As someone who doesn’t appreciate cheesy, crowd-pleasing jokes or moments of emotional manipulation, I found the original Guardians Of The Galaxy to be an epic, clever, but problematic sci-fi space opera. Now we have Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol 2, and while it has everything that made the first one so much fun, it also has many of the same problems as well.
Having saved the galaxy rather publicity, Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol 2 kicks off with Peter “Star-Lord” Quill (Jurassic World star Chris Pratt), Gamora (Star Trek Beyond‘s Zoe Saldana), Drax (Spectre bad guy Dave Bautista), Rocket (who’s voiced by Bradley Cooper of The Hangover movies), and a tiny, kid-like Groot (voiced by the Fast & Furious‘ Vin Diesel) working as mercs. But after their latest job ends badly, and by their own hands, they end up on the run…and straight into someone important from Quill’s past. Meanwhile, their annoyed former employers hire Yondu (The Walking Dead‘s Michael Rooker) to hunt the Guardians down.
As with the original, Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol 2 is a wild ride through space. Much like in the Star Wars prequels, every planet they visit is unique and weird and wondrous to look at. Some of the sets are so grand, in fact, that they make me think director James Gunn and his art director must’ve watched The Fifth Element and Jodorowsky’s Dune on repeat.
Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol 2 also benefits from having a first-rate cast, all of whom are as likeable and funny here as they’ve been in anything else. Besides the people mentioned above, this sequel also adds Kurt Russell (The Hateful Eight) as Ego, Elizabeth Debicki (The Man From U.N.C.L.E.) as the Guardian’s unsatisfied former employer Kismet, and Pom Klementieff (Oldboy) as an empathic alien named Mantis.
Though it’s Baby Groot that really steals the show in Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol 2. Besides being as adorable as he was at the end of the first movie, he’s also a colossal pain in the ass. Y’know, like any little kid would be in outer space. Which wouldn’t be fun to deal with, but it sure is fun to watch.
All of this is tied together by a rather smart script, one slightly more clever and funnier than the first. For comic book fans, it’s the difference between the Guardians Of The Galaxy comics written by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning (Guardians Of The Galaxy By Abnett & Lanning: The Complete Collection Volume 1 and Guardians Of The Galaxy By Abnett & Lanning: The Complete Collection Volume 2) and the just a tad better ones penned by Brian Michael Bendis (especially Guardians Of The Galaxy: Volume 1: Cosmic Avengers, Guardians Of The Galaxy: Volume 2: Angela, and Guardians Of The Galaxy: Volume 5: Through The Looking Glass).
Where Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol 2 runs aground is when the film becomes emotionally manipulative in a really obvious way. Which often happens in conjunction with how the film also uses pop songs as a crutch, and relies of some super bad slo-mo. It’s a trick we see a lot at the end of episodes of TV dramas these days, and the result is just as annoying, cloying, and ineffective here as it is there, turning parts of the movie into bad music videos.
Though it doesn’t help that I’m not a fan of the kind of middle of the road, soft rock that dominates the movie’s soundtrack.
That said, Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol 2 doesn’t have anything as painfully terrible as the dance-off at the end of the first movie, though it does come close to getting super cheesy at times, and has one groan-inducing line about family. Though the treacle in these bits is thankfully often undercut by the snark-tastic Nebula (Doctor Who‘s Karen Gillan). There’s also a visual joke towards the end that will make some video game fans smile, but it just made me think of that terrible movie Pixels.
Of course, if you’re someone who loved Guardians Of The Galaxy, then you’ll enjoy Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol 2 just as much, maybe even more, though certainly not by a lot less. And more power to you. I wish I liked it that much, too. There was a lot of great action, humor, and inventive spectacle in that movie, and there’s just as much in this sequel. But if you’re like me, and you found the first film undermined by the cheesy parts, you’ll ultimately feel the same about this sequel.