Who would have thought that the Guardians of the Galaxy would become as popular as they are now? First created back in 1969 with a different line-up in an alternate timeline of the Marvel Universe, the team is one that had languished in the halls of obscurity. Even a more recent version of the team (created in 2008) set in the main Marvel Universe was still pretty little-known. It is this newer team, though, that would serve as the basis for the hugely successful film Guardians of the Galaxy. Under director James Gunn’s vision, the film was an irreverent spin in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, packing the humor with heart in its off-beat characters and packing an excellent soundtrack. Audiences fell in love with the film and its characters, an impressive thing for such odd characters as Rocket (a bipedal violent raccoon) and Groot (a walking, talking tree-being with limited linguistics). Now, the goodwill generated with this irreverent romp has translated into hype for its sequel, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. Indeed, it delivers on that hype by bringing the humor and heart back in spades, even if this film might be slightly lesser than the first one.
After having taken down Ronan the Accuser and saving the planet Xandar from potential destruction, Star-Lord and the Guardians of the Galaxy have now become heroes. More specifically, they have become heroes for hire, offering their services in exchange for a paycheck. Their newest mission had added some danger to their lives, though. It has made them enemies of the Sovereign, a race of genetically engineered beings who consider themselves superior to all others. In trying to escape the Sovereign, though, they cross paths with a more surprising character: Ego, a Celestial who claims to be the father of Star-Lord. Wary of his claims, Star-Lord decides to learn from Ego about the truths of his origins and the incredible power he just might possess. Unfortunately, Sovereign have not given up their hunt for the Guardians. In fact, they have hired the Ravagers, a gang of criminals and thieves, to hunt them down and bring them back for execution. Now, the clock is ticking as the Ravagers come calling and Star-Lord sets out to learn his real parentage, though there may be darker secrets lurking in this pursuit.
As I mentioned, the film is really good, but potentially a bit lesser than the first film. Before I go into my main complaints, though, it is worth noting that the film does deliver on a lot of the strengths from the first film. The humor is still as irreverent as ever, with the laughs landing from broad moments and well-crafted character interactions. That irreverence also shines in how much the film is willing to embrace and run with the craziness that can arise in the cosmic side of Marvel comics, whether featuring cameos from characters like Howard the Duck or featuring kooky concepts like a “quantum asteroid field”. As for the villains, they make for a stronger, more interesting batch of foes than the straight-faced and generic nature of Ronan. For instance, some of the villains have a more humorous touch to them, allowing them to more naturally fit within the tone that the Guardians of the Galaxy films possess. For example, the Sovereign make their claims of being superior to other races and that they seek to achieve their own perfection, but they act like spoiled petulant jerks when things stop going their way. Of course, not everything hits and lands with quite the same impact as the first film.
Though this film has plenty that is good, it feels a bit more unfocused than the previous entry. The multiple plots in the first film were woven together well, kept united in the central issue of a powerful orb and the threat it might possess were it to end up in the wrong hands. For the sequel, however, its multiple plots feel much more separate and only fully tying in once the movie’s gears start turning to the climax. Though there is great character development that unfolds in each of these plot strands, the result is that it still ultimately feels a bit unfocused. In addition, there are a few moments when the irreverence sometimes lands a bit hollow. It is not often, but there is the odd moment when a joke lasts a bit too long or an ’80s pop culture reference feels a little forced. That said, the movie is still ultimately a fun ride. The same heart and sense of fun that were in the first film are on full display here. In fact, because it is passed having to introduce these heroes, the film is able to delve more into their cores and develop them further. It is mostly a case of a few small flaws in an otherwise enjoyable movie.
Sometimes, rich fodder can be mined from the halls of obscurity. The first Guardians of the Galaxy film proved that by delivering on engaging characters and an irreverent sense of fun, and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 maintains that shining quality, even if there may be a small flaw or two.