In 2014, the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie was released and surprised movie-going audiences with a fun movie about a wily group of rogues. It came out of nowhere and became one of Marvel’s most critically and financially successful movies. Director James Gunn was given carte blanche to continue the series and took on primary writing credit.
Now, three years later, we have the follow-up in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. Since saving a planet in the last movie, the Guardians have become famous in the cosmos. They are hired for dangerous jobs, but the wherever they go, notoriety follows. Early in the movie, Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) finds the dad he never met, Ego (Kurt Russell). In the midst of this discovery, the team has to deal with countless wild-cards that put their lives in danger.
Vol. 2 is everything that sequels tend to be. It takes everything that worked in the first fun movie and quadruples it. That entails, if you liked the action, you’ll get plenty more. If you liked the vivid color palette, you’ll get plenty more. And most importantly, if you liked the fun jokes, you’ll get at least four times the jokes.
James Gunn took the freedom Marvel allotted him and ran with it. There are at least five jokes per minute. Every character is a comedian. Yet, at some point, you feel that when every character is funny, that none of them are. There are laughs to be had. The off-kilter aspects of the movie will catch you off guard and provide some surprising chuckles, but when only one of every 20 jokes land, it feels like it’s trying too hard.
All this said, fans of the first will salivate over the hilarity and forget that there is no story actually being told. In truth, this is more of a character-driven movie where the group pairs off and each has their own version of a buddy movie. Yet, we only see less-likable versions of each character this time around and they are given nothing more to do than to spout teenage-caliber one-liners.
When the story does actually unfold (90 minutes in), the action starts to ramp up and we get to see the team work together once more. This is a drastic improvement over the ending of the first movie. While there does seem to be a bit of deus ex machina at work, the pacing is helped by every member of the team having something worthwhile to do. For me, the endless jokes are helped when served with a healthy serving of action.
Had Gunn taken some scissors to the bloated runtime of 2 hours 16 minutes, he’d have a movie that was nearly as tight as the first go round. Instead, there’s a lot of characters wandering and wondering what they’re meant to do on a planet for the majority of the movie. It got a bit tedious.
If you’re easily pleased, I would absolutely recommend this movie. You’ll see the flaws, but forgive them because you just want fun. All in all, this is a crowd pleaser (but not a Kenny D pleaser). It is far less original than the first movie. The fun feels forced and often falls flat. But when so much fun is thrown at the wall, something is bound to stick. D+