The worst kind of good movie is one that is a sequel to a great one.
“Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” is an unfortunate film. It is a good movie, really fun and really funny. However, the fact that it is following up one of the best and most fun movies in recent memory, and certainly the most fun science-fiction film in a long time, works against it in a big way. It’s fast and action-packed, but doesn’t have the freshness of its predecessor, and is destined to be forgotten among the fond memories of the original film.
“Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” follows the titular team not too long after the end of the original. The team is forced to go on the run after Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper) steals a precious battery that the team was assigned to protect by a powerful race of aliens. The team crash lands on a planet, where they are saved by team leader Star Lord’s (Chris Pratt) biological father, Ego (Kurt Russel). From there, the show splits into several subplots, with Rocket and Groot (Vin Diesel) being captured by space pirates, Gamora (Zoe Saldana) fending off her vengeful sister Nebula (Karen Gillian), Star Lord learning more about his father, and Drax (Dave Bautista) developing a relationship with a very literal-minded empath Mantis (Pom Klementieff).
Early on, the film makes the baffling decision to split up the team to focus on individual sub-stories. Now I can see why they did this, as they are able to develop the characters one on one through their individual stories, but it really does not work. “Guardians of the Galaxy” was great because of the interplay between the main characters, and the banter when the cast is united is as good as it has ever been, but a large part of the film is spent with each on their own. Even if the sub-stories were great, there are just too many of them. It lacks the focus of the first film, and the characters on their own are not anywhere near strong enough to make it all work as smoothly as when they are together. The fact is that nobody bought a ticket to a Star Lord movie or a Rocket Raccoon movie, but to a Guardians of the Galaxy movie.
However, once the team is together and the story gets back on track, it is riotously funny, and Bautista’s Drax is wisely given a lot more screen time. He is easily the funniest character in the whole film, with Baby Groot being a close and astonishingly cute second. The team works unitedly as well as ever, and it really feels like the old film once everything comes together. The story, writing, banter, everything really improves and returns to that high benchmark.
The music is as great as ever, with the “Awesome Mix Vol. 2” of classic songs as the backdrop of the whole action. The songs are great, and really lend a sense of fun to even the more boring scenes.
Director James Gunn is really magnificent once everything comes together. The scenes move quickly and the action is great. The more character-focused moments are handled well too, giving the shallow characterization the illusion of depth.
The worst part about “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” is that it would be pure magic if only it weren’t preceded by the amazing “Guardians of the Galaxy”. It’s just as funny as the original, and at moments smells the same rare air, as a truly refreshing and exciting standout in its genre. However, it will never get out from the shadow of its predecessor, and is dragged down by altogether too many sub-stories. It’s perfectly fun, and definitely worth seeing, but it fails to live up to what fans of the first might expect.
Final score: 80/100.