Movie Review: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
By Matthew Huntley
May 16, 2017
Ego invites Peter, Gamora and Drax back to his paradisiacal planet and explains he's a Celestial being, or “god with a lowercase 'g',” and that Peter himself is a half-deity of sorts. What Ego ultimately has in store for his son, I'll not reveal, but Ego's pet empath, Mantis (Pom Klementieff), with her bug-like eyes and antennae, has the ability to feel what others feel, and she knows a truth about Ego that she almost reveals to Drax as they develop a relationship of their own.
Meanwhile, Yondu (Michael Rooker), the excommunicated, blue-skinned Ravager who kidnapped Peter as a child because “the boy was good for thieving,” answers the Sovereigns' call to destroy the Guardians. But circumstances and changes of heart complicate matters, and it just so happens Yondu and Rocket become unlikely allies against Yondu's once-loyal band of followers.
All of these plot threads eventually come together in a rather traditional climax, replete with all the usual battles and explosions, including an entire planet getting destroyed, but each carries its own weight, and Gunn doesn't allow any of the storylines or characters to get short-changed. He balances all the working parts exceptionally well, and as action-heavy and “comic book-ish” as it is, we become invested in the narrative on more than just a silly and funny sci-fi adventure level. We come to really care about what happens, even more than we did with the original, and respond emotionally to the characters' struggles and growth. The integrity with which Gunn treats the “light and mindless material” encourages us to not let our expectations of the genre dictate our overall impression and we appreciate “Vol. 2” as a thoroughly entertaining movie with lots of heart and intelligence.
Of course, the production values are also top-notch, although with a $200 million budget, how could they not be? It's clearly been money well spent, as the special effects in particular are right up there with “Dr. Strange,” another Marvel Comics Universe entity. And for anyone who's seen “Dr. Strange,” which I'm guessing will be a lot of the same people who see “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2,” that's saying a lot.
If nothing else, and whether or not you're familiar with the material, the movie is just a whole lotta fun and embodies what's best about Hollywood blockbusters. Its mix of playfulness, sarcasm, emotion and romance reminded me of the first three Indiana Jones pictures, and just like those classics, Star-Lord and company, and the actors who play and voice them, have a lot of chemistry that makes them likable and down-to-earth. Plus, with music artists like ELO, Sam Cooke, Jay and the Americans, and Cat Stevens on the soundtrack, it's hard to walk away from “Vol. 2” not feeling happy.
It's funny, but at the end of my review for the first Guardians of the Galaxy, I commented on the idea of a sequel by writing, “I would encourage the filmmakers to combine their attitude with more depth. As amusing and appealing as the characters are, I’d personally like to see them in a more original story - one with a greater purpose. It’d be great if the filmmakers could retain the movie’s current wit and audacity but expand upon the substance.” I'm almost certain the filmmakers didn't read my first review, but I am certain they've answered my call.