Greg Llamas is a journalism senior and Mustang News columnist. The views expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect the viewpoints and editorial coverage of Mustang News.
In the past, I’ve made my disdain for superhero films very clear; the Marvel Cinematic Universe is no exception. The superhero genre is void of creativity. Seeing the same superheroes have what are essentially the same adventures over and over again becomes tiring after the 10th time.
That’s what made the first “Guardians of the Galaxy” a great addition to Marvel films: it’s a fun sci-fi adventure with B-list “heroes” that didn’t take itself too seriously and was unique in a sea of repetitive slog. It was a nice break from the likes of “Iron Man” and “Captain America.” I’m always cynical when it comes to Marvel films, so I was hesitant when going to see “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.” Even with James Gunn returning to write and direct it, there were still plenty of concerns. Would Baby Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) be too cutesy or obnoxious and turn into a character like Jar Jar? Would this film suffer from repetitiveness like other Marvel films?
There are times in “Vol. 2” where it seems the original film is superior in its pacing and action sequences. However, often it feels like a step up from the original, exploring the relationships between characters that weren’t fleshed out before. It’s a more reflective film than the first. I’m glad to say I wasn’t completely disappointed by “Vol. 2.”
Picking up fairly soon after the end of “Guardians of the Galaxy,” we’re thrust into the middle of the Guardians protecting valuable batteries from an inter-dimensional monster named the Abilisk as a job for Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki), leader of the Sovereign race. Throughout the battle, Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax (Dave Bautista) and Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) all take beatings while Baby Groot dances to Electric Light Orchestra’s “Mr. Blue Sky.” In exchange for their service, the Guardians are given custody of Nebula (Karen Gillan), Gamora’s evil sister.
It would’ve been a successful mission had Rocket not stolen some batteries for himself. Realizing this, the Sovereign attack the Guardians, and they narrowly escape with the help of a mysterious figure named Ego (Kurt Russell), a Celestial with god-like powers who claims to be Quill’s father. Yondu (Michael Rooker), Quill’s surrogate father, is hired by the Sovereign to capture the Guardians, though he struggles with a mutinous crew. Presented with the opportunity of reuniting with his father, Quill is conflicted between choosing his biological family or his newfound family in the Guardians.
Much like the original, “Vol. 2” is rife with bickering and quips between the Guardians. “Rife” might be an understatement, since those quips make up a good portion of dialogue throughout the film, a decent amount more than in the original. There are plenty of times where the witty dialogue is still funny, especially from the filterless Drax, but it’s more predictable and makes it seem like Gunn is trying too hard to emulate the charm of the first “Guardians,” as the quips come in at rapid-fire pace.
While the original film had to focus on origin stories for an ensemble of characters,“Vol. 2” is able to delve deeper into these characters and their relationships with each other. The love-hate relationship between Quill and Yondu is one of the most compelling elements of the film. In the original, Yondu is portrayed as a ruthless pirate that has a soft spot for Quill, despite wanting to kill him. This soft spot is fully fleshed out in “Vol. 2.” Yondu was tasked by Ego nearly 25 years ago to bring Quill to him after the death of his mother, but we learn why Yondu chose to raise him and break the promise to Ego. The reasons run deeper than Yondu wanting to have Quill as one of his crew members.
Rocket and Yondu are forced to team up when Yondu’s crew — led by unfortunately named Taserface (Chris Sullivan) — rebels and imprisons the two of them and Baby Groot. Interactions between the three characters for half of the film seem like a weird mismatch, but there are some genuine moments shared. Rocket and Yondu bond over having similar backgrounds. It’s moments like these that make “Vol. 2” in some places more impressive than the original.
The relationship between Quill and Ego starts out fine. Quill inherited celestial powers from his father and in a cute moment, the two play catch with a ball formed from their powers. “Vol. 2” would’ve been better if this relationship was pushed further. Soon after, it becomes blatantly obvious that Ego is hiding something from Quill and the potential father-son dynamic is thrown out. The twist with Ego could’ve been gut-wrenching, but from the first moment he’s on screen, there’s something off about him, making any reveal about Ego unsurprising.
One thing “Vol. 2” doesn’t do as well as the original is pacing. With a run time of two hours and 18 minutes, some of those 18 minutes could’ve been cut. There are some wasted minutes that drag on too long, especially when Rocket and Yondu are locked up together. Baby Groot doesn’t do anything too outlandish for such a cutesy character, but when Yondu tells him to bring a replacement head fin (which controls his arrow), Baby Groot brings different items multiple times. It comes off more as a kid’s show than a funny moment in a “Guardians” film.
While the original film saw the Guardians battle an army to take on Ronan the Accuser’s fleet in a large-scale showdown on the populated planet of Xandar, “Vol. 2” lowers the stakes for the galaxy but raises them for Quill. The main battles that happen throughout the film take place on Ego’s remote planet no one goes near, except for the revenge-driven Sovereign. The main focus of the film is on developing the characters and less on saving the galaxy.
It might seem like I have plenty of complaints about certain elements of “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2,” but it had something to offer. There are some things the original did better and some things the sequel did better, but they’re both fun. For a sequel, “Vol. 2” went to a place other Marvel movies rarely go: developing the characters.
Instead of creating another adventure that’s a rehash of the previous adventure where they beat up a similar bad guy, “Vol. 2” is an enjoyable, unique film that’s much more impressive than recent movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.