Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2

‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2’ Review: Freaky Family Issues (Plus Space Battles)

'Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2'

Movie Rating:


‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ felt like the sci-fi daydreams of an imaginative kid staring at psychedelic albums covers and stacks of Jack Kirby comics while listening to pop radio hits in the late 1970s. Writer/director James Gunn would likely be the first to admit that he was that kid. While his first bite at the Marvel apple was arguably the most entertaining entry in the MCU, his follow-up is surprisingly emotional and achingly personal.

It’s also likely to be the most giddily entertaining blockbuster of the summer. To do both things in a sequel is pretty damn impressive. Toss in the almost offensively adorable Baby Groot and you’ve got yourself a damn good excuse to choke on buttery popcorn.

Since we last met the Guardians of the Galaxy, they’ve been flying around doing the Serenity/Han Solo thing of being noble space pirates for hire. We dive into the middle of their latest adventure for an amazing virtual single-take of Baby Groot dancing to ELO’s “Mr. Blue Sky” while the rest of the team battles a giant tentacled space beast in the background. That focus on something small in the midst of something huge sums up James Gunn’s approach to the sequel. This is an MCU adventure with no reference to the rest of the MCU and a massive space opera that’s really about family, friendship, freaks, and the inevitable pain that connects them.

A bungled job and bizarre digression splits up the team. Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) learns that his father is the planet/god Ego (Kurt Russell). Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and Nebula (Karen Gillan) bond and battle. Drax (Dave Bautista) makes an emotionally psychic friend named Mantis (Pom Klementieff) and worries about nipple-chafing rocket suits. Rocket (Bradley Cooper) feels more dejected than ever but makes buddies with Yondu (Michael Rooker) once he’s banished from the Ravagers. The movie has a lot of plot, but it all serves a purpose.

Marvel movies have a tendency to depend on formula and deny their directors from making personal statements. ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2’ proves that’s not always the case, but the fact that it lacks the novelty value of the first misfit space adventure will likely ensure that most viewers won’t notice. That’s too bad because Gunn has clearly been allowed to do whatever the hell he wanted with this massive blockbuster sequel and delivered something unexpectedly pained and personal. Even though everything that made the first film work still appears, the core feels achingly intimate for the director. Without delving into spoilers, ‘Vol. 2’ packs an emotional wallop that hinges on the most unlikely character and serves as a massive metaphor for the pains and pleasures of family that Vin Diesel only wishes his ‘Furious’ franchise could achieve. It’s a mainstream movie for the masses about being a weirdo and an outsider and the ways in which we inevitably hurt the ones we love. That makes for a surprisingly potent movie if you let it in. Fortunately, it’s also a wild romp.

If anything, the psychedelic visuals are even trippier and more beautiful this time, creating a plastic cinematic reality true to the space tales that Jack Kirby cranked out for Marvel while still playing as contemporary entertainment. The ’70s pop soundtrack is just as magically catchy, but with an added emotional heft to suit Gunn’s pet themes. The action is beautifully choreographed. The wisecracks are expertly crafted. The pop culture gags and ancient Marvel comics references fly by at an impressive clip. Somehow, Gunn has managed to top himself as a practitioner of pure entertainment, while also deepening the emotional and thematic impact of his bubblegum blockbuster.

A huge reason why it all comes together is the impressive cast. The core team return and are equally gifted in comedy and badassery (just with Groot babyfied this time for added cuteness). The team is strong enough to carry the planned ‘Guardians’ trilogy and beyond. Marvel is right to lean on them for the future. However, it isn’t just that cute CGI tree nub that steals the show as the trailers suggested. It really comes down to two veterans of the 1980s cinematic culture that this franchise emulates and quotes so expertly. Kurt Russell and Michael Rooker are excellent here and not the way you’d expect. Gunn gleefully toys with both of their screen personas and the actors thrive in return.

That’s the appeal of ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2’ in general – the movie is everything that it should be, but never in the obvious ways. Gunn’s stretching his own creation and making a case for Marvel blockbusters as personal statements. While MCU fatigue might ensure that those inclined to poo-poo the sequel on sight shall indeed poo-poo as planned, those who still enjoy this series and the work of James Gunn in particular should leave the theater with big dumb grins on their faces and freshly wiped tearstains on their cheeks. In other words, there might not be a better blockbuster all summer even though the season is just getting started.

What Did You Think of 'Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2'?

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    • Chris B

      Didn’t like it all actually. A rather silly villain and plot, I was just waiting for it to be over. I don’t fault anyone for liking it, I guess it’s just not my kind of franchise. Will not be seeing Vol. 3.

  1. Don’t get me wrong – I had an absolute blast with Vol. 2. It’s the most fun Marvel movie since the first GotG – but it has some glaring issues, one of which has me baffled: until we get to the final act, there’s absolutely no plot, no fluid string of events that point to this being a collective story. And when its weak narrative finally does take a shape, it reaches levels of “meh” at best. I’m not even certain that the villain’s motive makes any sense at all.

    • Jeffry

      I completely agree. I was bored when the 5th character had to have a dramatic backstory which just kept stretching the movie further. It seems to compensate for this they threw in another -hey look how cute baby Groot is- moment to make the folks laugh and forget about the non existent plot. And then more boring backstories and bad guy plot followed. And the end i just stopped caring.
      Also thought the music wasn’t memorable at all, couldn’t tell you which song was in it now.
      So much worse then the original, think its my most disappointing Marvel movie in a very long while. My friend felt the same while another agreed with the boring plot but still liked it. Im just a bit confused so many people seemed to enjoy it regardless.

    • Phil

      Yeah, I gotta disagree. I liked that it didn’t do cookie cutter Robert McKee storytelling because that’s not the only way to structure a story. I also felt that making Michael Rooker the heart of the movie was a really pleasant surprise and twist. I should not have teared up over Henry: Portrait Of Serial Killer, but here we are. And the emotional punch worked for me. But then, I’m a sucker for broken family tales. Plus that 70s psychedelic visual style is f-in fantastic.

      • Timcharger

        Let me fix that for you:
        “I also felt that making Michael Rooker the heart of the movie was a really pleasant surprise and twist. I should not have teared up over Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer/Serial Child Abductor.”

        There’s gotta be another word when it gets into the thousands, right? “Genocide” replaces “serial killing.” 1000 kidnappings means Pedo-cide?

  2. Nick Woolley

    This was not all that good. That final fight was a just a poor mans version and blatant rip off of Superman vs Zod.

    • Phil

      No IHOP though. Also featured characters worth caring about, which was a nice change from Man Of Steel.

      • Timcharger

        That’s a panties in a bunch response, Phil. IHOP in space is your retort?! Too sensitive to compare to BvS? There was plenty of product placement in the film Phil. It’s just things that need to be bought on eBay, not the local strip mall.

    • Timcharger

      “That final fight was a just a poor mans version and blatant rip off of Superman vs Zod.”

      The most ridiculous blatant rip off was the exposition by mannequins. Man of Steel had some moving Kryptonian​ widgets do the storyboarding. GotG2 had a dozen Macy’s window mannequin displays. I kid u not! Andrew McCarthy should have done a cameo and Starship’s Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now should have been playing during the mannequin exposition.

  3. ‘A massive space opera that’s really about family’. One has to wonder whether Vin Diesel contractually demands all his movies to deal with/handle the topic of ‘family’.

  4. Timcharger

    Sorry, I cursed u all. We can’t watch the mannequin exposition scene again without hearing Starship’s Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now in our heads.

  5. Timcharger



    Yondu’s “emotional” closure was significantly lessened for me when the film glorified in a slow-mo the massacre of 100+ villians. That arrow’s efficacy is a little too powerful, no? GotG1 had Yondu kill a dozen or so in 5 seconds, and it looked cool. But killing 120 in neon-trail slow-mo over 5 minutes was too much for me. Yay! Extended, pretty visuals of executions! And Yondu is a good Guardian now?!

    • Opinionhaver

      Those 120 laughed and drank while they murdered the dissenters one at a time. The word is “retribution.”

      • Timcharger

        Yes. The 120 weren’t angels, but the film wants us to empathize with a “vindicated” Yondu. So u must agree that it would make Yondu no better than they are.

        And did u notice how the film showed the 120 murdering the dissenters? It showed 1 (or was it 2?) sucked out into space. And the film just zoomed out to show the extent. The film did not show slow-mo deaths of EACH dissenter. Restraint (in filming) for the bad guys? But for “good guy” Yondu, let’s redeem him by showing slow-mo retribution/revenge porn times 120?!

        • Opinionhaver

          It’s not really about the numbers. You don’t have to like it, but let’s not act as though it’s a contradiction in character philosophy. The storytelling is basic, but effective. Those guys needed to die anyway because from a writing perspective a)them being alive makes escape implausible and b)they’re a loose end. So Gunn was smart enough to write a scene showing that their cruelty renders them unsympathetic and irredeemable. That old “no better than they are” is lazy, a cliche, and totally inapplicable here. We don’t let rabid dogs go uneuthanized because killing them would make us no better than a rabid dog.

          • Opinionhaver

            Now if you wanna say the scene took up too much running time because it was a little repetitive, that’s a different conversation…

          • Timcharger

            Yondu is no better than the 120 are.

            Opinionhaver, you are focused on the 2nd half of the the above sentence. The 120 are “unsympathetic and irredeemable.” Your response is focused on how it’s retribution. How the 120 deserved it. And all that I agree.

            But the film isn’t asking us to emotionally connect with the 120 ravagers. The film is asking to emotionally connect with executioner Yondu. There is a reason why society puts a mask on the executioner. Using your rabid dogs example, think of the image of the euthanizer. It’s some generic white-coat doctor. The film has a rabid lion mutilate the 120 rabid dogs in neon slow-mo. And then asks us to shed a tear for the “sympathetic and redeemable” lion?

          • Timcharger

            Opinionhaver: “You don’t have to like it, but let’s not act as though it’s a contradiction in (Yondu’s) character philosophy.”

            Oh exactly. Being a mass murdering executioner is Yondu’s character. And who said I didn’t like it that such an character exists? It is consistent with his character’s philosophy. Kidnaps children from a 1000 worlds and delivers them their death (except once); yup, that’s a monster.

            What I didn’t like is what the film then asks me to do next for this character, cry at his funeral?

            And the film didn’t visually show us the thousands of child abductions. Wise to not do that. Because showing that would make…
            (going back to my first sentence)
            …”Yondu’s ’emotional’ closure was significantly lessened for me when the film glorified in a slow-mo the massacre…” of children. To increase the empathy, the film should keep the visuals of Yondu’s mass child abductions and villain executions off-screen, and not in neon slow-mo 120 times.

          • Timcharger

            “It’s not really about the numbers.”

            1 job. Oh, you want me to go to Earth and pick up your son, because his mother died from cancer, and you are his only rightful father. Okay, I’ll do it.

            1000 jobs. Wait? You want to me go to a thousand different worlds to abduct a thousand children and bring them to you? They are ALL your beloved children? Huh? Let me consult the Ravager Code on this and get back to you.


    • Opinionhaver

      Originally you weren’t talking about the kids, so I didn’t either. In any case the film doesn’t “ask” anything other than to recognize Yondu doing one good deed (which ended up saving a lot more than 1000 people) at the end. People can cry if they want; you didn’t, and neither did I.

      • Timcharger

        Yes, I brought up the kids only after your comment about Yondu’s character behavior being non-contradictory, being consistently a monster, I say.

        As for Yondu’s vindication of saving more lives at the end, if we really think about that, Yondu didn’t take a course of action. He was forced to.

        The Ravagers turned on Yondu and forced his predicament. The Ravagers he led didn’t want Peter Quill because they wanted to abduct kids and take them to their slaughter. An adult, Peter Quill kept stealing and betraying them, and that’s how Yondu lost his Ravagers’ loyalty.

        Yondu’s 1 good deed is keeping a secret from his crew for 30 years, the realization of their stupidity after a 1000 child abductions, and the resulting mutiny to force him to fight alongside the Guardians of the Galaxy. That’s it.

        Up until the final act, we think Stallone has exiled Yondu for 1 violation. And that 1 violation wasn’t even completed. And we learn, it’s really a 1000 violations. I don’t think Rocket Raccoon broadcasted that detail to the Ravagers in the funeral announcement. I’m not sure those Ravager colors, those fireworks, would be so colorful, if they knew.

        • Opinionhaver

          Interesting thoughts, but you assume a few things, for one that Yondu was vindicated (or that I believe him to have been) and for another, that it matters whether his hand was forced or not. A change of heart only comes from a shift in perspective.

          • Timcharger

            Previously, I put: vindicated, in quotes. Meaning there’s questions about Yondu’s “redemption.”

        • cardpetree

          I thought I remembered Yondu saying he didn’t know Ego was killing the children and when he found that out, he stopped doing it? That was one of the reasons he never delivered Peter to Ego.

          • Timcharger

            Yeah, that’s why I said a revelation of their stupidity. After a 3rd request, I would give Ego a quizzical look, ANOTHER orphaned child of yours?! And where is Adam and Betty that I delivered last week, how much have they grown?

            Guess Yondu needed to get to 999 kidnappings before he wondered where all the kid playing sounds disappeared to?

          • Timcharger

            Okay I really said, the “REALIZATION of their stupidity.”

            Maybe Yondu only delivered a couple kidnapped kids to Ego, then figured it out, and stopped with Peter.

            The film didn’t explicitly say that kids that made up the mountain of bones were ALL delivered by Yondu. Maybe there were other Ravager gangs who were employed by Ego? But did those Ravager gangs NOT talk to each other about these suspicious Ego jobs? Maybe Ego, himself, kidnapped most of his own kids, but for some reason hired Yondu for a few jobs?

            But if the film didn’t make it clear, and it seems unlikely that Stallone would exile Yondu for merely reunited a single orphaned child with his father Ego, we are led to believe that Yondu is a monster that abducted 999 kids. Yay, he stopped with Peter. Horay!

  6. Okay, I’m apparently in the minority here (and I have to once again agree with Phil), for I really enjoyed this one. I didn’t really care for ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ (save for the excellent soundtrack, which I own on both vinyl and cassette tape), but this ‘Volume 2’ was really great. A surprisingly improved sequel, as far as I’m concerned. Just overall better in every regard.


    Very fond of the ‘Mary Poppins’ and ‘Knight Rider’ jokes, too.

    • Timcharger

      We’re in the majority. By a wide margin.

      Yes, I said, we. I can enjoy a film AND mock its exposition by mannequins, “vindication” of a serial kidnapper, and…

      …oh yeah, what the hell were the those Mentos-like seeds than reacted to Earth-Coke when Peter became a battery? A battery plugged in, millions of miles away, would activate those Mentos-seeds in thousand of planets? Huh?

      Makes Man of Steel’s world engine, much more sensible, no?

        • Timcharger

          On a the same note Phil, one who found the movie “achingly personal” and had “freshly wiped tearstains on (his) cheeks,” how does that feel if the same was said to you? Calm down, Phil. Don’t cry over a space comedy with a talking racoon.

          Get it? I’m not mocking your emotional reaction to the film. I’m drawing a parallel on how I’m “not calm” with the plot problems and you’re “not calm” with the emotive parts of the plot.

          The Mentos-Ego-seed and Earth-Coke joke, activated by Peter-Duracell a million miles away, that didn’t capture the humor of that scene for you? Come on Phil, we can ONLY laugh at the scenes that GotG2 was intentionally being funny?

  7. When I went to see the first Guardians of the Galaxy, I didn’t expect to enjoy it as much as I did. The whole little tree and little animal thing seemed a bit much for my tastes, but it won me over. I went to Vol. 2 with a bit of the same attitude, and once again it won me over. Yes, I laughed out loud at all the right moments, was impressed by the depth that 3D offered the entire picture, and let my intellect go a bit and just enjoyed the ride. Plot holes…absolutely! Laying it on too thick a times…most definitely! So what. It was a blast, they did a terrific job of blending in new characters, and I’ll be there when Chapter or Volume or whatever they call part 3 comes along.

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