Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Review: A Successful Improvement and Failed Retread of the First
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is not as good as the first, at least in my opinion. I did not enter the theater with mammoth expectations, and I would advise that you do not either. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 feels like two different sequels attached to each other. One tries to recapture the exact feeling and tone of its predecessor, and the other ventures into grander areas. One fails, and the other succeeds. Your enjoyment of this film will hinge on your ability to weather an inferior retread, but if you can, you will be rewarded by a phenomenal climax.
Unfortunately, the first thing I noticed about this film was how unfunny it was. The second scene in the movie involves the Guardians bickering amongst themselves for about a minute, and it was a massive red flag for me. Every line of dialogue was some sort of joke, and every joke fell flat. Visually, I was still watching the Guardians of the Galaxy, but they lacked the chemistry that they had exposed three years ago.
After this scene, the Guardians fight a pointless space monster, and then encounter the first antagonistic force of the film: gold people. These gold people pay the team for defending them, but after Rocket steals their precious resources, they chase after the team and nearly destroy their ship.
This chase scene contains more banter, more jokes, and more action, and all of it fell flat. I hardly laughed, and was fairly annoyed. I had gone in expecting something subpar, but this was below even my expectations. It wasn’t especially awful, it just felt incredibly lacking.
The writers were not trying to make a great film, they were trying to make the first film over again. Imagine if you had written a very long email, and then for some reason, the entire message was deleted. Rather than trying to write another email from scratch, you thought the first email was so great that it would be smarter to recreate it purely from memory. If you were to try this, it is likely that the second email would read as a mere shadow of the first, and that seemed to be the writing technique used for the first half of this film.
“Hey, the music montages were cool, let’s put in even more!”
“People really liked it when Rocket Racoon yelled at people, so let’s have him yell at everyone!”
“The first film had a lot of jokes. You know what’s better than jokes? More jokes!”
Peter Quill and Gamora continue their needless romance throughout the first half, and so much of it felt unnecessary. As I have written before, characters need to be designed with the romance in mind so that a romantic connection is believable. Here the two flirt because the two most attractive people in any film seem to be required by the laws of cinema to express romantic interest in each other. Not only do I not buy the romance, but their relationship doesn’t evolve for the vast majority of the film. Instead of building the characters and expanding the world, the characters just go about doing what they did in the first. Only it isn’t as good.
Although a few characters show promise in the first half, I was very underwhelmed by what I saw in the first hour.
But as the film moved into its second half, the dialogue picked up, the tension heightened, and the film became far more compelling. All of this relates to the main villain, who is without a doubt one of the best antagonists Marvel has ever created.
Granted, that isn’t a very high bar to clear, but the villain of this film is both terrifying and kindhearted (on the surface). I cannot discuss him in full length, but he was without a doubt the highlight of the film, and his final confrontation made for a brilliant climax.
Everything tied to the main villain has new energy and a sense of quality, and not only is the antagonist well fleshed out, but almost every character is developed further in the second half.
The visuals, the humor, the score, and even the soundtrack improved after the half way point.
Once the writers were willing to let go of the first film and head in a new direction, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 became what it should have been from the very beginning. The film’s final scenes elicited emotional reactions from me that I thought would be impossible given the first hour.
Characters from the first film who had little to no development, such as Yondu and Nebula, were given fully realized backstories and character arcs. And the characters who were developed in the first film saw even more growth.
I would recommend seeing this film if you enjoyed the first, because if you did not, Vol. 2 will do little to win you over. If you enjoyed the first film, Vol. 2 may annoy you for the first half, but I would argue that the film’s ending makes up for that and then some.
For that reason, I give this film a recommendation.
But on a larger scale, this film represents what to do and what not to do when writing a sequel. Do not retread the first, references and similarities are not bad, but overuse of similar ideas and scenes will harm the film overall. Instead, push the story and characters. Take us to new worlds that we haven’t seen before while maintaining the tone and feel of the first. It isn’t easy to do, which is why so few sequels have been able to do it, but Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 managed to. At least, for the second half.