Making a comic book superhero movie is much like baking. Get the measurements wrong, mix it incorrectly or open the oven prematurely and you get films like the recent Fantastic Four. Do things right, however, and you create something like Guardians of the Galaxy, which was not only one of the best films of 2014, but perhaps one of the best comic book superhero movies to date.
As such, writer and director James Gunn definitely had his work cut out when taking the reigns once again. So how did he and our favorite gang of misfit superheroes fare in Vol. 2?
The right mix?
There were several reasons why we loved the first Guardians of the Galaxy. The comic book franchise was relatively unknown, the casting was spot on and the team dynamic engaging, with some great CGI and a good of amount of humour added to the mix. Vol. 2 has all the same elements, but for whatever reason the end result is something far different, feeling more like one of the The Avengers movies than the Guardians we've come to know.
Things often feel forced in Vol. 2: the punchlines, the reliance on the 70s soundtrack and even the interaction between the Guardians themselves. As far as the latter is concerned, much of same story arcs are continued from Vol. 1 but with very little resolution.
Star Lord (Chris Pratt, Jurassic World) and Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper, The Hangover) constantly butt heads, Gamora (Zoe Saldana, Star Trek) plays the reluctant glue of the group, Drax (Dave Bautista, Spectre) is chief negging expert and Baby Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel, Fast 8) is there for cuteness factor. If the Guardians are meant to be a quasi-family, even dysfunctional, there's no evidence that they've grown from their previous escapades.
Taking off some of the pressure for the Guardians to deliver once again are a handful of new additions, along with a larger roles for Yondu (Michael Rooker, The Walking Dead) and Nebula (Karen Gillan, Selfie). Joining the crew are Mantis (Pom Klementieff, Oldboy) and Ego (Kurt Russell, Hateful Eight), with the latter playing Star Lord/Peter Quill's father. The result is plenty of daddy issues that get explored in the film, but Star Lord's love for his mother endures regardless.
Along with the new additions are a new threat in the form of The Sovereign and their high priestess Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki, The Night Manager). Compared to the Kree and their leader Ronan from Vol.1, this batch of protagonists never truly live up to the billing, and instead appear sporadically, with only a menacing role in Vol. 3 being hinted at.
The review up to now has been less than glowing for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, but there are still some noteworthy elements, such as the superb visuals, unique fight scenes and of course Drax's dry humour to diffuse any situation. The issue is that things have been dialled up a few more notches in every regard, which ultimately leaves the whole experience a bit unbalanced compared to the first film.
If you're simply looking for an enjoyable outing to the cinema, then yes, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 delivers. If, however, you're after a part two that's as good as part one was, we're sad to report that it fails to do so.