Let's get right to it – Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is good, but not great. The main problem when you have a movie that you don't expect to be great, turns out to be an instant classic, is that whatever comes along as a sequel will almost invariably not live up to it's predecessor. Sure there's T2, Wrath of Khan, and Aliens, but mostly the world is full of Ghostbusters 2, Highlander 2, and Trolls 2-quality films. Fortunately the film is far closer to the first batch than the second.
Reviewing Vol. 2 is hard because the impulse is to compare it to the first film, and that's simply not fair. Marvel managed to cranked out a film that genuinely caused audiences to cheer and care about a raccoon and a tree. It was fresh, irreverent, and a stepping stone that eventually led to the likes of Deadpool. If I was to compare this film to the last, it will invariably fall short. It's not T2, but then it's a hell of a lot closer to the mark than Ghostbusters 2.
Taken by itself, the film is still fun, with great action scenes, and we get the opportunity to see the band back together again. They make their quips, listen to some great 70s and 80s music, and escape by the skin of their teeth. However clocking in at 2 hours and 20 minutes, it's long. At times you feel that length as writer/director James Gunn goes for character development that feels more forced than natural. It's like Gunn's best writing is the witty bander, but when it comes time for a serious moment between Peter Quill / Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) and Gamora (Zoe Saldana) things don't feel right – and unfortunately it's many of those scenes that go on longer than they should.
Baby Groot is as adorable as we remembered and still runs away with most of the scenes he's in. Rocket's CGI fur has also gotten an upgrade so while it was already good before, now when he's ground down and beaten up, he emotes even better than before.
After successfully completing a contract for an advanced race called The Sovereign, the Guardians manage to mess that up in short order and find themselves being chased by a large part of the Sovereign space fleet. Star-Lord discovering the truth of his parentage (it's no secret by this point that his father is played by Kurt Russell as Ego, the living planet). Then there's the Ravagers led by Yondu (Michael Rooker) who are still on the hunt for the Guardians because of the bounty on their heads after their antics in the first film.
For me the best thing about the film is Yondu's story for which alone is worth the price of admission. Rooker doesn't really get enough solid roles to hang his acting chops in, and this is about as good as we're going to get until some brave casting agent gives him a real chance at doing a dramatic role.
There's plenty of gags, especially for those of an age – most in the audience will get the David Hasselhof jokes, but fewer will likely remember Cheers. But we do, and that'll work. Giving it a score of eight might sound high for me waxing nostalgic for the amazing experience of the first film, but even by itself, it's still a solid and entertaining movie. It's just not anywhere near another 10.
As a fair warning there is a new Marvel-record of 5 post-film scenes scattered around the credits, so be sure to stick through to the bitter end.
The movie stars Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Michael Rooker, Kurt Russell, Karen Gillan, Pom Klementieff, Elizabeth Debicki and Sylvester Stallone. Written and directed by James Gunn.
The running time is 136 minutes.