You may notice that the first Guardians of the Galaxy scores very highly with most people, as both a standalone film and as part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. When it arrived it presented a fresh new take on a genre people were worried was on the verge of stagnating. It was Marvels way of saying “We’re not done yet!” and giving us faith that, whether you enjoy them or not, Super Hero films were staying for a long, long time. In fact, I imagine Guardians even hit a sweet spot with those who did feel the genre had over stayed its welcome, and I imagine it hit the same sweet spot with some people who didn’t enjoy the genre at all. It was action packed, it was funny, and it presented a wealth of crazy new characters the likes of the big screen had yet to see. All in all, it was a lot for a sequel to live up to, and Vol. 2 is no doubt going to be compared to its predecessor as every sequel always will be… So, the question is does it live up to number one? The answer, in short, is a positive, and resounding yes.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is another visually stunning, action packed and hilarious romp through the universe. It’s once again vibrant and spectacular, and it hits the same amount of comedic beats as the first film. As a film, it’s an incredibly enjoyable watch that’ll make you laugh and gasp and drool all the way through. As a sequel, its about everything you could hope it would be without it being better than the first. It’s there that lies the point of contention – Does it live up to the first? Yes, but it doesn’t exceed it.
Number one in the franchise scores major points for being the first in its line. It broke the repetition of Super Hero movies and showed us that Marvel was willing to let loose and enjoy some of its more ‘wacky’ narratives. With DC constantly pushing its ‘Dark and Grim’ films, Marvel was here putting as many colours to the screen as colourists put into comicbook panels. For the statement that Gunn and Marvel made with the original GotG, it’s going to automatically score some big points. The fact that Gaurdians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 continues in the same vein, is in danger of coming across more like “playing it safe”, but after all there’s only so many times you can break a mould.
The sequel is also unavoidably handicapped because the characters have mainly all been revealed in the first. These characters are no longer new and squeaky clean, we know what to expect from them and their dynamic. It was the characters that quite clearly made the original, Sure, there was flashy worlds to visit, there were aliens to meet, there was infinity stones… but really we loved Guardians for the characters. Whilst Pom Klementieff does a great job of playing Mantis, and Kurt Russell does simply amazing job of… well, being Kurt Russell, these new characters can only fill a gap so much. So, again we’re at risk of ‘safe zone’ territory.
All this aside though, Gunn does something very clever here; he makes the film smaller. The original Guardians was about introductions. It was about introducing us to space, galaxies, and just how weird the universe can be. For the Marvel Cinematic universe the implications here were enormous, no longer were the stories relatively earth bound (even Thor was tied to Earth in his narratives). Guardians showed us that Earth was not alone, and it showed us by blasting us from colourful planet to colourful planet, showing us big grand action sequences, and even introducing us to a style and humour, which was quite clearly much broader than the other Cinematic entries… Then Vol. 2 has come along, and made it tighter.
Whether it was a symptom of being part of a larger canon (and therefore not as free to manipulate events, due to implications it would have for other films at other parts of the timeline), or whether as a conscious decision off the back of the first, its hard to say. Easy to say though, is that it really works. We’re still shown a few planets, we’re still shown some space flight and some epic battles, but its more grounded. We’re no longer surprised by these unique new characters, so instead we’re given a personal story about them, a more intimate story about family. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 recognises its past introductions, and is building off of it. Vol. 2. takes the original recipe, changes only a few ingredients, and manages to create a different and still fantastic result, which maintains the same flavours as before. Sure, sometimes it may feel like we’ve had this before, we may compare it to the original and not feel exactly the same way, but stand it on its own and it does incredibly well. It’s a film that sets out and accomplishes everything it intends, whilst maintaining its ties to the original without feeling stagnant or done before. Most of all, it achieves all this whilst remaining fun.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is well worth a visit to see at the cinema, and it is well worth its place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.