Guardians of the Galaxy 2 is a very a fun and consistently pretty movie which emotes really well, and it comes very close to being almost a perfect ensemble movie. It left me very impressed but I wasn’t going to write anything about it until I felt like someone should appreciate how close it comes to perfectly serving everyone in the titular team of superheroes with the story and its action and the music. Spoiler alert: it comes very close. I’m going to discuss it now. Don’t read past this point if you haven’t seen it. I mean it.
Okay, so I was one of the very, very, very few people who thought that the first movie was NOT that great. I mean, it just didn’t hook me. I think I might have been overhyped for it and it just wasn’t as good as I was expecting. The majority of the jokes fell flat for me and I thought the music, while obviously very good, was used too fleetingly to be truly effective (which is something that happens a few times in this one as well). I also thought it was quite clear where the story was going to go and nothing really truly surprised me. I was honestly expecting more of the same in this movie but Vol.2 feels fresh and like its treading new ground almost constantly. The twist about Ego was also very cool and quite satisfying. The action incorporates humor, music and bombastic set-pieces really well. Baby Groot causes the audience to lapse into contented sighs when all the “AW”‘s are pulled out of them in the first 20 seconds of the movie. It looks great and hence better than any Marvel movie that has come before it. But what’s truly cool about it is that it manages to develop and incorporate into its story almost all of its characters, besides probably Drax, whose main purpose is just to provide comic relief by laughing uncontrollably and get beat around by all of the bad guys. He’s still great though!
SO, the team in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is made up of 7 characters, and the story of the movie manages to serve (almost) all of them with quite satisfying arcs. Each character has about 20 minutes (give or take) allocated for their screen time and very little time is wasted which makes the movie feel packed and keeps the pace of the plot satisfyingly fast. There is just too much going on in Vol.2 for the viewer to be able to get bored. There isn’t any time left in the movie for it to make the viewer feel like “When is this thing going to end I wonder?”. It helps that the settings of the movie are so diverse. In 30 minutes we go from a monster fight to a space battle to an encounter in a forest and it impressively doesn’t feel like you’re just going through a slideshow of exotic alien locales like the beginning of Rogue One did (I’m sorry for saying that I just don’t like Rogue One). The team is split into two parts for most of the movie too, with Peter, Gamora and Drax going with Ego and Rocket, Yondu and Groot having their own separate tussles. Oh, Nebula sort of does her own thing and moves between the two groups halfway though the movie. This splitting up of the team helps in keeping the plot going, as like, for example, while Gamora is just skulking around Ego’s planet with a sense of foreboding and cutting some alien weeds in anger, we cut to Rocket and Yondu having an awesome escape scene from an enemy ship. It works very well and about two-thirds of the film, I felt like I was having the time of my life. It was that good. Peter’s arc with his father and Gamora was strong and, ofcourse, very surprising. Gamora’s relationship with Nebula and her unaddressed thing with Star Lord gave her a prominent role in the movie. Rocket and Yondu working together and finding out they were not so different was very well done. Mantis’ bucked her fear of her master for her new friends and set up the plot twist a little. Baby Groot finally grew up a bit in the end (I mean, he did manage to press the right button) and Drax, well, I guess he cried a little bit in the middle didn’t he? Also, he did a lot of this too: (I got this GIF from We Minored in Film)
And, the villains were certainly better in quality than a lot of other marvel villains. Ego and the twist that he had a really big, er, ego (I’M SORRY) was fantastic. The gold lady was fine (no, not in THAT way). I think the twist about Ego was, while very cool, just a little undercooked and this hurt the eventual ending of the film. I enjoyed the first two thirds so much that the ending disappointed me. Yes, it did.
The thing about Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol.2 is that it sort of feels in the end like everything that had come before didn’t really have any direction. For the majority of the film, there’s no main plotline driving everything. Peter Quill goes to learn about his father and Gamora and Drax join him. Rocket and Yondu meet and really getting back to the rest of the team isn’t really a priority for them until they see the golden people drones. They just try to escape from their prison and kill the evil ravagers. Nebula is after Gamora and that’s it. There’s no main plotline to the film. The side stuff is great and very strong but none of it yet feels like its what the movie is about. It’s only after the Ego twist that movie gets a sense of direction and we understand what the movie is really gearing towards: The guardians have to stop Ego the living planet from destroying the galaxy and have to try and get out alive. The side stuff is strong but its all geared too much towards individual characters. When you talk about Vol.2, you’re not going to say “Oh, that’s the one about Rocket and Yondu escaping from a prison”, or “Yeah Vol.2 was all about Gamora’s struggle with her sister and their issues”. Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol.2 is the one where the guardians have to defeat a living planet and save the galaxy again but you don’t know that until about 3 quarters through the film. Now, like imagine if, for example, instead of Rocket and Groot staying behind of their own will, they are instead captured by the golden people, with the help of Nebula and Ego himself (but secretly). There they find out that the Ravagers have acted against Yondu and are working with the golden people. Suddenly, Ego shows up and says he can help the remaining Guardians get their friends back but only if they come with him. Oh, and he’s Star Lord’s dad. Then while in prison, Rocket and Yondu find out Ego is actually in cahoots with the golden people and assisted in their capture and know they have to escape to save their friends. While on the planet, Ego forgets about helping the rest of the guardians and shows interest only in Peter. This angers Gamora and would be a more suitable reason for her to suspect foul play than “Yeah, idk, Mantis was about to say something and I don’t feel good”. This kind of set up makes the golden people the main bad guys of the film and sets up a goal for the guardians: getting each other free. It also allows for almost all of the strong side stories but with more agency. The twist about Ego would also have been better set up. Aw man.
While thinking about Guardians of the Galaxy, I think about how it could have been the greatest superhero ensemble movie ever made. But it isn’t. It’s fun and occasionally poignant but it isn’t a masterpiece. But it had the potential to be so and I feel like it should be commended for it. It was a good movie, but it could have been great.