Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 follows up the original’s surprise success with a slick second episode that lacks the original’s stakes, but delivers satisfying character moments.
The emotional core of the story has a nice payoff and connects each of the large cast very well. There are many moving parts to balance and director/co-writer James Gunn does a fantastic job of making each scene count towards the final resolution. Motivations are fleshed out and paid off to satisfaction.
There are jokes aplenty, if not a few too many. A couple dramatic moments could have been stronger without the ever present punchline punctuating nearly every scene. A few jokes fall flat, with the characters’ forced laughs coming off even flatter, but the sheer amount of generally funny gags won me over. The comic style can be a little too similar at times, like binge-watching a season of Friends and realizing there are a few over-used joke constructs. These are nitpicks, as it’s still one of the funniest movies of the year.
The visuals were sumptuous (there’s a word). A movie spanning a galaxy will obviously have a ton of CGI so I enjoyed the attempt to fit in practical effects when possible to add weight.
The strength of the film lies in the chemistry and charisma of its large cast. The group’s personalities play well off each other and there’s a genuine sense of fun. In many ways it feels like a sitcom hitting its stride. The character arcs and relationships aren’t deep as an ocean, but they’re still a fun summertime splash at the pool with your best friends.
In many ways it draws heavily from the Marvel formula but the singular directorial vision of Gunn elevates it with much more personality than the usual MCU flick.
The main flaw is the lack of any dramatic tension or stakes. The rules of danger often bend to fit whatever is most pleasing to the eye in the scene. When the heroes are being chased and shot at by enemies, I rarely, if ever, felt a speck of danger, tension, or anything of interest other than enjoying the spectacle and banter. Enemies miss more than stormtroopers. The gang is sometimes worried about falling, and other times can land perfectly safe from high drops. Sometimes they duck for cover, other times they carelessly float amongst a lethal-looking battle to finish a conversation.
This would be more of a problem in a full-on action thriller, but Vol 2 succeeds on the strength of its comedy, charisma, and fun. It’s a pulpy blockbuster with a lovable cast, tons of heart, decent narrative, and a surprisingly touching ending. The lack of tension means I have little desire to watch it again, but for a one-time viewing, it’s a great time at the movies.