This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
Jim Caddick’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
This is now my favourite MCU movie so far, next to Iron Man and The Avengers. Take Guardians of the Galaxy; and add in more rivalries, more interesting alien creatures, more ominous mystery, more emotion, more visually stunning locations, more focus on interesting and entertaining side characters, more humanising and sympathetic backstory elements to explain how and why the main characters stick together despite not being able to stand each other, WAY more comedy, and more importantly - a more original plot - and you have this excellent sequel that carries on the story perfectly after such tantalising teasers to what was to come in the original movie. Unfortunately that comes at a cost of maybe TOO many new side characters to keep up with - many of which go nowhere or only serve to give us a single action setpiece - but everything else around them kicks ass too much to be a setback. It goes without saying as well, you need to be well-versed in the other Marvel movies for max enjoyment and understanding.
If anything, aside from the fantastic comedic jabs, my favourite thing about the film is how it uses its standard ‘save the galaxy’ plot. It doesn’t JUST serve its purpose nicely to keep the stakes high, but explores something new compared to what The Avengers did with Loki trying to dominate everything. The main threat of Guardians 2 is a parasitic godlike creature - looking to expand for the sake of it and nothing more - which is depressing in relation to the backstories of most of the other characters and why they act like they do. Instead of Loki’s simple ‘I want to rule over everyone’ idea, here we have a deity that doesn’t even care about that - no real motivation, no real purpose or meaning - just a desire to selfishly expand at the expense of everything in the galaxy. Not only that, but every single character in this movie has gone through some kind of trauma related to this idea of pointless selfishness; how parents have treated them, how kidnappers have taken them, how they’ve been sold off or experimented on - not for any kind of world-overtaking power trip or ultimate scheme that would make these people’s actions more arguable in their heads, but just because they’re shit and selfish. Ultimately though, it’s this selfishness of the people in the character’s pasts that has shaped them into who they are and have given them the power to become the literal guardians of the galaxy - where the other people that tried to use or abuse them for their own gains have made it nowhere.
Also, I’m fully aware that Kurt Russell turns into a giant rock head at the end, and it’s silly - but why could I suspend my disbelief here instead of a guy breathing fire in Iron Man 3? Well, A, it’s Kurt Russell hamming it up. B, the character is 10x better. C, he is basically a god. So yeah, I could buy the silliness here - but one of the worst and most pathetic Marvel characters breathing fire to replace anything interesting about him is stupid and annoying. Side note: Drax is my current favourite MCU character. My god, he’s good in this one.