginning of the film, to hearing Fleatwood Mac’s “The Chain” played during the climatic fight between Peter and his father, Vol. 2 has a great playlist that proves that incorporating classic songs for the sake of nostalgia isn’t a gimmick.

Remember when I said earlier that there was character here that reminded me of a important Biblical figure? Well, in case you were wondering, Yondu (out of all people) was the one reminded of a certain religious character, which was Joseph. While he wasn’t Jesus’s biological father, he was a big mentor in his life and Yondu fit that description for Peter by raising him as his own. Yondu even saved him a good number of times between the two films, and he gives his life for Peter after they defeat Ego during the climax. That scene brings out a lot of emotion, which was needed to counter the film’s goofier moments.

Shortcomings aside, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 does have fun moments in it, which makes for a fun popcorn film if you can just watch it for the spectacle. It will be a while unfortunately until the sequel (Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3) comes out, but in the meantime this a fun MCU film that is good to rewatch whenever you get the chance. It’s not as good as its predecessor, but then again it’s a tough obstacle to overcome when the bar has been set so high by the first.

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