The first Guardians of the Galaxy was one of the best entries in the Marvel Cinematic Universe when it came out in 2014 and a few years later, it still is. It had heart and was full of fun and energy that really helped it standout from the rest of the cookie-cutter Marvel films out there. It’s great to see that the sequel not only matched the first in terms of quality, but improved on it by bringing back all the fun elements from the first movie. These improvements help make the sequel one of the best movies of 2017 so far.
The film has a lot to juggle. As well as supporting the core Guardians team (Chris Pratt’s Star Lord, Dave Bautista’s Drax, Zoe Saldana’s Gamora, Vin Diesel’s Groot ,and Bradley Cooper’s Rocket), whose chemistry remains fantastic throughout the film, hitting all the dysfunctional familiar beats that we’ve come to expect. We also get new additions as well as improved roles for much of the supporting cast from the first film. Karen Gillan’s Nebula gets an expanded role that helps give a bit more depth to her character. Michael Rooker’s Yondu also steals the show in this one as he is arguably the best character in the whole film. There’s also appearances by newcomers Kurt Russell as Ego the Living Planet, who is revealed to be Quill’s father (not a spoiler, the trailers reveal it and it doesn’t take long for the movie to reveal it as well) and a much briefer appearance (more like a cameo) for Sylvester Stallone’s Ravager Commander Stakar Ogord, who will most likely play a future role in the third film and quite possibly beyond that. Russell himself is a great addition to the franchise and emerges as one of the more memorable secondary characters introduced, so it’s great to see Marvel overcoming the problem of the making a good direct sequel – outside of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, both Iron Man 2 and Thor: The Dark World were rather lackluster efforts.
The element of fun is back and the movie clearly has heart. After being reduced to a baby tree in the previous movie, Groot is now essentially a child and will quickly become a fan-favourite. There’s an early scene where the Guardians are facing off against a giant monster on a planet that they have been hired to defend and baby Groot just dances around listening to Electric Light Orchestra’s “Mr. Blue Sky”, and generally not caring at all about the fight. It’s moments like these that help keep the film fresh and exciting, and particularly when the ‘80s pop culture references come into play everything feels awesome. There’s also the great soundtrack, which as well as including ELM, also features gems such as Jay and the Americans’ “Come a Little Bit Closer” (you’ll want to keep an eye out for the scene that it’s used in), Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain” and Looking Glass’ “Brandy”, among others. Seriously, if you liked the soundtrack for the first film, you’ll probably like the soundtrack for the second one.
Adopting a slower pace than the first film, James Gunn takes risks here by not sticking to the standard Marvel formula (even if at the same time, the movie is something that feels right at home with the Marvel brand), and it really pays off. It’s not formulaic and there aren’t any real obvious plot points that you’ll see telegraphed a mile off. It’s one of those movies that clearly benefits from a great character focus rather than a plot one as the characters are really the heart and soul of this story. Without them being as unique as they are the film wouldn’t work, and because they’re here, it just works so damn well.
Whilst there are a grand total of five post-credits scenes which may be a tad unnecessary, they all play a part. There’s also the Marvel opening logo which seems to get longer and longer each time a new Marvel film comes out, and this might be its longest yet, because even if it isn’t it certainly felt like it. But honestly? These are only minor issues in a movie that is probably Marvel’s best film since The Winter Soldier, and a strong contender for one of the best movies of 2017 so far. You won’t want to miss it.