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Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is the second installment in the Marvel’s surprisingly successful Guardians of the Galaxy franchise. Once again returning is director James Gunn as well the original stars Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Bradley Cooper, and Dave Bautista.
As the movie opens, we see a familiar scene of the Guardians fighting an intergalactic being while simultaneously quipping all over the place, but the audience soon finds out that the focus of this sequel is the characters. Peter Quill’s (Pratt) father (Kurt Russell) has resurfaced and he wants desperately to have a relationship with his long lost son. In fact all of the Guardians have a very complicated past, except for Drax (Bautista) and the movie takes its time exploring all of their demons and why they ended up where they are at this point in time.
The first half of this film is sort of choppy. We are introduced to the film’s villains, some spectacularly costumed gold people, a chase ensues, Peter’s father is introduced, Yondu, one of the villains from the first Guardians makes a return, and Nebula (Karen Gillian), Gamora’s evil sister is captured and being held prisoner on the ship. That is a lot of elements that need to be fleshed out in order to get a plot moving forward fairly quickly. But it makes for a uneven and rushed first half.
The gold people don’t really have a purpose to this film, the characters are underwritten, and feel as if they were a last-minute addition to the script. In fact, the only reason they are really necessary is because they are the focus of an important after credits scene. Anytime they are on screen, the movie comes to a dead stop.
Kurt Russell as Peter’s father plays a huge role in this film. Although Russell’s performance is solid, and the character overall is good, some of his scenes felt a little heavy-handed. He has a couple of exposition-heavy monologues that could have probably been cut out to move the movie along. Nebula, a villain in the first film is given more screen time and a pretty big character arc. She like Russell has the same problem in some of her scenes, good character, but too much exposition in some of her scenes.
The biggest surprise and highlight of Guardians Vol. 2 is Yondu, played by Michael Rooker. His character is probably the most realized of everyone’s and Rooker gives a heartbreaking performance that anchors the entire movie. It is no easy feat to turn a character who is nothing short of a scoundrel and give him some weight and depth. Veteran actor Rooker makes it look easy using a combination of skill, wisdom and charisma.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is a good film, but it’s not great nor is it aiming to be. It’s not really fair to say if it’s better or worse that the first Guardians because it doesn’t even try. The first film is more action, scoundrels, and quipping whereas this one gives the central four a reason to stick around and start hanging out with the Avengers. James Gunn makes a good choice of not trying to top himself with bigger set pieces and more action sequences, he just wants to make a really good movie and he succeeds.