“Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” is a much looser, more freeform film than its predecessor. It’s remarkably light on plot for a Marvel film, not in the sense that the plot is thin or undercooked, but in that the plot basically doesn’t show up at all until the third act. The first two acts hone in on what was liked most about the first film – the humour, the character dynamics, the space opera imagery. This new approach worked very well for me, it felt like director James Gunn’s more idiosyncratic style was liberated, and the unique talents of everyone else involved in the film (particularly the cast and the visual effects artists) were liberated, when not tied up so much in plot mechanics or setting up other films.
The film has such an increased focus on humour that just going by sheer volume, less of it is going to land in the first film, and I did find some of the humour to feel oddly forced, and Baby Groot was mostly a misfire for me. But the majority of the humour (especially Drax) worked great for me, and I loved the film embracing its comedic nature more. In dispensing with weak villain, strict focus on a generic plot, or clumsy setting-up for future films, all my major issues with the first film were gone, and so I enjoyed this sequel a lot more than its predecessor.
Kurt Russell fitted in very nicely into the cast and world of the film, although some of his scenes with Chris Pratt made Pratt’s comparative lack of acting skill awkwardly noticeable. The new soundtrack was not as memorable or great as the first film’s soundtrack for me personally, but it’s very much in the style of the first movie’s pick of songs, so that all just comes down to personal taste for the songs. The songs all fit the tone of the film, certainly.
When the plot does kick in, in the third act of the film, I was almost disappointed in a way because I’d been enjoying the more relaxed character interactions a lot. But the villain and plot work well and are tied more directly to the characters than they were in the first film. The only big misfire with the plot for me was the big “upping the stakes” moment which just felt so profoundly unnecessary given the ninety minutes or so of film before it. Surely by now the audience for these films can stomach a film that’s stakes aren’t “the whole universe will literally be destroyed if our heroes don’t prevail!”. It felt particularly bizarre given that the rest of the film is so lowkey and focused on character dynamics.
It’s a fun, funny space romp that focuses on what worked best in the first film, while dispensing with most of what worked less well. A well-made sequel, in other words. I give it three post-credits scenes, and a de-aged face.