An outsider’s take on the Marvel Cinematic Universe: ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2’ (2017) (Movie review)

This blog series chronicles my first viewing of the complete MCU movie saga. I’ll examine each film under various categories that reflect popular discussion points. Next up is the 15th film, “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” (2017):

STRENGTHS

“Vol. 2” has a better plot, better villain and better character growth than the original, culminating in a beautiful funeral montage for an unsung hero that gives us moments with each of the now-larger cast of the Guardians. As with the first, we get an absolute visual feast in every space battle and on every planet, notably the Celestial’s beautiful homeworld.

WEAKNESSES

In space epics, I like my comedy as a delicate seasoning. Here, it’s slathered on like a cake with too much frosting. We get jokes pounded into the ground: Baby Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) is slow on the uptake, an epic final fight features a Pac-Man monster that Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) has created with his new god powers, and Drax (Dave Bautista) is unable to say anything that’s not a laugh line. If “Vol. 2” trimmed the overt comedy, it could’ve been a masterpiece.

HEROES

In an earned surprise, Yondu (Michael Rooker) emerges as a genuine father figure for Peter. A wonderful addition to the crew is the innocent Mantis (Pom Klementieff), who bonds with Drax, who initially tries to drive her off by saying she’s ugly. Nebula (Karen Gillan) grows by leaps and bounds here, as we learn why she loathes her sister, Gamora (Zoe Saldana), with whom she buries the hatchet after they talk it out.

VILLAINS

Ego (Kurt Russell) – appropriately named, as it turns out – is Peter’s biological dad, and for much of the film we are happy that they have found each other; the simple game of catch (albeit with an energy ball, rather than a baseball) works here like it does in “Field of Dreams.” When it turns out Ego wants to become the universe (as if ruling the universe is for amateurs), the film acquires a very personal villain. Before that, decent villainy is provided by the Sovereigns – a race of genetically perfect beings — seeking revenge on the thieving Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper).

WOMEN

“Vol. 2” easily passes the Bechdel Test through the interactions between Gamora and Nebula. As noted, it’s great to have Mantis on the Guardians, and the leader of the Sovereigns is a woman, Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki).

MIRROR TO REALITY

The movie deals with several common personal issues, such as Peter’s desire to find his father, the feud between the sisters, and the deep-seated need to belong. But with the villain being a god, and the fate of the universe hanging in the balance, “Vol. 2” isn’t particularly tethered to Earthbound political or social issues.

BEST ACTION SCENE

Every space battle features gorgeous production design, but I am partial to an early one where Peter’s ship flees the fleet of Sovereign starfighters. The starfighter pilots’ remote consoles sound like video games, and when one pilot chases the target through an asteroid field, everyone gathers behind him like in an arcade. This organic humor stays in the ballpark of what I find amusing.

BEST COMEDIC MOMENT

Mantis demonstrates her empathic abilities by reading Peter. She senses a deep love within him, and he tries to brush it off as a general love for all mankind. But Mantis insists it is a romantic, sexual love for Gamora – who is of course standing right there.

WORLD BUILDING

We already knew Gamora and Nebula are the daughters of Thanos, but here we learn more about how he made them battle each other as kids, and that Nebula’s prosthetics came about because her father removed parts of her body. With the sisters burying the hatchet in this film, they could pose a united force against Thanos in future films.

FINAL THOUGHTS/EXPECTATIONS

“Vol. 2” is better than the original in terms of plot and characters, but the tonal mix is imbalanced, with comedy too often used as a main ingredient rather than a spice. All told, it ends up equal to the first film in quality. Despite feeling separate from the heart of the MCU due its cosmic locales, the “GOTG” saga features the mistreated daughters of Thanos, so it’ll be interesting when they inevitability face off with their father, who I hear is the Big Bad of “Infinity War.”


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