Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017) by The Critical Movie Critics

Movie Review: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)


Much like our guest reviewer, I was delighted with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. It balances action, humor, character dynamics and stunning effects both visual and practical with multiple plot strands and explorations of family, regret and reconciliation. It is all the more impressive considering what it has to live up to. Back in 2014, “Guardians of the Galaxy” looked to be Marvel’s first flop. Based on a comic book without the notoriety of The Incredible Hulk, Captain America or Iron Man, lacking major stars and consisting of a premise that seemed like a wacky “Star Wars” knock-off, such reservations were understandable. Delightfully, they turned out to be unfounded, as writer-director James Gunn’s first foray in the Marvel Cinematic Universe proved to be a furiously fun piece of space opera, which introduced a motley crew of eccentric characters who were enjoyable company and that we wanted to see more of.

Gunn’s follow-up to his $773 million success therefore arrives loaded with expectation, and cannot rely on the element of surprise that the first film had going for it. Therefore, Gunn ups the ante, with bigger and crazier action set pieces, more eclectic music choices, an increased number of fabulously over-dressed aliens, and more comedic — yet affectionate — bickering among the Guardians: Peter Quill/Star-Lord (Chris Pratt, “Passengers”), Gamora (Zoe Saldana, “Star Trek Beyond”), Drax (Dave Bautista, “Spectre”), Rocket (voice of Bradley Cooper, “Burnt”), Groot (voice of Vin Diesel, “The Fate of the Furious”). The result is that best of sequels — giving us what the first film did, while also adding a bit more.

The title sequence sets the stage for what is to follow.

In a long take that would make Joss Whedon proud, the credits play out over two planes of action to the sound of Electric Light Orchestra’s “Mr. Blue Sky.” Your attention may be on the lively song, the dancing in the foreground, the combat in the background, or all three. The film therefore hits multiple points at once, working as comedy, action and a demonstration of great cinematic brio. Gunn maintains a high level of visual creativity throughout the film: The dazzling visual effects create such vibrant and immersive surroundings that space has rarely seemed so busy. Space ships of all shapes and sizes blast away from planets and through hyperspace gates (look out for a sustained joke involving these and the distortions they create), while the interiors of these ships as well as various planets offer rich, varied and sometimes mad alien environments.

Action set pieces also feature great creativity, ranging from space battles and crash-landings to martial art displays and super-powered smash-ups, as well as several displays of Rocket’s ingenuity and agility. The above-mentioned title sequence, for example, takes place on Sovereign, a planet of gold people led by High Priestess Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki, “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.”) who provides withering disdain for our heroes. Battles involving these people are played out with a nod to video game arcades, part of the film’s retrospective charm. Aside from the music, which includes “Fox on the Run” by Sweet, “Lake Shore Drive” by Aliotta Haynes Jeremiah and “Bring It on Home to Me” by Sam Cooke, the film references David Hasselhoff and Knight Rider, Pac-Man and even Mary Poppins (who is, let us not forget, cool).

Nods to popular culture such as these can be grating or forced, but not in this case, because they constitute Peter’s tenuous connection to his brief childhood on Earth in the 1980s. The film never forgets that Peter — however Star Lordy he may proclaim himself to be — is a lost boy who found home and family with the rest of the Guardians. For all the competition, arguments and threat of violence between them, there is great warmth and camaraderie among the central five. Peter’s innocence is nicely balanced with his pragmatic and forthright leadership, while Gamora’s cynicism only partially conceals her kindness and compassion. Rocket is similarly fierce yet loving, his scenes with Baby Groot both touching and beautifully strange, while Baby Groot himself is a character you may want to take home. Drax would wear everything on his sleeve if he wore sleeves, and his complete lack of guile, tactlessness and sometimes outright stupidity account for much of the film’s creative wit.

Beyond the Guardians themselves, other characters return from the first film including Captain Yondu of the Ravagers (Michael Rooker, “The Belko Experiment”) as well as Gamora’s sister Nebula (Karen Gillan, “The Big Short”), both of whom add to the film’s conceit of strained family relationships. Significant new characters also contribute to this theme, most prominently Peter’s father Ego (Kurt Russell, “The Hateful Eight”), whose scenes with Peter expand the universe in more ways than one. Another new addition is Mantis (Pom Klementieff, “Ingrid Goes West”), whose empathic abilities are the source of both pathos and bathos. The first of these elements is present throughout the film, allowing for strong inter-relationship dramas and a surprisingly moving climax.

Equally, laughs abound all over the film, and this may be the strongest card in the impressive hand that is Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. I saw this film in a packed cinema with vivid digital projection and a VERY loud sound system. If there was anything louder than the chair-shaking soundtrack, it was the laughter in the auditorium. From the adorable antics of Baby Groot to Drax’s obliviousness over his social blunderings, Peter’s references to Earth culture that leave Gamora confused, Rocket’s scathing put-downs or the hilarious bumbling of the Ravagers — one particular highlight involves a character’s name — the laugh-o-meter is rarely still during the running time. Were it not for the humor, the characters and the references might well be annoying and unlikable, or the action sequences less imaginative. The climactic battle is at times reminiscent of the finale in “Man of Steel,” but rather than simply having two super beings smashing everything up like there’s no tomorrow, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 delivers such a clash with invention, imagination and, crucially, humor. Marvel may be laughing all the way to the bank, but the audience members are laughing all the way home after the credits have finished. And yes, it is worth staying until the end of the credits.

Critical Movie Critic Rating:
4 Star Rating: Good


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The Critical Movie Critics

Dr. Vincent M. Gaine is a film and television researcher. His first book, Existentialism and Social Engagement in the Films of Michael Mann was published by Palgrave MacMillan in 2011. His work on film and media has been published in Cinema Journal and The Journal of Technology, Theology and Religion, as well as edited collections including The 21st Century Superhero and The Directory of World Cinema.

'Movie Review: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)' have 21 comments

  1. The Critical Movie Critics

    May 1, 2017 @ 4:59 pm Gregory

    Thought it was good don’t get me wrong, but I think they were trying just a little too hard to stuff the jokes in.

  2. The Critical Movie Critics

    May 1, 2017 @ 5:12 pm doontownie

    I still have 4 days to wait…I’m bursting at the seems to see it! Great review!

  3. The Critical Movie Critics

    May 1, 2017 @ 5:20 pm JamesRick

    Baby Groot is cute. They’re going to sell a lot of toys.
    Rocket is awesome. He deserves his own movie.
    Gamora is boring. Sexy as hell though.
    Drax is played out. They overuse his literalness.
    Quill is likable. He’s a great way to tie into good music.

  4. The Critical Movie Critics

    May 1, 2017 @ 5:22 pm hirguyu

    Vol 2 isn’t as original as the first but it’s still highly entertaining. I laughed out loud through much of the movie. The Mary Poppins and Taserface stuff was hilarious. I would have liked to see the Ego plot play out differently/better though. It wrapped up too easily/quickly.

  5. The Critical Movie Critics

    May 1, 2017 @ 5:40 pm chobson

    I haven’t seen it yet, but just from the trailers to me it is obvious Gunn tried but did not catch lightning in a bottle a second time.

  6. The Critical Movie Critics

    May 1, 2017 @ 5:46 pm me a braggert

    I’m gunna miss u Yondu…

  7. The Critical Movie Critics

    May 1, 2017 @ 6:04 pm Marley

    I was expecting the witty metajokes and the high-flying action, what I wasn’t expecting was so much emotional punch. Peter with Ego. Peter with Yandu. Gamora with Nebula. Rocket making his choice. The Ravagers paying their respects. Heavy stuff that makes the movie so much more than a comicbook movie.

  8. The Critical Movie Critics

    May 1, 2017 @ 6:08 pm Marley

    Also I should add, Volume 2 has better character development than Volume 1. StarLord meets his dad and learns more about his mother, Rocket gets to self reflect and sees what makes him tick and Gamora being a sister to Nebula is examined. Even Yandu is given a great growth arc.

  9. The Critical Movie Critics

    May 1, 2017 @ 6:30 pm scanatron

    Love the one-liners and pop culture jokes. Like the Zune tie-in, guessing it will contain the next few soundtracks?

  10. The Critical Movie Critics

    May 1, 2017 @ 6:48 pm MondayBlues

    Fuck I want to see this already. Staggered release schedules are bullshit.

  11. The Critical Movie Critics

    May 1, 2017 @ 7:19 pm kiki

    I like it although it’s not as praising worthy as GotG.

  12. The Critical Movie Critics

    May 1, 2017 @ 8:08 pm sysconfig

    Marvel makes another superhero movie that critics are fawning over. How unexpected and in other news water is wet and fire is hot.

  13. The Critical Movie Critics

    May 1, 2017 @ 10:21 pm JeffW

    I’m looking forward to seeing this ……. eventually.

  14. The Critical Movie Critics

    May 2, 2017 @ 10:01 am Tieler

    Volume 1 >> Volume 2.

    Better novelty, music and humor.

    • The Critical Movie Critics

      May 4, 2017 @ 7:49 am prisonblockbreakout

      Going to respectfully disagree. Volume 1 is a standard origin story with the team fighting a standard bad guy. There is nothing original about it. Volume 2 has better team dynamics than even the Avengers, the characters are fully developed and Ego is the best bad guy Marvel has had since Loki.

    • The Critical Movie Critics

      May 5, 2017 @ 7:19 pm Dante

      Volume 2 > Volume 1

      CGI is crisper, action sequences are bigger, characters are more mature, antagonist is less forgettable

  15. The Critical Movie Critics

    May 4, 2017 @ 5:10 pm Neltherion

    Decent enough of a movie. Looks good and Yondu kills it but it tries to hard to be funny and drags a bit more than it should for an action-adventure.

  16. The Critical Movie Critics

    May 5, 2017 @ 1:37 pm Q-LiQ

    Fun, but I think they forgot to connect Vol. 2 into the bigger Marvel universe.

  17. The Critical Movie Critics

    May 5, 2017 @ 7:50 pm Ian McNamara

    I agree with this review.

  18. The Critical Movie Critics

    May 6, 2017 @ 6:35 am SlpWlkr

    I loved it, it was everything I was expecting and more. Be sure to stay for the after credit scenes- Adam Warlock and The Watchers is teased!

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