Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Milano. Its mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations (to rob), and to boldly go where no man, tree creature, genetically modified raccoon or trained assassin has gone before. Probably blow a few things up too.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 marks the return of our favorite heroes (for hire) and we find them not too long after we last left them. The film continues with the same exuberant color palette of its predecessor while raising the stakes of the visual fanfare turning into a frenzy for the sense. This technicolor fantasy enthralls our senses providing the perfect barrage of optical opulence to prove that this sequel was taken to the next level; a level previously set by the first film and continued in the Marvel cinematic universe with psychedelic, kaleidoscopic wonder that is Doctor Strange. Writer/Director James Gunn continues to impress us with his complete understanding of the source material and how it should be brought to life on screen. He has mastered bringing to life an intergalactic melting pot
This sequel’s biggest success will also be seen as its biggest failure. The first Guardians was a non-stop ride filled with action, sexual tension and “I am Groot”-ing. We get thrown into several meet-cute situations as the soon-to-be-formed team recognize their shared “otherness” in society and decide they are stronger together. As they are ping-ponged from escalating situation to escalating situation, there's no time to dive into the full back stories of these characters aside from a line or two giving us the basics. It completely works because the strong, steady pacing destroys any contemplative lulls that would make us wonder who these characters really are. The sequel takes a completely different approach entirely.
Yes, everything we love about Guardians of the Galaxy is still there. The vibrant, entrancing colors, the quick wit and even quicker guns, a socially awkward Drax and even a perpetually cute toddler Groot who could accidentally destroy us and we wouldn't even be mad. The difference is that we get to know the characters better, which means taking more time in the film to dive into backstories and talk about feelings (or have Mantis tell you about them). Every person's tragic past get explored or revisited in some way. Guardians of the Galaxy 2 is essentially daddy issues personified with characters like Yandu, Peter, Rocket, Gamora and Nebula each showing the emotional scars left on them by their fathers. The unfortunate trade off with this newfound emotional depth is that the pacing slows down in between epic battles to let the exposition flow and breathe. Ultimately, it really boosts the pathos levels in the film, but ends up sacrificing some of the happy-go-lucky essence that made the first film such a wonderful ride.
Don’t worry, not enough has changed in the film to make any fan of the first one hate this one. More than a few jokes are revisited, which you’ll see in the opening credits sequence as a small Groot rocks out to music. The dialogue is still punchy and quick-witted, and the humor continues to be hilariously irreverent. The best change comes in the form of character development as we discover more about our favorite antiheroes. Without spoiling too much, most of the characters finally receive closure with family related matters, leaving us both elated and emotionally gutted.
The greatest update from the first film is the focus on the female characters, even the secondary ones. We all know that the Guardians right now are essentially a sausage fest (a wood fest in Groot’s case), and there are even a few penis jokes in this film to prove that is still a problem. Fortunately, the focus on the relationship between Gamora and Nebula, the importance of Mantis, and even the power given to Ayesha prove that this galaxy is getting better every film, with this one probably being the most female-focused comic book film made in the past decade. Again, that’s not saying much, but it is still a great step forward until we get Wonder Woman, Captain Marvel or until they make a Black Widow origins film.
Quality: ★★★★ (4/5 stars) Queerness: ★★★ (3/6 Kinseys)
Any Marvel will love this sequel, especially with all the jokes, tiny Groots and easter eggs scattered throughout. This sequel is emotionally rich, which makes the pacing fluctuate, but is ultimately a good thing for the continued growth of this franchise. There is a much stronger female presence in this sequel, which marks a great improvement over its predecessor. While the galaxy does offer a wide variety of different and exciting species, underneath all the make-up and prosthetics, the cast mostly reads like white with a few exceptions. Not only that, but the representation of any other sexuality besides heterosexuality is painstakingly missing. I refuse to believe that in a galaxy full of different planets and worlds, Earth is the only one with anything other than homosexuality.