In 2014, a film in the action genre took the world by surprise. Offering the kind of vibe and style not seen in a long time, it defied expectations in terms of quality and success. Now in 2017, its sequel is here to continue the party. Actually, there’s two films that this describes: John Wick, and Guardians of the Galaxy.
When the first film blasted into theaters, it left audiences hooked on a feeling and high on believing. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 very much does that as well, plus adds a bit of emotional heft.
Our ragtag misfit team of Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax (Dave Bautista), Groot (Vin Diesel), and Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper) aren’t so ragtag and misfit anymore. They’ve formed a true camaraderie and properly function as a unit. The story begins with their latest mission of defending powerful batteries for Sovereign leader Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki) in exchange for Nebula (Karen Gillain). Mission succeeds and the trade goes through, but once the Sovereign learn that Rocket has taken some of the batteries for himself, they strike back.
So the Guardians’ ship is shot down and crashes to a planet below. Before long though they are rescued by none other than Peter’s father (Kurt Russell), whom he has never known until that very moment. He and his assistant Mantis (Pom Klemenieff) take Peter, Gamora, and Drax back to their home world for some more explanation, while Groot and Rocket stay with the ship to repair it and guard Nebula. However they are now sitting ducks for Yondu (Michael Rooker) and the Ravagers, though that group is starting to fracture and that will come to ahead soon.
John C.Reilly, Glenn Close, and Benicio Del Toro don’t return, but that’s really for the best. This series moreso than the others in the Marvel stable offers a whole, well, galaxy to explore. But here we get not only Cash, but Tango as well, Yes indeed, Sylvester Stallone is in this. As a Ravager higher up on the chain of command, he shows up sporadically but with large promise for future participation. There’s some other great surprise appearances too, with Stan Lee’s requisite role being potentially his most MCU-significant yet.
But back now to the title crew. The whole “family is more than blood” thing is pretty trite and done often in this genre (for example, Diesel and Russell’s other big franchise), but this film has a different approach to it with a more satisfying payoff. This is mainly due to the multiple avenues the motif takes; there’s the obvious father-son – and mother (Laura Haddock), seen in various affecting flashbacks – and sister-sister relationships dived into, but there’s also, say, Groot’s child form causing the rest of the team to act more as parents than before. It’s worth mentioning here than Rooker, with more to do and increased thematic importance, just about steals the whole thing.
That isn’t to say though that things are heavy throughout, because there are many laughs to be found. Some very, very big laughs. Cooper is still the standout on this front but Bautista also gets some great moments. Plus of course writer/director James Gunn packs in some splendid visual gags and sharp comedic timing.
Then there’s the music. Sure enough, if you dug it the last time, you’ll dig it this time. Going deeper off the back wall, they choose some tracks that have felt MIA for years. And on a new song, a very special guest star gets to join in.
No longer is Captain America: The Winter Soldier the only of Marvel’s second series installments that can stand on par with its predecessor. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 won’t exactly take you by surprise the way the first one did, but it offers plenty now that all eyes are on it. Vol. 3 can’t come soon enough.