Review: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Has Heart Coming Out of Its Butthole

Did you like Guardians of the Galaxy? Then you’ll like Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. While James Gunn’s second outing doesn’t break new ground, it delves deep into the heart of things.

[Editor’s Note: Some spoilers for the film ahead!]

The first Guardians of the Galaxy was pretty epic, no? Not just in its entirely different execution from other Marvel films but the story itself. It traveled to different planets, introduced us to numerous aliens, and took our “heroes” on a grand action-adventure all while listening to some super cool tunes. While the sequel hits a lot of the same beats as the original, it doesn’t make any grand leaps.

Guardians Vol. 2 is the fifteenth film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Which, wow. Screenwriter Nicole Perlman was sadly not involved this time around, Gunn wrote this one himself. What we get is a film on a slightly smaller scale but with a lot more emotional content. I must admit that’s not what I was expecting but I enjoyed it. Though there’s little to no character growth (Rocket feels like he has a similar emotional journey as last time), the group have become a real family since we last saw them, even if they’re not ready to admit it right away. But family is explored in another way in the film – Star-Lord finally meets his dad.

Star-Lord’s parentage was kept close to the vest for a while, it was interesting to learn before release that his father would be Ego the Living Planet (a Celestial), played by Kurt Russell. Considering that is not the case in the comics, it was unclear whether the MCU Ego would turn out to be the villain or not. He did, but while he had the same sort of grand scheme we’re used to seeing from supervillains, and was certainly tremendous both in size and power, something about it didn’t sit right for me. In the first film Ronan (with looming Thanos) was a clear villain, Ego plays the nice guy first and so his turn (easy to figure out early on) is perhaps not as dramatic and he doesn’t have any contingency plans because he feels he’s good enough. The Sovereign race are quickly turned into bad guys as well but due to the actions of our “heroes,” not because they’re actual villains, and they’re totally rad 80s-arcade armada doesn’t have as much bite as it probably should.

But back to family. As is true in the real world, family can mean a lot of things and even though Star-Lord is seduced towards a dark path by meeting his birth father, he’s quick to make the call to destroy him for the sake of his real family (and also revenge, Ego was a shit). Gamora and Nebula get some much-needed sister time, which is something I was craving more of last time around. They’re still at each others’ throats but also still saving each other when the situation calls for it. They may not hang out and watch Netflix any time soon but they’ve come to a bitter understanding – they both had it rough. And that hug? I just about lost it. But perhaps the biggest pull of the heartstrings in Guardians Vol. 2 was the relationship between Star-Lord and Yondu. I mean, holy shit that one sideswiped me. But that also brings me to one of my biggest problems this time around.

I felt like a lot more was left up to Marvel Comics readers’ knowledge. There were tons of characters and scenes that weren’t really explored to my satisfaction. Something like the Watchers cameo with Stan Lee could be left alone I suppose since they weren’t involved in the main action at all (though non-readers would be confused). But Sylvester Stallone (Stakar Ogord) is introduced early on, and we know there’s history between him and Yondu but that’s all we get until his funeral. At which point we’re given several more dramatic introductions to characters who should mean something and are played by names like Ving Rhames (Charlie-27) and Michelle Yeoh (Aleta Ogord) but left swinging in the wind. At io9 they cover a lot of them that featured in the credits sequence and perhaps we’ll see them down the road but it felt strange to suddenly intro a bunch of people emotionally connected to the story and not let them breathe a little.

Everyone in Guardians Vol. 2 is turned up to 11 to meet the level our main cast is on. While an argument could be made for the Sovereign people being a calmer entity in the film, it’s still a lot of one-note characterizations. It’s why some of the never-ending ragging on each other bothered me a bit this time around. Even if they didn’t have anyone interact with the Guardians themselves, it would have been nice to have a balance somewhere else in the film. Perhaps SHIELD could have shown up to the Ego-affected sites on Earth?

Guardians Vol. 2 wasn’t perfect, nor did it show me anything revelatory but it was good and I felt good when leaving the theater. This was a nice story in their own little corner of the universe and, as usual, paved the way for future films without putting itself in the middle of the drama-bomb that is the MCU. They’ll be there soon enough to cause trouble.

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