May 12, 2017 by Ben Eastman
The Marvel franchise, while beloved, has become a bit bloated. Each new installment adds a new superhero, along with multiple secondary members, who are then stacked alongside the already enormous list of characters in the Marvel Universe.
The movies attempt to flesh out new characters while keeping existing characters interesting, and driving the plot towards the eventual convenience of all the cast members in “The Avengers” storyline. Most of these movies are fun to watch but only due to a massive influx of cash and talented actors. The one storyline that has stood out the most has been that of the “Guardians of the Galaxy.”
“Guardians of the Galaxy” (2014) took its viewers off of planet Earth and introduced an odd array of characters. Peter Quill, an orphaned Earthling scavenger meets up with Gamora, a ruthless murderer; Rocket, a talking racoon; Drax the Destroyer, a massive grey convict with no sense of humor; and Groot, a giant anamorphic tree. This motley crew helps form one of the most beloved Marvel movies ever with the help of a unique story, beautiful visuals and a compelling score. Director James Gunn did a fantastic job incorporating this storyline into the Marvel Universe, but many were wondering if he could pull a hat-trick with the second installment. In short, he did.
“Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” picks up where its predecessor left off. A few months after the events of the first film, the gang has been contracted out to solve various other problems across space. While battling an interdimensional monster for an alien race known as the Sovereign, Rocket steals a few priceless batteries that the Guardians were meant to protect. This leads to a mad dash across the galaxy, with the Sovereign in hot pursuit. Along the way, Quill meets his previously unknown father, Ego.
The film jumps right into the action, as everything listed above occurs in the first twenty minutes of the film. New characters such as Ego and Mantis — an alien who can feel other’s emotions — are thrown into the mix. Existing secondary characters are more fully fleshed out like Quill’s father-like figure Yondu and Gamora’s imprisoned sister Nebula. The driving theme in this film is family. Quill wrestles with the reality of having his actual father enter his life after thirty years of abandonment. Gamora and Nebula literally fight over issues they had growing up under their father Thanos’s oppressive hand, who is the main villain in the overall Marvel story-arc. Internal conflicts also threaten the group as a whole.
The elements that made the first movie a classic are again present in this volume. The score is yet again a stellar conglomerate of hits and lesser-known songs from the ’80s and before. The visuals are gorgeous, especially the makeup and costumes, and the humor from the first film is seamlessly interwoven into the script. Rocket and Drax pull their own jokes, but the standout is Baby Groot. After Groot was blown up in the first film, he reformed into an adorable baby that gets into all sorts of hilarious escapades.
What works so well in this film is that every character has an arc. With a run-time of two hours and 16 minutes, some arcs aren’t as fully fleshed out as others, each character has at least one moment to shine. Probably the most compelling arc is that of supporting character Yondu. A scavenger who abducted Quill from Earth and raised him, Yondu deals with the consequences of his actions.
The film is not perfect, though. Sylvester Stallone makes an entirely forgettable cameo, and some of Chris Pratt’s portrayal of Quill feels a bit flat. Nonetheless, the film is a spectacular follow-up to the first installment filled with humor, twists and genuine emotions. Look forward to the Guardians’ next appearances in the “Avengers: Infinity War” storyline, alongside the other Marvel heroes.