All I can ask from Marvel Studios, especially with a sequel, at this point in its dominant reign is that it aspires to deliver a film beyond expected plot convention with some degree of thoughtfulness and creativity (unlike, say, The Avengers: Age of Ultron), and as was the case with Civil War last summer, I’d say Guardians Vol. 2 definitely succeeds on that front. This is a film that takes some pretty hefty swings – the film’s reintroduction of the Guardians to the tune of “Mr. Blue Sky” from the POV of Baby Groot immediately springs to mind – most of which all coalesce around a final product worthy of the time spent investing in this mostly unremarkable but emotionally impactful story.
What I appreciated most about this film is that underneath the generic adversarial banter and obligatory Vol. 1 callbacks and last-ditch third-act world saving is the story of one man’s journey to connect with the father figure he thought long abandoned him. That’s really all this film is about and it’s through that core simplicity and universal relatability that Vol. 2 earns its place among the better superhero sequels in recent memory. Kurt Russel, initially given the convincing Robert Downy, Jr. de-ageify treatment in the film’s opening flashback sequence, is great here in that father role playing opposite Chris Pratt.
I understand that they are “Guardians of the Galaxy” and that Galaxy guarding is what most people are likely paying their money to see, but I really could’ve done without the Third-Act Rush to Save the World Team-up that dominates the film’s back half. We’ve seen it dozens of times before, and while it isn’t as irredeemable as the identical scene type in Vol. 1, the sequence felt more tacked on than it needed to be. It doesn’t completely torpedo the film as it’s able to rebound shortly afterward, but I still would’ve liked seeing it go, similarly to the film’s first two-thirds, a more unconventional, introspective route.
But even with a sloppy final act there’s no taking away what Guardians Vol. 2 is able to accomplish before and quickly following its few missteps. Even if I could do without the space raccoon in mostly every scene he appears, the movie is still very funny. And the chemistry and comradery among the Guardians is as weird and delightful and gushy as ever. These people are a lot of fun to be around. That plus genuine, earned emotion and aspirations of interesting, original moviemaking typically go a long way for me, and there’s no shortage of any of that here.
Starring: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper, Kurt Russell
Runtime: 137 mins