In 2014, Marvel released the movie Guardians of the Galaxy, which took audiences by storm with its 1980’s soundtrack, ridiculousness and humor. The fact that two of its main characters were a talking raccoon and a tree only added to its beloved bizarreness.
One Marvel Cinematic Universe phase and three years later, Marvel has released its follow-up, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.
The titular team is a group of ragtag anti-heroes who are very specifically not the Avengers. Peter Quill, or Starlord, played by Chris Pratt, is an egotistical earthling with a penchant for pop culture that becomes the source of the movie’s jukebox soundtrack.
Zoe Saldana plays Gamora, the green-skinned daughter of Thanos, the overarching villain who has yet to make much of an influence in the Marvel world. Dave Bautista plays the socially unfit Drax.
The raccoon and tree, both of which are animated fully with computer-generated imagery, are voiced by Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel respectively. The sequel’s story is a single day in the Guardians’ career as bad decisions pile, one onto the other.
One of the biggest draws of the film is its unexpected humor. The first movie had jokes from Drax’s inability to understand metaphors to the fact that nobody knew who Starlord was, despite his insistence that he was a famous criminal. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 brings references from the first film while still creating new recurring moments that already feel cemented in by the end of the film.
This ability to take the original’s successes and utilize them while innovating further is a strength of the sequel.
The Guardians films are unique as well for their existence within the strange outer reaches of space, even as they connect to Earth with their human leader. Out of Marvel’s 15 films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to date, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is the third to primarily take place off of Earth—the opportunity to go far out is used to its fullest extent.
New planets and people are found in all kinds of colors and varieties. The visuals are stunning, with blues and golds mixing together in a background sky, the appearance of four moons in one view or a thin red streak chasing through a dark spaceship.
With the CGI wonder of Doctor Strange behind it, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 takes a step forward from its predecessor and shows imagery that can still awe.
One of the most excellent uses in the film’s visual vocabulary is its slow motion, a tactic often misfired under Zack Snyder in the DC Universe, but one which finds comfort and humor under the hands of director James Gunn.
Gunn has a knack for knowing just how to use the screen to eke out another laugh or to show a subtle reference throughout his film. The slow motion effect is used for more than just conferring god-like statuses on superheroes, and the payoff is great.
The DC Universe tried a similar move to Marvel with its production of the offbeat Suicide Squad, a not-so-subtle attempt to cash in on the Guardians’ success, complete with a pop-culture heavy mix of music.
“Bohemian Rhapsody” and “House of the Rising Sun” could not make the dark and movie trailer-like film, feeling more opportunistic than purposeful. In the second Guardians, Gunn’s music selection helps in carrying the action, humor and emotion.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is an improvement over its predecessor, with an emotional story that considers all characters involved. There are arcs that intertwine, meeting thematically then diverging, and nobody gets left without a tale.
Though the Guardians franchise tends to thumb its nose at the emotional, the poignancy of the second film is powerful and a strong addition. There is only so long that one can laugh before leaving a theater, feeling hollow, as the humor crumbles away to show nothing beneath. With a strong foundation, the film has no such problem.
As a film with a team of humanoids fighting in the vast expanse of space, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is well aware of scale. The title sequence of the film keeps this in mind, with a hysterical use of camerawork and music. Throughout the film, there are moments close up that cut out, move closer and effectively use space to tell humor from all different angles.
Superhero films are reaching a point where there is something of a bubble that may burst at any moment. Cinematic universes require viewers to be up to date, and the ever-increasing homework load for someone who is not caught up is intimidating.
With television shows included, especially Marvel’s, which are included in the film universe, there is a point where the urge for completion is not enough. There is only so much time left for Marvel to keep hiding its big baddie Thanos before people start walking away.
As a result, superhero films need to start offering their own incentive to be watched. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 stands up to the challenge and shines as a great Marvel film and a good film in general. The humor is excellent, the connections are real and the visuals are psychedelic, to say the least.
Those finding themselves fatigued of the superhero overload can find solace in this fun and meaningful film.
Questions are answered and fun is had, with a strong soundtrack blasting it along.