I’m a huge fan of the first Guardians.
I saw it three times in theaters, spread the gospel of Star-Lord and his space misfits to my whole family, and had the soundtrack on repeat like so many other fans.
Now almost three years later, I’m in a totally different place in my life than I was when the predecessor came out.
No longer am I wasting away my 20’s working at movie theatre, trying to find happiness in any movie I saw, and being devoted to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Now, I’m wasting my 20’s going to college, heading out to the movies less and less, and having to defend the DC Cinematic far too often.
When the trailers and posters started to hit for Guardians Vol. 2, none of it was sticking with me. With each trailer and each new poster, I started feeling like they were forcing the charm that made the first one so memorable.
It wasn’t working for me and the only thing that stood out was how colorful the film looked (Especially compared to the boring gray color grade that plagued Civil War’s visuals), but then the IMAX poster made me take back that thought.
After seeing some of the early positive and mixed reviews that called the film, “Super fun but not much else” & “Well the film picks up A LOT during the third act“, I got myself ready for anything.
Well, I’ve seen Vol. 2 and those positive and mixed reviews I read couldn’t be further from the truth.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is indeed fun and does have a lot happen in it’s third act, but that’s only the tip of the iceberg and too vague to drum up excitement.
Vol. 2 is also far more than a retread of the first film, and it has thematic weight throughout the WHOLE film, not just the third act.
Although the story structure does have a lot of similarities to the first film, director James Gunn uses those familiar set ups and infuses them with more depth; giving you what you want but not in the way you expected (The opening credits are a prime example of this).
This is hit or miss, but more on that later.
After our team of intergalactic misfits pull off a successful and visually inventive mission for The Sovereign, a species of beings that are covered in GOLD, we’re finally able to meet some new characters.
The queen of these people, played with excellence by Elizabeth Debicki, flirts and then makes an out-of-nowhere insult about Star-Lord’s genetics. Literally, the mood goes from everyone joking around to everyone trying to not make a scene.
This comment clearly has an impact on Chris Pratt’s character, who was thankfully given a lot of emotional scenes to work with this time around, instead of endless puns and dance breaks.
During this moment one thing became apparent, this film is going to stop at nothing to give these characters more depth, tonal shifts be damned!
When the action gets started again, Star-Lord and Rocket Raccoon, voiced with extra snarkiness by Bradley Cooper, continually try to outdo each other, which puts the team at jeopardy until a random space ship saves them.
When the two are confronted with what just happened, Rocket goes for the jugular, and is clearly trying to push his new friends away. Not even Baby Groot can make him gooey on the inside.
Even the endlessly charming Zoe Saldana, whose character is still a bit underdeveloped, is feeling the emotional blues.
As a matter of fact, ALMOST every character in this movie feels this way and they make it a known fact, especially a surprisingly morose Yondu, played flawlessly by Michael Rooker.
Now I really enjoyed the action and the surplus moments of character development, but what makes Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 at once the best sequel Marvel Studios has ever made and one of it’s more frustrating outings, is it’s tonal shifts and humor.
The first two acts do quite well with the high concept action, especially the insanely violent but funny Yondu breakout scene, and moments of Quill connecting with his father, played with gravitas by Kurt Russell.
But once a big revelation is revealed and there were literal tears in my eyes, the film commits the biggest sin, and it’s what I like to call, “The That 70’s Show” flaw.
This flaw is when a moment is on the verge of breaking your heart and then BAM, they throw in lame jokes to make you not so sad anymore.
This is literally 80 percent of the third act.
For every devastating moment, two jokes are thrown in to remind us to have a FUN time.
Good moments are had during this part of the film, but the constant need to add light to the proceedings made it cringey and ruined what could’ve been the most emotionally resonant act in any Marvel Studios film.
That gripe aside, I do recommend seeing this film as soon as possible.
It’s not as fresh or inventive as the original because it doesn’t need to be.
James Gunn knows what the audience wants, which is mixing an awesome soundtrack with a hilarious space opera.
Thankfully, he’s wise enough to take risks, which is why many people have cried during this film and the refusal to not shy away from depressing moments make this stand out when it could’ve been forgettable.
★★★½ Marvel Studios’ best sequel suffers from too many tonal shifts, but is emotionally worthwhile and dazzling on the big screen.