More planets! More characters! More throwback radio hits! Most importantly, more Groot!
The 400-Word Review: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
By Sean Collier
May 8, 2017
This being a sequel (and a sequel to a somewhat unlikely hit), Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 leans in to what made the original a smash. Marvel Studios created icons out of previously little-known characters by making their introductory film an alternative; utterly absent the dire angst of DC's films and without the high-stakes, constant-peril bombast of their Marvel brethren, the Guardians were fun and irreverent, a technicolor romp in a sea of import-laden heroes.
So Vol. 2 had to lean into those elements; the film, again written and directed by James Gunn (who is without original co-writer Nicole Perlman this time), insists upon its humor a bit more than the original did. It turns up the visual splendor and centers Groot - now Baby Groot (voice of Vin Diesel) - more than the first film did.
But that's all fine. First, because those predilections give fans more of what made the original Guardians so different. And second, because the sequel ups the human stakes considerably, another welcome change from the Marvel norm.
The plot is almost incidental - the Guardians get into a jam, desperate space chases and hilarious escape attempts ensue - but the film is truly defined by two relationships. Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) is approached early in the film by a man (Kurt Russell) claiming to be two things: his father and a demigod. Meanwhile, Gamora (Zoe Saldana) has taken custody of her outlaw sister Nebula (Karen Gillan), who is desperate for revenge against their adopted father Thanos.
While most Marvel flicks are about big, ineffable concepts - war and peace, life and death, nation and citizen - this one is about family. (Unlike the Fast and Furious series, which repeatedly insists that it is about family, but is actually about the speed with which metal objects move and collide.) The Guardians are a clan of their own choosing, and here, the meaning of such bonds is put up against blood; what are the obligations of an adopted family and the limitations of a biological one?
Wait a minute - isn't this supposed to be the silly movie?
It still is, with plenty of slapstick and one-liners. But Vol. 2 found a novel way to up the stakes on its predecessor: While staying absurd, it also got real. Who could've called that?
My Rating: 9/10
Sean Collier is the Associate Editor of Pittsburgh Magazine and a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association. Read more from Sean at pittsburghmagazine.com/afterdark