Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 ★★★★

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is probably going to be a divisive film among MCU fans because, like Iron Man 3, it seems largely unconcerned with the plots of the other movies or even with its own plot. If you're someone who thinks that the MCU's greatest strength is in how it's basically a gigantic TV show, and that to eschew universe building is to avoid what makes the MCU unique, then GOTG 2 will probably be a letdown. But if you believe that it's great when Marvel lets filmmakers tell their own story without worrying about setting up the pieces to future movies, then Guardians 2 is a rousing success. I fall into the later camp.

It's not that I mind movies that build connections to sequels, and the first Guardians does a nice job of balancing its own personality with links to future Marvel movies. But given the choice between leaning heavily on plot or heavily on character, I like that James Gunn's sequel choose the latter. Vol. 2 isn't in a hurry to get anywhere. It splits up the team and focuses largely on the characters. There's no MacGuffin to obtain and the movie's true villain isn't even revealed until about halfway through the picture.

Instead, Vol. 2 is focused on characters and tone, and it works wonderfully. While some have leveled the criticism that the movie is "bloated", I think that's an unfair accusation. If anything, its plot is shockingly thin because it's mostly interested in just meandering with its characters. It knows that you like these people, so it just hangs out with them. It's Everybody Wants Some!! but in space and with Kurt Russell instead of Wyatt Russell.

And despite being a largely plot-free picture, it never loses sight of its thematic core, which is to further the theme of family, specifically how we're raised, which was introduced in the first movie. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is really the full package; the question comes down to whether or not this is a package MCU fans want.

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