Marvel Studios in the eyes of some has what you could call a sequel problem as most of their sequels are among the least loved, appreciated and rated. Iron Man 2, Thor 2 and Avengers: Age of Ultron, all decently made movies but don’t come close to their predecessor in terms of quality or in my opinion, enjoyment. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 is the first sequel in the Marvel Cinematic Universe since The Winter Solider that’s a worthy installment and isn’t afraid to take characters we know to exciting new places. It’s a sequel that takes emotional risks we’ve not really seem before in the MCU. Proving it isn’t afraid to go to the darker places and show a sense of maturity capable of existing within this universe. Although it carries a few minor flaws, it’s non-stop thrill ride that reminds us why we fell in love with these a-holes in the first place.
Every member of the original crew from the previous film is back and this time around we immediately get the ball rolling in answering the question we all had from the first film, who is Peter Quills father? Throughout this discovery we are treated to exceptional moments of humor but also underlying themes of family and character. Family that is highlighted in both conventional and unconventional ways by telling a dynamic family story that bring forth both traits of compassion and darkness. Characters within that family we care about and their emotional depth that makes up the true spine of this film.
Volume 2 treats us to the same characters we know and love only this time they’re not off to the greatest start and end up having to separate for the time being. This separation allowed our beloved guardians to interact with characters both old and new. These new dynamics are the driving force of this film outside Quills family history lesson and I found the stand out to be Draxs relationship with newcomer Mantis (Pom Klementieff). Her abilities allow her to explore emotions and coupled with the over literal Drax made for plenty of joyous moments. In addition to these moments of laughter were small moments of heartache as Mantis was able to dig deeper into the mind of Drax and connect with him on a level we saw glimpses of in the prior installment, his family. This movie doesn’t disappoint in showcasing how unique and attached to these characters we are as we see Rocket share moments with Yondu, Gamora with her sister Nebula, Quill with his father, Rocket with Quill and the list goes on and on. Director James Gunn showed audiences everywhere that we were more attached to these band of misfits than we originally thought as every emotional beat shared amongst our heroes was treated with heart and passion.
The character moments this time around while a breath of fresh air into the MCU and pure joy to watch were unfortunately sectioned off into at times what felt like clips cut together causing trouble in creating an even flow. These moments while great are not stiched together as seemlessly as the first film. As one scene builds and builds to what you think will be a resolution or reveal it quickly cuts away to the other side of the galaxy ultimately taking you out of the moment. The lackluster pacing also created moments of predictability for me because they felt like singular clips and at times I was able to figure out Gunns flow and could almost forsee every joke before it even happened.
While I found the pacing and flow off-putting I enjoyed the overall storylines regarding Peter Quill and Yondu. Both their arcs in this film took us to places we have yet to experience in not just Guardians but the Marvel Cinematic Universe as a whole. As we get further into this universe we’re going to be exposed to more cosmic story elements and this film did just that as the last film introduced us to Cosmic Entities and Celestials, Volume 2 takes that introduction to even crazier realms. Highlighting their powers, brief look into their history and an up close look at how their presence can alter both the close knit stories and the galaxy as a whole. In addition to Quills arc, Yondu and what happens to him throughout this movie exposes us to the ravagers on a much larger scale, along with new characters that we can only assume will return down the line. Everything with Yondu on-screen was a blast, and while they may have retconed a few of his story beats from the first film, I found his arc to be enthralling on multiple levels.
Overall I found Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 to be an inferior sequel, but that in no way is a slight as the first one is in my greatest hits of Marvel Studios productions. It’s a film bogged down by pacing issues and a slightly predictable rythym in terms of James Gunns scene structuring. Minor flaws aside I found Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 to be an endearing ride that brings the familiar elements of the original back but fuses it with newer themes and bold story arcs that set up for great emotional character moments, humor and overall universe expansion that will only leave us egerly awaiting a volume 3.