Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 ★★★★½

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is a miracle. James Gunn has crafted the most soulful Marvel film yet. It's not as cohesive or, to be blunt, as good as the original, but it comes close. Gunn experiments a lot more this go-around, and although not all of it works, it's mostly fascinating in its own ambitious mess.

The most intriguing thing changed here is the tone. Calling this an all-out comedy like the first one was feels wrong. The original Guardians leaned into drama at points to really let the characters; Vol. 2 bathes in it so much, it truly ends up overtaking the comedy. This is a very good thing. This allows most comparative criticism to the original to be irrelevant (although I realize I have already partaken in some). Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is its own beast, although it's definitely a slightly messy one.

This is not to say it's not a funny movie. It is. It might not be its prime objective, but these characters interacting with each other is simply amusing. Expanded roles for Nebula and Yondu and awesome new characters in Klementieff's Mantis and Russell's Ego really help this ensemble reach its maximum potential. Just like in the original film, no one clearly stands out; everyone serves their purpose perfectly. Picking a favorite character is impossible; they all have at least one truly fantastic moment.

Now onto the less savory bits. One can easily complain the drama seems forced at points. After all, half of the "big" moments in the film dramatically are punctuated with a melodramatic score while a character monologues. Yet, it always leads to something interesting, if something made a bit too obvious. Also, the first half hour is way too comfortable retreading the original in tone and in style. It leads one to worry that this might be another Iron Man 2, rather than the sequel the original deserved. Yet, once these shift, the first half hour becomes forgivable because it brought the characters to the point where things simply must change. Meanwhile, the third act is admittedly too convoluted for its own good. That said, it's clear that everything in there (with the exception of a disappointing turn to a character that I'll probably get more into when I rewatch and do a spoiler review) is well planned-out and always easy to follow. Also, it leads to the single best final ten minutes of any MCU film, one that I doubt could ever be possibly topped. Just wow.

There's a lot to talk about with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. I haven't even gotten into the action (it constantly reinvents itself in a really creative way), the truly weird moments (it has some of the most bizarre moments in a Marvel film yet), or the now infamous Baby Groot (he's good, mostly thanks to having the smallest role, no pun intended). That is fantastic. Even more fantastic? It's completely standalone! Marvel has finally produced its first truly interesting movie, playing with intricate themes while still being wildly entertaining through its heartfelt cast. This is a film that should inspire conversations about its flaws and its strengths, rather than being forgotten after opening weekend. Gunn has performed the impossible for Marvel, delivering a sequel that might not always be perfect but is always marvelous.

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