By Michael Kaye
We are official at the start of the Summer movie season, or are we? Honestly, with big blockbuster movies such as Logan, Kong: Skull Island and Fate of the Furious opening earlier in the year, as well as Thor: Ragnarok, Justice League and Star Wars: The Jedi closing out 2017, it feels like the idea of movie seasons is a tad outdated. Nevertheless, what better way to kick off the summer than with Marvel's band of misfits in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.
In this installment, Peter Quill and his fellow Guardians are hired by a powerful alien race, the Sovereign, to protect their precious batteries from invaders. When it is discovered that Rocket has stolen the items they were sent to guard, the Sovereign dispatch their armada to search for vengeance. As the Guardians try to escape, the mystery of Peter's parentage is revealed.
Should you rush out and see this movie? Absolutely yes! Is it better than the original? Well, that's what's we're going to explore in my positives and negatives.
*Possible spoilers ahead*
First off, what works in this film just as much, if not more than the original are the Guardians themselves. Here, everyone on the team has settled quite comfortably into their respective roles. Chris Pratt gets the most development out of anyone, since a majority of the plot revolves around his story, and how he finally found out about his true heritage. Bradley Cooper has been placed under arrest, for the crime to stealing this movie as Rocket Raccoon, while Michael Rooker's Yondu served as his accomplice. Seriously, these two have some of the best scenes in the movie, including another iconic "prison break scene." There's actually a lot of great pairs this time around. Zoe Saldana and Karen Gillan share a few emotional scenes as Gamora and Nebula, Pratt spends some quality time with his dad, played by a bearded Kurt Russell. Finally, newcomer Pom Klementieff as Mantis sparks a beautiful friendship with Dave Bautista's Drax the Destroyer. As for Groot, let's just hope both Disney and Vin Diesel are better prepared for the copious amount of merchandise that will come flying off the shelves for at least the next two years.
Speaking of Groot, he's part of a larger positive, and that's the incredible visual effects. Weta Digital really went all out with this installment. Ever since the first movie, the floodgates of the Marvel cosmic universe have been busted wide open. A wide variety of characters, alien races and planets would not have been able to make their big screen debut, had it not been for the unexpected success of Guardians of the Galaxy. I mean, did you ever think we were actually going to see Ego the Living Planet or the Sovereign if James Gunn didn't deliver on a great first installment?
That leads me to my next point, James Gunn himself, the real star of this franchise. He might actually be Marvel Studios' most consistent writer and director next to the Russo Brothers. I do have some minor critiques, and we will get to those soon, but for now, I have to thank him for accomplishing an incredibly difficult task, which was trying to balance both raising the stakes and telling a more intimate story at the same time. If you don't care at all about the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but you loved the first movie, this is a great stand alone sci-fi fantasy movie a la Flash Gordon or Serenity. I like how this movie's conflict is tied directly to the main characters, as opposed to the original's big bad, who just so happens to stumble across our main heroes.
As far as the negatives, I only have two complaint, one just barely more important than the other.
My first complaint is pretty common among any movie, and that's the tiny pinch of jokes that didn't stick their landing. This one really depends on the audience, because not everyone's going to be laughing at the same jokes. Perhaps that's one reason to go back and watch the movie multiple times, so I can catch everything that I missed.
My other critique is about the villains. People like to make fun of Ronan the Accuser for being a weak villain, but at least Lee Pace brought an intimidating screen presence to the character. The Sovereign, by comparison, are really nothing more than cannon fodder. They don't even deserve to be labeled as the villains, since their purpose is to be the evil equivalent to the Nova Corp's role in the original. If you want to know my thoughts about the REAL villain, you'll have to wait for a spoiler discussion.
Finally, let's talk about Awesome Mix, Volume 2. I've already expressed my opinion about the tracklist itself in a separate article, but as far as how they were used in the film, Gunn delivered exactly what I was expecting based on his interview with Rolling Stone magazine. In terms of the score, I really hope Tyler Bates returns for Volume 3, because he's Marvel's best composer not named Michael Giacchino or Alan Silvestri.
Before I forget, you are not allowed to leave until the ushers kick you out of the theater, because there are not one, not two, not three, but FIVE mid/post-credits scenes that are so worth the wait.
For my first viewing, I can't decide which movie I like better, Guardians of the Galaxy or Volume 2. Both movies share similar strengths and weaknesses, but at the end of the day, the tie breaker is your personal preference. Those who prefer a tighter narrative may lean towards the original, while I prefer the more character driven sequel.
Now I want to hear from you guys. Have you seen Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2, and if so what did you think? Also, for those who have seen both, which do you prefer? Drop your thoughts in the comments below, and stay tuned as always for more awesome content coming your way!