When you go to see a sequel, there is usually a lot of concern. Most sequels can’t stand up to their progenitors, ranging anywhere from decent to horrible. On occasion, however, you not only find one that’s equal but also surpasses the original. The Godfather: Part II, The Empire Strikes Back, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Addams Family Values; and now we can add James Gunn’s space-superhero bonanza to this revered list.
While I enjoyed the original Guardians of the Galaxy, I felt it played it safe at times. That movie was a lot of fun and humorous, but it never pushed me over the top. In Vol. 2, they finally gave me that “oomph,” and that was mostly thanks to the comedy. The laughs never seem to stop, and they reach new levels of hilarity, with Drax the MVP of this aspect. Dave Bautista’s lines and delivery are gold, and if he doesn’t win some recognition, there’s something wrong with this industry.
That’s not to say the movie is solely jokes, although that’s part of what makes the GotG franchise different from the others. (Except Ant-Man, another fantastically funny Marvel film.) The action and effects are top-notch throughout, as expected, from chaotic ship battles to energy-morphing beings. The performers also did their jobs, from breathtaking stunts to amazing fight sequences (which is more than can be said for another Marvel franchise). One criticism I have is that the 3D interfered with my enjoyment at times; while significantly improved over previous movies, with vibrant colors, the 3D effects made some scenes appear almost “video game” quality, with overly-sharp individuals or vehicles but blurred backgrounds.
I mentioned Bautista, of course, but while he’s the heart of the comedy, there’s plenty of great performances. Chris Pratt provides the Peter Quill we’ve grown to love, supported by the fantastic Zoe Saldana and the excellent voice acting of Vin Diesel and Bradley Cooper. Michael Rooker and Karen Gillan bring new depth (and hilarity) to Yondu and Nebula, while newcomer Pom Klementieff rounds out the raggedy crew with her great take on Mantis. Kurt Russell was fun, but I will note that the MCU’s version of Ego was interesting (to say the least).
There were many more supporting characters, and I can’t go into them all, but I will say that the cameos were fantastic. I won’t go into who they portray (you can find out yourself), but look for Sylvester Stallone, Ving Rhames, Michelle Yeoh, Michael Rosenbaum, and (of course) Stan Lee. About the only actor I’m a bit upset wasn’t included was Benicio del Toro, although there’s someone related to his character that you might miss if you’re not watching carefully.
Speaking of which, this movie was probably the greatest for Easter Eggs and other references. I’ve never seen so many shout-outs to the comics, callbacks to the MCU, and hidden jokes. Even from the start, with a new opening sequence for Marvel Cinematic Universe movies, you are starting to feel like this isn’t just a GotG sequel but an MCU sequel. I’m not going to spoil them for you, though, I can guarantee only the most hardcore fans will catch them all. I will remind everyone that there are five ending scenes after the credits start and even the rolling credits themselves have some references and jokes, so stick it through to the end!
Was there a weak point to the movie? I suppose there were a few. A little less variety of locations than the original, some rather cliché (or predictable) plot points, and sometimes a dramatic scene would run a little long. Luckily, just as things were getting too sappy or cheesy, someone would drop a one-liner, and the laughter would bring everything back on track. Was it perfect? Probably not, but it was close enough for me.
I give Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, a solid 5 batteries that I don’t need out of 5.