Heading into the sequel for a Marvel Studios production, one might ask, "Am I about to be hit with an Iron Man 2 or Captain America: The Winter Soldier type of sequel?" One of those films follows up the hugely adored Marvel Cinematic Universe launching point film but falls well short of capturing the glory that was Iron Man while the other sees a the sibling director Russo Brothers step in to create one of the most revered films in the franchise.
With Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, you get a bit of both. The sequel has both the advantage and disadvantage of following up the wholly original hit that was Guardians of the Galaxy in 2014. This time around, the joy of meeting these characters for the first time is ruled out but the door is open for more intimate adventures now that audiences have met the bunch. Though Vol. 2 never quite recaptures the magic offered by meeting the cosmic heroes, the sequel makes up for such troubles elsewhere.
Guardians of the Galaxy was burdened with an intimidating task for any studio but Marvel looked at it and said, "We got this." The original film had to introduce a band of misfit heroes to the world: Earthling Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), expert assassin Gamora (Zoe Saldana), the always deadpan Drax the Destroyer, (Dave Bautista), a talking tree by the name of Groot (Vin Diesel) and a raccoon (Bradley Cooper) which shared the same ability but with more words and additional skills to create weapons. By the time they became a team, they had saved the galaxy only for the audience to learn that the blue menace who had been pestering them, Yondu (Michael Rooker) was hired to fetch Quill by his long lost father.
Enter Vol. 2 and the mystery of Quill's parentage is at the forefront of many characters' minds as he continues to explore the melodies of his late mother's parting gift: Awesome Mix Vol. 2. It doesn't take long for daddy dearest to come along in the form of Ego the Living Planet played by a charming Kurt Russell. As quickly as we do meet Ego, it's not before another lovable opening dance number which sees Baby Groot obliviously enjoying himself as his teammates struggle to take down a hired target for the Sovereign's Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki). To top that off: it's one impressive continuous shot.
Within the first 10 minutes, fans will be smiling ear to ear as their favorite idiots have come together again to make all the right mistakes. Beyond those opening moments, the film gets a little cloudy for a while. The sun is definitely behind those clouds ,and they will eventually part, but multiple storylines cause Vol. 2 to feel as though it is lacking direction at times. Though much of the film's humor lands (thanks to genius director James Gunn's ability to both create the ironic scenario's and tell his actor's exactly how to bring their often deadpan or sarcastic dialogue to life), extra attempts to be funny extend a few scenes beyond their necessary running time.
Joining the team this time around is Mantis (Pom Klementieff), who serves as a loyal servant to Quill's father and struggles socially. The character's ability to read people's emotions with a simple touch provides both humorous situations but also brilliant opportunities for character development. A few scenes in particular which see Klementieff sharing the screen with Bautista allow for the angry green widow to open up to the audience without actually speaking a word from his only literal vocabulary.
Despite making a run for it, Klementieff is not the best part of the film. Nor is the once again brilliant use of hit 80's songs or the subtly gigantic expansion to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
The best part of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is Michael Rooker and his portrayal of Yondu Udonta. It is time to start taking this former Walking Dead actor seriously.
Plagued with being outcast from the Ravagers by his old buddy Starhawk (Sylvestor Stallone), Yondu has been making morally ill decisions for quite some time but they have been weighing on him as he secretly tried to make up for them in certain ways. The softening causes his own crew to question his leadership at times but he never breaks his character. The blue-faced, red-finned character from the classic Guardians of the Galaxy roster steals the movie.
It's the prison escape 2.0 which allows Rooker to take over. As he whistles his arrow through enemies chests, flashing his crooked silver teeth to the tune of "Come A Little Bit Closer," by Jay & The Americans, Yondu teams up with Rocket Raccoon and Baby Groot for a sequence worthy of a standing ovation. Each time he whistles the arrow back into his hand and offers a devilish grin, Rooker cements himself into the Vol. 2 highlight reel.
When the clouds clear and the true story is revealed, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 takes off like Quill's Milano and never looks back. Any details of the third act would be a spoiler qualified of spoiling the movie and ruining the experience which is the best finale to any Marvel Studios production to date -- by far.
The third act of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 has it all and more. It is an action-packed conclusion equipped with humor, marvelous emotional beats, and a balance of characters only comparable to Captain America: Civil War. Each and every face matters, whether they're blue, green, hairy, or made of wood. These things are the only kind of magic Vol. 2 needs to be a success and make us wish the film would never end. Pair all of that with the desire to explore some of the characters who are interested this time around and Marvel has proven that the tank is still on "full" despite the pedal being fully pressed the floor, once again.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is a strong follow up to the spectacle that is its predecessor. The lack of focus in its second act doesn't stop Vol. 2 from being a worthy follow-up loaded with surprisingly delightful performances, moving character moments, and action sequences which can please even the biggest comic book fans' imaginations.
5 of out 5 stars.