The original Guardians became a surprising hit as it was so refreshing and genuinely hilarious compared to other Marvel films. It fast-tracked its way into favorite film lists and was easily one of the best in 2014. Thankfully, the smart writing and witty dialogue stick around for the second installment.
“What a bunch of A-holes”: All of the original cast reprise their roles as the Guardians with an addition of some new faces – Kurt Russell is a notable appearance alongside Sylvester Stallone – but they fail to outshine the chemistry that the Guardians established in the previous film. Whilst watching the film, I realized that I don’t enjoy these for the plot, or B-grade villain, or fantasy action, but mainly for the interaction between characters. Due to the excellent dialogue (and surely improvisation), there is an extraordinary level of visible chemistry between the actors – to the point where a TV show revolving around their shenanigans would be legendary. Rocket has some of the best lines; Drax steals most scenes he’s in; Quill is comical; Groot is adorable; Gamora is under-utilized – there is a complete mixed bag to choose from.
We. Are. Family: Volume 2 builds upon ideals founded from the first. Whilst we saw the challenging conflict from the introduction and interaction of characters in the previous film, we now have a dysfunctional family present. We’re not talking the shitty family morals from the Fast and Furious Franchise. This is emotionally intelligent as the audience are able to empathize with the characters further – dangerous choices appear later in the narrative. Even underused characters in the original such as Nebula (Karen Gillian) and Yondu (Michael Rooker) feel much more present in the world as they are more developed. This is very impressive to be accomplished in two films. Rather than eight…
Mr. Blue Sky: Quite recently, I stumbled upon a video essay by Patrick Willems (here) that explains and analyses the color grading (or lack of) in the existing Marvel films. Willems adjusts with the saturation and hue of colors to make the blandest shots in the films look like actual pull-outs from comic books. I feel like Guardians: Vol 2 is James Gunn’s response to that criticism. There is so much color present it changes the tone of the established universe – it finally matches the characters’ attitudes. It is refreshing to see Marvel improving on their weakest aspects and I hope to see more of this bombastic color grading in Spider-Man: Homecoming and Thor: Ragnarok.
“I am Groot”: The beauty of the first Guardians was its unexpected elegance. It felt like a shift in tone in the MCU as it was so surprisingly enjoyable because it is genuinely a great film. Fast-forward three years later, James Gunn is left with the impossible task of following it up. And, as much as I loved it, Guardians: Vol 2 just isn’t as good as the predecessor. The characters are properly established now but there is no ‘charm’ that the first one left – some jokes fall very flat and the story is pretty weak. That being said, it is still better than the majority of Marvel films.