a critiQal film review Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)

Plot: The team's adventures continue as they traverse the outer reaches of the cosmos. The Guardians must fight to keep their newfound family together as they unravel the mysteries of Peter Quill's (Pratt) true parentage. Old foes become new allies and fan-favorite characters from the classic comics will come to our heroes' aid as the Marvel cinematic universe continues to expand.

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In trying to catch up on the Marvel Cinematic Universe, we’ve seen a lot of wow moments so far, but probably the biggest surprise was Guardians of the Galaxy (2014). With that film, Marvel took a group of characters who weren’t very popular, and turned them into one of their biggest blockbusters so far. So, when Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 was announced, it generated all sorts of positive buzz.

But, would their second attempt (like Iron Man 2 (2010), Thor: The Dark World (2013) and Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)) fall just a bit short? Or was Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 set to become like Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014) and be the only other second film that could live up to the hype?

Chris Pratt kind of exploded on to the movie scene with his turn as Starlord in Guardians of the Galaxy (2014). After that success (and successfully reinvigorating that old dinosaur franchise with Jurassic World (2015)), he’s back again in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. While he’s not quite as zany as he was in the first film, he’s still solid in the character. And, it’s understandable. After all, he has kind of a big personal issue to deal with this time around.

The rest of the Guardians crew are back as well for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. Zoe Saldana continues to impress as Gamora, just as she did when she reinvented Uhura for Star Trek (2009). Dave Bautista continues to pull away from his wrestler-turned-actor stigma with his continuing solid performance as Drax, and Bradley Cooper is still a fantastic voice for Rocket Raccoon. And, even though he didn’t do a bad job in Guardians of the Galaxy (2014), Vin Diesel’s voice is so altered for Baby Groot that it’s hard to even imagine Vin Diesel providing the voice…which is a good thing.

There are some other familiar faces as well. Most notably, both Michael Rooker and Karen Gillan return in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. Rooker’s Yondu continues to impress, and viewers will find themselves once again drawn to his outlaw character. Even Gillan’s Nebula manages some growth as well, which is nice.

That’s not to say Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 isn’t without it’s newcomers. Kurt Russell, as Starlord’s Dad, is a nostalgic casting choice. While he does a good job in the role, a story that has Starlord telling everyone that David Hasselhoff is his dad kind of makes the viewer wish he was in that role. Although he briefly puts in an appearance, it just makes the viewer wish even more that Russell had been replaced by Hasselhoff. And that just seems odd.

Other newcomers in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 play smaller roles. Pom Klementieff as Mantis, however, seems to be a future welcome addition to the team. Meanwhile, a brief appearance by Sylvester Stallone may put viewers off a bit, but an end credits sequence (one of 5!) suggests that Stallone may make an appearance later on…along with welcome additions Michelle Yeoh and Ving Rhames, among others.

What made the original Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) so enjoyable was it’s solid mix of action, comedy and scenes that seemed tailor-made to the classic hits that accompanied them. In Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, their problems are more personal, and thus a bit more drama-oriented. Yet, their is still that mix of action, comedy, and inspired music sequences…but it just doesn’t quite mesh as well together this time around. The jokes seem to be off-handed one-liners that hit or miss at random, while the music – aside from a swelling refrain from Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain”, doesn’t quite have the same lovingly-created sequences to go with it. Instead, the music, like in so many films, is mostly more the background noise of the film, rather than the integral part it was in the first film.

With Guardians of the Galaxy (2014), Marvel achieved such a near-perfect mix of drama, comedy and action, combined it with the old building-the-team shtick (complete with crazily different personalities that clashed as much as they meshed), and made the soundtrack such an integral part of the film right from the first sequence, the sequel definitely had a hard road to follow to keep up. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is not a bad film – in fact, it’s pretty darn good. But it just can’t match the first film’s near-perfection.

Definitely worth a look, but that odd incongruity that runs through the film – as if the parts just don’t quite mesh quite as well – will probably make Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 much more easy to forget than it’s predecessor. Which is too bad, because it’s still a good movie – it just isn’t great.

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