Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 ★★★½

"My nipples!!"

Even when the music is mostly the same, the character arcs just copy-pasted over from Vol. 1, and the jokes predictable in their sarcastic banality, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 still keeps the series feeling fresh and brazen; which automatically puts the film at the forefront of the MCU.

James Gunn brings back the familiar elements that made the first Guardians film feel so new, mainly in the form of some of the most eye-popping visuals in mainstream cinema to go along with the unique character interactions. When Peter Quill first steps foot into the ornamental gold themed throne room of the highly advanced Sovereign ruler, the set design was reminiscent of classic science fiction films like Logan's Run or even the great Metropolis. The design only gets more inspired from there though, as the living breathing planet called Ego in particular is a sight to behold. From the elaborate engravings inside the temple walls to the vast overgrown forests and dried up deserts on Ego, much of the visuals seem more suited for something like Samsara and not a Marvel film. It was all a major, pleasant surprise to me. The first film looked good, but Guardians 2 is even better, and a visual treat above all else in my eye.

Because at the end of the day, this film is still all about the characters and their endless banter for better or worse. I'm happy to report it doesn't get too old in this Volume but far fewer jokes hit their mark than before. Some of the writing also begins to falter towards the end when things get more serious. ("You shouldn't have killed my Mom and broke my Walkman!" is an actual line during the most dramatic scene in the series up to this point) The script also stretches itself a bit to ensure the viewer knows exactly how and why Peter is only just now coming face to face with his Father/Planet/Celestial God after all this time. The Ego character himself is a very interesting and clever villain, much more so than Ronan the Accuser, but his plot eventually came down to the same world devouring goals as any other randomly selected Marvel villain and that was a bit of a let down ultimately.

And speaking of characters, most of them are delegated to the same on screen and on paper roles as before with little flexibility. Drax has now lost every ounce of his seriousness and is full blown comic relief. Rocket is an asshole, Star Lord has fully evolved into Meme Lord and Baby Groot exists only so the audience can swoon "awwww" when he gets his moments. Gamora still represents the only thing resembling a real functioning character in the series, and I found myself liking her more and more as the movie went on. Nebulas character finally gets to where she should have been at during the first film development wise, so her scenes felt like something that should have already happened and kinda staggered the pacing. Yandu and his Ravagers were also a nice surprise in the film as you got a better look into their world which is very NOT PG-13 in the slightest. Goes to show how much freedom Disney/Marvel can allow a director they trust which I never thought could happen. I guess other Marvel projects just need to find their own James Gunn.

In essence, Guardians 2 is more of the same character wise which isn't necessarily a bad thing but the real reason to keep seeing these films is the creative evolution of the world James Gunn has established so well. It might be 2 or 3 more films until people are tired of the Guardians forever but at this exponential rate, there may very well be many, many more to come...

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