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‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2’: Solid sequel, but not out of this world

The most recent installment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe released in theaters last week. Highly anticipated after the success of the first film, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 delivers on many of the aspects that made the first film great: the characters are dynamic and likable; the story is well written; the effects are great; and it is incredibly funny. However, while Vol. 2 excels in many aspects, it falls flat in others and doesn’t quite measure up to its predecessor. Yet it remains an enjoyable film full of great action, witty dialogue, and even a couple of tear-jerking moments.

Building characters

One of the greatest things about ensemble movies is the moment when the entire team finally works together in the third act, like the New York battle from The Avengers or the battle against Ronan in the first Guardians of the Galaxy. That being said, what’s even better are the moments in the sequels where the team is already established and can play off each others strengths and weaknesses. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 does this incredibly well, not only in its action sequences, but also in its quieter moments. There’s a real sense of family in this film, and the theme of “friends being the family you choose” is one that is extremely important throughout the movie.

The well-loved characters established in the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie had plenty of potential to grow in this film. Yet, the characters are pretty stagnant throughout the entire story, or if they aren’t stagnant, then they are predictable. Drax is exactly what you’d expect Drax to be: literal and funny. Baby Groot, while adorable, is primarily there as another comic relief character, with only a few moments of action and little character growth. Gamora has a handful of poignant moments with her sister, but any growth in her own right is outshone by Nebula’s shift in character. The only characters that have distinct arcs are Rocket and Peter Quill, and while both of them grow as individuals, everything they do is mildly predictable. Now, this isn’t to say that the characters aren’t compelling; in fact, there are plenty of shocking and surprisingly emotional moments throughout the film. But sequels are supposed to expand on previously established characters, and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 definitely could have benefitted from more character growth.

Just a funny movie?

The first Guardians of the Galaxy has a firm place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe as the “funny movie.” Marvel does an excellent job of blending action and comedy with a sometimes-serious story, but GotG has more jokes than the rest of the MCU. Vol. 2 is absolutely full of funny moments, some more raunchy than others, and all deserving of a good laugh. However, the amount of joking around throughout the film feels a little overwhelming. We get it; you’re funny. Some comedic sequences are drawn out for effect, and while they definitely make the audience chuckle, they ultimately don’t add anything significant to the plot. Some of these comedic moments could be shortened or even cut completely to make room for some of the character development that is lacking.

Stunning visuals and standout performances

What this film may lack in character and plot, it definitely makes up for in visuals. A movie like this has so much creative freedom, and the team at Marvel knows how to make things look cool. Everything from the design of some new creatures and weaponry to the construction of whole planets is easy on the eyes and fits perfectly into the universe already established in previous Marvel films. When watching this film it’s easy to forget that most of the sets are entirely CGI.

This only makes the performances from each actor even more impressive. The way the actors interact with completely animated characters, like Baby Groot, Rocket, and villains that they can’t see, all the while on sets where they don’t know what the final product will look like is truly a testament to the acting capabilities of the entire cast. Chris Pratt is an obvious standout in this film as he was in the first one, and Zoe Saldana continues to play Gamora with strength and sass. However, the actors that stand out the most to me are Karen Gillan as Nebula and Michael Rooker as Yondu. Both of these characters have amazing story arcs, and both actors play their parts expertly.

This movie may lack a little in the plot department, but nonetheless, it is still a fun, energetic, and hilarious movie with an outstanding cast. While it may not be as good as the first Guardians of the Galaxy, it’s a great addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And let’s face it: any chance to see these characters in action is going to be time well spent, especially with a soundtrack as awesome as this one.

All images from:  IMDb

Graphic by: Daley Wilhelm

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