This movie might be the one in this entire franchise that the largest gulf between my expectation of it, and what I ended up feeling about it when I finally saw it. I adored the first Guardians of the Galaxy, just read my post about it when I saw it again last year. It’s still one of my favourite movies in the entire franchise. Which is why the sequel was such a let down for me when we eventually got it.
Before you get angry with me, if you want to see the archive of this review series so far, then just click this link. Or you can just continue and read me being cynical about Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.
Suffering from Sequelitis
We’re really getting into the MCU movies that I haven’t seen again since I saw them in the Cinema now. And Guardians Vol.2 is one that I have purposely avoided watching again. I remember being underwhelmed by it at the time, and now, upon revisiting it, I am able to see why.
More so than any other movie in this entire franchise, Guardians 2 suffers from being a sequel. By this point, the MCU was heavily established and feels like an interconnected world with all of these characters existing in the same place. Guardians, on the other hand, still feels separated from anything happening on Earth. Thus suffers from repeating jokes and self reference.
The intro sequence, featuring Baby Groot dancing in front of an action sequence is just lifted from the first movie. And it lacks the impact of that scene. It’s an example of more not necessarily being better. The scene in the first movie is strange and came out of nowhere, in this movie we know the tone and so the only option for them was to escalate.
Groot freezing when Drax looks at him is just the same joke from the ending of the first movie and doesn’t feel organic to what’s going on in the rest of the scene. I’m just going to risk the wrath of my readership and say that I think Baby Groot in his entirely in this movie is a cynical marketing move by Marvel and Disney.
Loss of Charm
Part of the reason the first movie was so good was how all the characters ended up acting as foils to one another. How, despite their differences, they came together as a family and it all felt organic within their various shortcomings as pretty criminals and/or idiots.
In this movie, half of those characters feel superfluous within the plot. Drax, who was one of the most genuinely funny parts of the first movie feels like a caricature of himself in the sequel. He just feels like a punchline machine, one that’s been dialed up to maximum setting. While he does get a few genuine character moments, they’re fleeting and he doesn’t really have a place in the story.
It’s the same with Groot. You could argue that he was just there for the jokes in the first movie, his sacrifice at the end was one of the most touching moments of the entire film. Here, he is just there to look adorable and little else.
The real hearts of the sequel are the story between Gamora and Nebula, and the one between Rocket and Yondu. Even Peter’s story feels unimportant by comparison, despite being the one driving the plot of the movie forward. As great at Kurt Russel is in the movie, I struggled to get invested in him and Peter’s section of the movie.
It’s just too silly
It might be because the movie is just trying too hard to be the first one again, but more. It’s like it’s trying to outdo itself at every turn, and it ends up being to its detriment. The Sovereign race, while seeming to be threatening at first, end up undercutting themselves at every turn. They act the petulant, self important peoples, but end up making themselves look the fools before anyone else get the opportunity.
Mantis character is so over the top that she never really seems all that deep. And then you’ve got Ego’s totally pointless and moronic move to self destruct when he reveals himself to be the movies villain. Pure charisma can only get you so far, and I really just believe that even Kurt’s charm can’t cover up what is really just a piece of weak writing when his character takes the turn.
Admitting that he impregnated and then killed the children of countless women in his pursuit to create another being like himself is one thing. But to brazenly admit that he killed Peter’s mother like it was nothing is profoundly stupid. So much so that it takes me out of the movie. Had Peter discovered some connection on his own that lead him to figure it out himself would have been a better move, other than Ego to suddenly say “BTW, I’m evil now. Lul.”
Between the villain making an unforced error to defeat himself, the face warping scene and the whole “Taserface” thing, this movie just feels like a cartoon, and not in a good way.
It’s strengths are where it’s ultimately still about family
One of the best aspects of the first movie were the core messages of the movie; about how family is where you make it and not necessarily those who’re related to you by blood.
That message, amongst all of the other nonsense, it still there. Gamora’s reconciliation with her sister Nebula is one of those aspects of the movie that most strongly lends itself to that message. The other, and possibly strongest aspect of the movie, is Michael Rooker as Yondu.
In many ways, this feels like Yondu’s movie. He starts off getting ostracised for his part in kidnapping and delivering kids to Ego by the rest of the Ravegers. Then connecting to Rocket through their common fear of connection to others, and then his ultimate sacrifice for Peter as the closest thing to a father/son connection either of them has ever had.
“He may have been your father boy, but he weren’t your Daddy” continues to be one of my favourite single lines to come out of the entire MCU. Which is really surprising considering how critical I have been of the rest of his movie. Despite the utter silliness surrounding nearly every other aspect of this movie, the final moments between Peter and Yondu are by far the strongest emotional moments from the movie and end up making my cynical brain feel better about the movie in hindsight.
If I’m going to be as cold and cynical about this movie as I possibly can, outside of the introduction of Mantis, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 contributes nothing to the greater story being told within the MCU. It could arguably be removed from the series with minimal impact to the overall story.
As a stand alone movie, it’s entertaining enough. It’s not a bad movie by any means, but at this point, after multiple Avengers movies and Civil War happening, there is this unspoken expectation that each movie link up to the others in some way or another and build up to the eventual battle with Thanos.
That might be an unfair expectation of the movie, one that should be able to stand up on its own merit. But I also think the movie fails to do that on some level. It’s trying to outdo its predecessor on all fronts and ends up feeling lesser than it as a result.