Guardians of the Galaxy comes from a tradition of Marvel films that look like they are going to be total shit that actually ended up being genius. However, now that we know that audiences are receptive to a gun-wielding raccoon and his tree buddy going on space adventures, there were a lot of ways to continue. Sadly, they picked the most obvious one.
Peter Quill and his band of misfits are off on their adventures when they are tracked down by Ego, an alien with a very special abilities and powers. However, as it was, nothing is what it seems, as Ego has a secret hiding in the depths of his home and the Guardians must come together in order to prevent the galaxy from being destroyed yet again.
The opening of the film is smart and well thought-out, and shows a lot of the same creative spark that so fueled the first one. However, once the action starts going, it never really seems to slow down, almost like they’re dying to get to the ending and show off all their great special effects. It feels like we don’t get any time to see how the Guardians interact after their first big success, and from there it only get more fast-paced. The movie slips the team up, with Drax, Gamorra, and Peter going with Ego and the empathic Mantis, while Rocket and Groot stay to deal with a Ravager adventure with Yandu. We get some more character depth, but because of said rushing problem, nothing sinks in too deep, nothing really breaks the surface.
The music, as in the first, was fantastic and fun, and really adds a level of fun and memorability to the soundtrack and none of the other Marvel movies have. The special effects are amazing, the costuming and design are still on point, and the whole look of the film is stunning — definitely needs to be seen on the big screen. The jokes are mostly pretty funny, though some fall a little bit on the lazy side with easy pop culture references and one very stale joke about produce. Mantis, the new antenna character, is fun that she is like Drax, sort of naive and constantly asking weird questions, and I hope she’ll be in later iterations.
Now, to really get to the nitty-gritty of the plot and why this movie doesn’t work as well as the first, we need to get into spoiler territory. Avert your eyes if need be.
So here’s the big issue, so much of the characterization of the side characters changes in this movie. This happens, particularly with Nebula and Yandu. The two characters to set up as B-villains are now suddenly turned sympathetic. Not enough groundwork has been laid to make this shift feel natural, especially for Nebula. One minute she has murderous rage, the next she just wanted a sister? It’s not as clunky as it would be with a bad production, but it’s not seamless. Yandu’s sudden switch from antagonist to father-figure is also a little off but given that it creates a great emotional pay-off at the end, it can be forgiven because it does lead up to a genuinely touching moment.
Ego is a solid villain but we never really come to fear or hate him. He’s so oblivious to the thoughts and feelings of others that his eventually “reveal” as the villain seems highly telegraphed. Even killing off all his offspring doesn’t even feel like that shocking. I mean, his name is literally Ego – you could have named him “Villain McEvilbaddie” and it would have been more subtle. Kurt Russell is a phenomenal fit for the part though, adding just enough charisma to lift him up above inanely cheesy. The Sovereign are also pretty boring as secondary antagonists, and so forgettable, they’re just getting this one sentence.
The other is while the secondary characters get all the development, the rest of the characters don’t change very much. Gamora gets a little more in touch with her past and her trauma of surviving Thanos, Rocket deals with his insecurities around love and family, and Peter finally fills the father-shaped hole that was only barely an issue in the first film. Still, nothing really shifts, nothing is created or resolved. There’s nothing wrong with that, but the little emotional digging that’s done feels like it wasn’t enough.
The ending feels like a giant, epic final boss, with lots of different layers and some great action. However, it has been all racing to get to this moment that it almost feels like you don’t even get to enjoy it as much. The build-up is lacking, since it feels like so much of it is headed to the big finale that the finale feels lesser by comparison. The whole Ego as a planet is pretty interesting, though now that Peter doesn’t have his weird powers, it’s almost like it never happened. Still, the twist about Ego putting the tumor in Peter’s mother’s brain was a very nice touch on Ego’s callousness.
Overall, the film is fun, but not deep. It’s entertaining but not memorable. Nothing sticks, no lines are as memorable, no character moment (besides the end) really makes an impact. Go see it, if only because it’s the best thing in theaters right now. Also, can I say, the five extra ending scenes are mostly not worth sitting around for.
It's fun to have fun, but you have to know how
This movie falls just short of the previous one — there’s still a lot of love and creativity put in but it feels like it’s just trying to set up some more character without moving any of the main five forward. The whole thing is a fun, well crafted good time that is like the rest of the songs on an album you bought for the hit single: good but quite what you wanted.