MCU Ranked: ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2’
Time for episode 30 in the series!
Release Date: 2017
Director: James Gunn
Heroes: Peter Quill/Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Rocket (Bradley Cooper and Sean Gunn), Groot (Vin Diesel), Drax (Dave Bautista), Mantis (Pom Klementieff), Yondu Udonta (Michael Rooker)
Villains: Ego (Kurt Russell), Nebula (Karen Gillan), Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki), Taserface (Chris Sullivan)
Support Cast: Kraglin (Sean Gunn), Stakar Ogord (Sylvester Stallone), Meredith Quill (Laura Haddock)
Cameos: Seth Green returns to voice Howard the Duck. Stan Lee lends some credence to the fan theory that he plays Uatu the Watcher is a short scene showing him talking to other watchers. At the end of the film an earlier incarnation of the Guardians turns up played by Michael Rosenbaum, Ving Rhames, Michelle Yeoh and an uncredited voice part from Miley Cyrus. David Hasselhoff plays himself when Ego takes his form. Rob Zombie voices a Ravager, as he did in the first film. Jeff Goldblum appears as the Grandmaster (later seen in Thor Ragnorak) during the end credits. James Gunn’s love of Farscape led to Ben Browder playing a Sovereign Admiral. Gunn’s parents both appear in the film.
Plot: The Guardians of the Galaxy are now mercenaries for hire trading off the fame they earned for stopping Ronan. After completing a job and subsequent stealing from the Sovereign star system they end up on the run only to be saved by a mysterious figure claiming to be Star-Lord’s father.
Review: Here’s a thing that happens – a niche or cult director gets a bit of success under their belt and everyone forgets that studios provide a great deal of guidance in helping them achieve that success. Then the director gets let loose with total control over their next project and we remember why they needed guidance in the first place. George Lucas gets heavily praised for Star Wars, but he was kept on a very, very short leash and his edit of the filmed was scrapped. When he got complete control of the series he produced garbage.
Everyone got giddy about James Gunn getting total control over the Guardians of the Galaxy sequels and while he hasn’t gone all Phantom Menace but there are some real problems with Volume 2. It’s got some awesome visual design and some really fun sequences but the more I dwell on it the more iffy the whole film is.
The most glaring problem is the fact that the Guardians are a team and much of the success of the series is how well the characters bounce off each other. The dynamic and rhythm between the actors in the first film is was a big part of the fun. For reasons I cannot fathom the team barely share the screen in this sequel. Star-Lord spends most of his scenes talking to Ego, Drax with Mantis, Gamora with Nebula and Rocket and Groot with Yondu. Most of the trailer shots come from the opening and closing combat scenes because those are the few parts where the team are interacting with each other. Even when they’re on screen together they’re not really working together. The final battle has them all shooting and stabbing off screen with very little focus on their unique skills and abilities.
Gunn also has a tendency to make narrative decisions based on who his friends are and what got a laugh the first time. I don’t actually know what his thought process was but it does seem to be the case. We spend more time hearing about Yondu’s back story than any of the main characters – there isn’t anything about Rocket’s or Gamora’s backstory you want to explore? A great deal of screen time is spent trying to earn an emotional death for Yondu, though I have no idea why they felt this was necessary. He was a grudging ally in the first film, now he’s the emotional heart? Some ravagers complain that he shouldn’t go so easy on Star-Lord considering the events of the first film and I agree with them.
This complaint counts double for Kraglin, a character who feels crowbarred into every scene he’s part of and is played, coincidently, by the director’s brother. He also featured his parents in cameos, included an actor from a show he likes and a bunch of other stunt casting decisions and in-jokes. It all feels like indulgence rather than done in service of a story.
Another problem with Gunn’s directing is that he doesn’t know when to include a punchline. The sequence where Groot keeps bringing the wrong items to Yondu and Rocket seems to go forever. There’s some laughs but it brings the entire film to a complete halt. Goofy, stretched out CGI faces while they’re jumping through space is another moment that drags on much longer then necessary. The title sequence that keeps the camera trained on Groot dancing while a chaotic battle plays out behind him was very entertaining but apparently Gunn wasn’t fully committed to it because then they show the battle anyway.
This is a film that is fun and visually stunning, but it could have been so much better. It gets itself over the line of being more good than bad because of the design and effects work, and because of the talented cast. Some of the pairings of action and music is fantastic and stands as some of the most exciting moments in the franchise.
So, yeah…it’s a decent enough flick that could’ve been much stronger. Kurt Russell monologuing about the song ‘Brandy’ is just overindulgence.
Credits Scene: There’s a ridiculous number here. First we have Kraglin practising using Yondu’s arrow. Ravager leader Staker reunites an early version of the Guardians of the Galaxy (as they existed in the comics) including Martinex, Charlie-27, Aleta Ogord, Mainframe and Krugarr. Then there’s a scene of Star-Lord arguing with a teenaged Groot. THEN there’s Ayesha creating a new being which she will name ‘Adam’, possibly setting up Adam Warlock for the next film. THEN there’s a scene of Stan Lee being left behind by the other Watchers.
Most Notable Easter Egg: Being a nerd for retro Marvel comics, it is cool seeing older members of the Guardians filling out roles of Ravager leaders.
Coolest Moment: When ‘The Chain’ kicks in during the final battle with Ego. It’s super effective!
THE MCU MASTER LIST
In spite of the problems holding it back, it’s a fun film with great action sequences. For these reasons it finds itself in the middle of the list.
Click those titles to see the original entries!
2. THE AVENGERS
9. IRON MAN
16. GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2
17. DOCTOR STRANGE
20. IRON MAN 3
25. IRON MAN 2