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Sunday, 30 April 2017

Review: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)

Warning: May Contain Spoilers!
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is the latest installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and the sequel to the fantastic Guardians of the Galaxy. The first Guardians was one of the strongest entries into the MCU and I would personally put it in my top ten favorite movies. Although the sequel does not live up to the original it is still a strong, funny, and good movie. Before we start I must warn people that this review may contain spoilers so if you have not seen the movie I would advise not to read further.

Since the end of the last movie the Guardians of the Galaxy have become galaxy-renowned heroes. However, they fall afoul of Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki) and the Sovereign when Rocket (Bradley Cooper) and Drax (Dave Bautista) steal some powerful batteries from them. The Guardians are narrowly rescued by a powerful being called Ego (Kurt Russell) and his assistant Mantis (Pom Klementieff). We find out that not only is Ego a powerful, god-like being called a Celestial but also he is Peter Quill's (Chris Pratt) father. Meanwhile, Gamora (Zoe Saldana) must come to terms with her adopted sister Nebula (Karen Gillan) while Yondu Udonta (Michael Rooker) faces a mutiny thanks to his leniency concerning Quill.

Compared to the first movie there is a lot going on in Guardians but unlike Avengers: Age of Ultron or Batman v. Superman it does not clutter the movie. The three plot lines continuously interweave with one another where all three either progress the plot or develop characters. There is a good division between character development and action which made the movie seem very fleshed out. Out of the recurring characters the only who does not receive any character development is Groot (Vin Diesel) but then again it is hard to develop a character whose entire dialogue consists of 'I am Groot'. However, I did prefer the plot to the first one and at times this one felt like it was trying to set up the next installment. Luckily this was only at the end that I felt this, and thankfully since Age of Ultron Marvel has only tried to set up the next installment at the end of each movie. The comedy is very funny but at times is somewhat stale. I believe this is because of the first movie. Guardians did it so well so when Guardians 2 repeated the humor it seemed less funny. Thankfully, James Gunn had enough foresight to not repeat the same jokes (Drax's misunderstanding of metaphors is heavily played down in this movie) which ensured that for everytime a joke seemed stale there was a funny one to counteract it.

Characters and Acting
The Main Characters
As usual for MCU movies Guardians 2 is well acted. I could not identify one poor performance from any of the main cast. The recurring cast was again well done and I enjoyed how they also went down a more serious route at time with some of the characters for the development scenes. Three in particular stick out: Yondu/Quill, Gamora/Nebula and Quill/Ego. Throughout the movie there is a recurring theme of family and the definition of family. In these scenes we see really good development. Surprisingly we even see development for Drax and Rocket which made these characters feel fleshed out. It is a testament to James Gunn that the Guardians movies have the best development in the MCU (in my own opinion). Ego, however, is less well done. This is not a spoiler for those who have read the comics but Ego is the movie's antagonist. Like all over MCU movies he is not as good as the protagonists (so far Loki is the only memorable villain). Like Ronan in the previous installment I did enjoy Ego, and a large part of this is the charm of Kurt Russell. While Ronan was a straightman villain against the light-hearted Guardians Ego is a laid back villain, who just so happens to try and commit genocide... Elizabeth Debicki as Ayesha is really good as a villain as well. She lies in between Ronan and Ego. Initially she appears to be an austere, serious overlord but when things go against her she turns into a screaming child. It was very well done by Gunn and Debicki. Overall the characters are done very well.

Before we move on I just want to say how much I loved Baby Groot. Initially I was fearful that they would turn Groot into a Minions type character but luckily this did not happen. I loved every scene where Groot was the main figure. Groot was motion captured, as well as voiced, by Vin Diesel and it was done well. There is one shot of Groot sitting on the ship's window with a look of awe on his face. There is also another scene which screamed Laurel and Hardy where Yondu and Rocket need Groot to get something but he keeps bringing the wrong items (including a toe) which was both cute and very funny.

Drax against an inter-dimensional alien
As always I prefer practical effects to CGI and I felt at times practical effects could have been used. However, unlike some other movies like Kong: Skull Island where the CGI looked poor at times I felt all the CGI used in this movie was very good. When the CGI looked somewhat fake or entirely fake I felt that this was intentionally done. Thankfully there was makeup and some practical effects instead of CGI to make most of the characters like Drax, Yondu and Nebula. It looked very good and it went well with the CGI. The effects to create Rocket and Groot were done well and managed to capture effectively the emotions these characters were feeling. There is one hilarious scene which has over the top Tex Avery style facial distortions which purposefully look fake and is hilarious to watch. It really was funny to see. Overall good effects.

Fan Theory Confirmed
Guardians 2 makes reference to both the wider MCU and the comics. Ego the Living Planet turns out to be the main villain and I like how they interpreted Ego in this movie. I also like how they made him a Celestial. In the comics Celestials were ancient beings who helped life evolve and are responsible for people have superpowers on Earth. It made sense for them to make Ego a Celestial in this universe. The Infinity Stones are mentioned again and it is revealed the only reason why Quill managed to hold one without dying in the previous movie was because of his Celestial DNA. Although in the comics Quill isn't half-Celestial; in the comics he is the son of J'son, the Spartoi Emperor who has no apparent god-like powers. In the end credits Ayesha announces that she has created a being called 'Adam'. This is referencing Adam Warlock who was originally meant to appear in this movie but was cut as Gunn felt there were too many characters. This means that Adam will likely appear in Guardians 3. The end credits also have a scene referencing the original Guardians of the Galaxy. The Guardians depicted in the MCU is actually the second Guardians. In the 1960s there was a team called the Guardians of the Galaxy set in the far future of an alternate dimension which Yondu was a member of (although he was vastly different in the comics). This scene has the old Guardians meeting up. One final major point to reference is Stan Lee's cameo. Stan Lee is seen as an astronaut with some Watchers describing different things that he had been. In the comics Watchers are a race of omnipotent beings who watch civilizations across the universe, the one watching Earth being Uatu. Due to Stan Lee's various cameos, and how Watchers can shapeshift, there is a fan theory that Stan Lee was secretly a Watcher. Guardians may have just confirmed it.

Overall Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is a solid entry in the MCU. It is not as good as the first movie but nevertheless it is a good movie. Overall I would give Guardians 2 a 7.7/10. Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoyed it.

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