Reviewing a Marvel film can be tough at the best of times. They’re blockbuster superhero flicks and any criticism aimed at their lack of substance or emotional depth etc can be seen as just taking them too seriously. This applies doubly to the Guardians Of The Galaxy series. The first film was touted as potentially being Marvel’s first legitimate flop, and instead went on to briefly hold the mantle of highest grossing release the studio had at that time. We’ve been here before though, in fact Marvel has been here several times; when the first film releases and becomes such a smash hit that the anticipation for the sequel reaches far beyond fever pitch, and preparation for disappointment sets in. So how does GOTG 2 fair in that arena?
*MILD SPOILERS BELOW*
The short answer is that GOTG 2 continues on the fine form of its predecessor, whilst also suffering a little from trying too hard to repeat and expand on the previous film. The plot is definitely slightly thinner, but the characters are coming back even stronger and the stand out moments rise well and truly above what came before. Maybe I’m being a little too much of a stickler in looking for problems where I shouldn’t be, but hey, that’s why I write this stuff! Speaking of the plot, we join our band of heroes as they fight off an extremely impressive looking beasty, in return for the surrendering over of Nebula into their possession. From there we take a total detour from that opening in order to meet up with Ego, played by Kurt Russell, who seems to be a little too hospitable in welcoming the Guardians to his home planet. And the plot goes from there. I’ll leave the spoiler contingent at that but again, I can’t stress how minor the overall plot is to the film.
Primarily, GOTG 2 is a collection of subplots as various characters get their own mini arcs, a lot of which carry over from the previous film. Director James Gunn did state that this film would serve to tie up loose ends from the first and whilst I generally don’t like loose ends left over, I personally would have preferred if he hadn’t tried to tie everything up in the first sequel – especially when so many of them are not things I would consider loose ends. Without delving too deep into the plot, we get follow ons for Nebula, Yondu, Rocket, Gamora and Peter individually. In all, there are just times when it feels like Gunn is juggling just a little too much at once, and then times when it feels like a checklist is being ticked off. The reason this isn’t detrimental to the enjoyment of the film thought is because it doesn’t allow you enough time to get too bogged down by it. The minute you start to think “This is a little much” you get some more adorable Groot moments, hilarious Drax moments or just general GOTG craziness to distract from any script based shortcomings. Again, I know I’m looking for seriousness in a film that just doesn’t care, and that’s fine, but that I noticed it at all stuck out to me.
This aside, what I did truly love about GOTG 2 is that it very much stands alone. As usual we have stingers during and after the end credits (5 in total I believe, I could only manage 2), but all in all this film is its own creation without any laboured efforts to insert setups for future Marvel films. Marvel Studios have learned their lesson on this topic for the most part with the majority of their Phase 2/3 output but with the Guardians not part of The Avengers series (yet!) there is even less obligation to serve future films. When the Marvel Cinematic Universe kick started nearly a decade ago I was fanboying to the extreme with great intentions of seeing every entry in the series, but being all growned up and the reality of not having anywhere near enough free time setting in saw that I couldn’t even come close to that, so to have a standalone film in the series is always welcome.
Go see it, I can guarantee you won’t be disappointed. You might pick up on a couple of those things I mentioned earlier, but it certainly shouldn’t interfere with you having a good cinema experience. If it does well, at least it isn’t Age Of Ultron right?