Guardians of the Galaxy shouldn’t have worked. Back when Marvel announced their first feature for Star-Lord et al, it was met with a collective shrug from audiences: Iron Man, Hulk, Thor and Cap were established names, but hardly anyone had heard of this outlaw gang made up of a sentient tree, a talking racoon, alien assassins and a retro-pop-loving gunslinger.
Of course, by the end of 2014 everyone had heard of them. Reinvigorating Phase 2 with its irreverent tone, the original Guardians still tops many people’s lists of fave MCU films. But could it be the case that 2017’s Vol. 2 is even better?
Consider the evidence: for all its qualities (and there are many), the first film is still an origin story. Not a problem for all, but a common complaint about Marvel is that the creation arcs are generic; arguably their best films come after the groundwork has been laid. Iron Man 3, Winter Soldier and Ragnarok all surpass their respective forebears: unshackled from introductions, they build higher and drill deeper into both character and stakes. Indeed, the decision in Spider-Man: Homecoming to avoid Peter Parker’s origin story is part of that film’s success.
GOTG Vol. 2 is no different. There’s no need for forming-storming-norming as the group gets back in action. Instead, we spend time with these loveable space rogues as family. James Gunn’s script positively crackles with one-liners, the established camaraderie shines brighter than ever, and the cast fully inhabit their roles. Dave Bautista in particular makes Drax the MVP with his effortlessly delightful line readings (“Die, spaceship!”).
If the midsection sags a tad, it’s more than offset by Kurt Russell’s wattage as Quill’s god-like dad. And there’s even the possibility that Russell’s casting, as a beardy alien with designs on assimilating all life into his own being, makes Vol. 2 a (worthy) stealth sequel to John Carpenter’s The Thing.
Yes, the Guardians are also fantastic in Infinity War, but their screen time is necessarily diluted to accommodate that film’s massive ensemble. Vol. 2 gives their relationships room to breathe, and in doing so delivers their best outing to date. Or is it just me?
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