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Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2: Movie Review

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The Guardians of the Galaxy have returned to handle the extraterrestrial threats which the Avengers are too busy beating each other up to deal with. This sequel picks up where the 2014 entry into the Marvel Cinematic Universe left off. This time around, director James Gunn is unencumbered by establishing origin stories. The relationships are known, the dynamics between the principal players ready for exploration set up in the first movie. The result is a sequel that achieves that oh-so-rare feat of matching, if not surpassing its predecessor in quality. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 takes full advantage of its relative freedom. The result – a movie that’s funnier and more heartfelt than the original.

The structure for character interaction was as clever as it was effective. Superhero movies usually shoehorn a gaggle of characters into a story, and Guardians is no exception. Where lesser films settle for grandiose visuals at the expense of meaningful emotional interaction, Guardians thrusts its characters into scenes of tender, earnest moments that punctuate and give meaning to the otherwise consistent action throughout. As well as this film works on its own, having seen the original allows for a deeper investment in the characters’ inner journeys, an investment that pays off despite the crowded cast. Each character has an emotional arc that develops throughout the film, none of which feel undercooked.

If the 2014 original represented Chris Pratt’s unexpected emergence as a tentpole-caliber leading man, Vol. 2 offers an opportunity for Dave Bautista to further endear himself to audiences through his performance of Drax, the lovable tough guy/alien for whom figurative speech remains hilariously impenetrable. The character’s awkward candor, coupled with a boisterous appetite for laughs and fighting, provides the most consistent comic relief. With a keen sense of his characters, Gunn balances action sequences and emotional exploration, all while moving the plot forward with exposition that never gets in the way.

The soundtrack uses a new selection of AM radio hits, again blending instantly recognizable songs with others that more or less faded from collective memory. The playful soundtrack obviously fits the film’s tone, but its larger contribution is as an emotional anchor that keeps the film from devolving into a spectacle for its own sake. Sure, it’s a gimmick, but it works. And gimmick or not, the device is justified more than enough for a movie that is as lighthearted as this. Space battles with decidedly un-human beings become relatable through well placed music. Quiet moments, even among aliens in exotic locales, resonate with as much feeling as if they had taken place on earth.

While I’ve loved the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I don’t have a deep knowledge of the canon with which these movies deviate to varying degrees. Honestly, I don’t care if they’re faithful to the source material. Comic books necessarily reinvent and reimagine characters in service of storytelling; we should expect movies to do the same. As long as these movies tell stories with as much heart and humor as Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, exhilarating audiences all the while, I’ll gladly keep watching. I’ll also remain endlessly thankful I don’t live in that universe. With so many bad guys trying to destroy the galaxy, one of them is bound to get lucky.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
Director:  James Gunn
Studio:  Marvel Studios
Genre:  Action, Comedy, Sci-Fi
MPAA:  PG-13
Release Date:  May 5th, 2017
Author:  Jason M. Brown

 

 

Jason M. Brown Seattle native Jason M. Brown traded liquid sunshine for the real thing when he recently moved to San Diego. Jason graduated from Washington State University with a Humanities degree focusing on English and has worked as a copywriter. An avid fan of comedy, horror, and almost any movie that started as a comic book, Jason lives in California, but still loves Seattle Seahawks football, apologies to the Chargers.

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