Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)
Director: James Gunn
Cast: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper
Synopsis: Set to the backdrop of Awesome Mixtape #2, 'Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2' continues the team's adventures as they unravel the mystery of Peter Quill's true parentage.
Genre: Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi
MPAA Rating: PG-13 (for sequences of sci-fi action and violence, language, and brief suggestive content)
Release Date: May 5, 2017
When Guardians of the Galaxy (James Gunn, 2014) was released, it breathed fresh air into the superhero genre by providing audiences with quirky humor, a killer soundtrack, and a fun band of misfit characters that united for the cause of protecting the galaxy from the villainous Ronan.
Though the film provided fun action (like every other superhero film), it was ultimately the characters that made the film, as, although each of them looked completely different physically, they each shared something in common on the inside by losing loved ones from their past. By the end of the film, this commonality made the characters more than a group of friends--it made them family, as they were able to redeem their pasts by bonding with each other and forming their own family (think Zombieland (Ruben Fleisher, 2009)).
James Gunn continues and develops this familial theme in his sequel Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. The film picks up essentially where Vol. 1 left off, with Peter Quill AKA Star Lord (Chris Pratt) searching for his father after learning that he's only half human.
Sequels are one of the hardest products to pull off, not only in the film industry, but in virtually all entertainment industries, including written works and plays. The reason for this is fairly simple in that the writer/director needs to provide something fresh for the audience without losing the ingredients that made the predecessor so enjoyable, fun, and aesthetically pleasing. Solid sequels are hard to come by, with arguably some of the very best in the film industry coming from James Cameron in Aliens (1986) and Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)--films that gave audiences more action and suspense (coupled with pioneering special effects) while also expounding on the philosophical ideas and characterization of the predecessors.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 falls into a mixed bag of the good and bad when it comes to sequels. As mentioned earlier, Gunn expounds on the familial theme that drove the first film, particularly with Quill and his father Ego (Kurt Russell) and Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and her estranged sister Nebula (Karen Gillan). Both of these sets of relationships are developed throughout the film during its quieter moments. Even Rocket (Bradley Cooper) serves as a father figure to Baby Groot (Vin Diesel) as he tries his best to teach the young humanoid how to follow basic instruction and responsibility.
Vol. 2 ratchets up the humor from the first film, delivering more laughs--particularly with Baby Groot's character, who steals virtually every scene he's in. His small size, cute voice, and undeniably adorable eyes all contribute to his lovable character. Drax (Dave Bautista) also provides plenty of laughs, as does Rocket in his relationship with Baby Groot.
While Vol. 2 is undoubtedly funnier than the first film, it suffers painfully in the final act from action overload. This is something that plagues most sequels, as directors get overly concerned with outdoing their previous entries by piling on the action sequences. Don't get me wrong--action is great. But it's only great when you can follow it. The final battle in Vol. 2 is so immense that it is crosscut over several places at once, so the viewer can never get a handle on the sense of space (no pun intended) that allows them to comprehend the action. And if you can't comprehend the action, then the action (no matter how great it is) becomes dull. There's so much destruction and fast action that you feel exhausted in the end, looking forward to the several minutes of quiet dialogue scenes that will come.
Vol. 2's soundtrack/mix tape also is not as "awesome" and memorable as Vol. 1's mix tape, though to be honest it was hard to live up to Vol. 1's tape. The opening number is the film's best music sequence, with Baby Groot starting the music on the cassette and dancing around while the rest of the guardians are battling a monster. The sequence is aided by Gunn using the long shot aesthetic as the camera floats through the action reminiscent of the opening scene of Deadpool (Tim Miller, 2016).
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is funnier than its predecessor and also expounds upon the familial themes of Vol. 1, delivering quality character moments and emotion that helped make Vol. 1 such a success. Though the film suffers from massive scattershot action in the finale and can't repeat the memorable tracks of the first film, it still manages to be a fun and entertaining sequel, even if it is a step down in the franchise as a whole.