Comics on Film: 'Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2' Is One of Marvel's Best Sequels

Comics on Film: 'Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2' Is One of Marvel's Best Sequels

May 05, 2017

In August of 2014, the original Guardians of the Galaxy film written and directed by James Gunn took the world by storm. By all accounts, the Guardians as a subset of characters with a long legacy in Marvel Comics history was reasonably far off of the public's radar, especially in a landscape of superhero films usually dominated by the likes of the Avengers, Superman, and Batman. Regardless of that reality, though, the deft combination of humor, character-driven storytelling, a wonderfully assembled cast, a toe-tapping soundtrack and a dazzling, cosmic experience all combined to help Marvel Studios capture lightning in a bottle.

Few repeat efforts that attempt to do the same thing have ever worked out as well as the original. Nevertheless, Marvel and Gunn have reunited in an attempt to do just that in this week's newest releasing chapter in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. With the addition of new, respected additions to the cast, the promise of another "Awesome Mix," and a cuter rendition of an already popular character permeating the publicity for the film, the appetite is certainly out there among both general movie fans and comics fans who've enjoyed the adventures of the likes of Star-Lord, Gamora, Rocket, Drax, Groot, Nebula and Yondu for decades already.

So, the big question, of course, is this: does Guardians Vol. 2 succeed in capturing the lightning that "Vol. 1" did three years ago? The answer, from our perspective, is...not quite, but it comes pretty damn close. It also likely outdoes its predecessor in a few key areas, too, which is no easy task.

Picking up just a few months after the events of the first film, when the Guardians established themselves as a team of mercenaries with the defeat of Ronan the Accuser under their belts, the team is hired to protect an important resource of rare batteries for a race of beings known as the Sovereigns. After their success, the Sovereigns hand over Gamora's estranged sister Nebula, last seen at the right hand of Ronan, and on the way off of the Sovereign world Rocket steals some smaller versions of the batteries for the team to sell for themselves. This ultimately leads the Sovereigns to pursue the Guardians with intense fervor, which unknowingly places the team in the presence of someone that's been looking for Star-Lord for a very long time.

The story itself gets surprisingly poignant particularly near the end, with the theme of families of all kinds permeating the entire narrative. That's the core element that Guardians Vol. 2 plays with, and it does so in a way that feels artful: what does the idea of family really mean in someone's life? In the end, what's more powerful: the family you're born into, or the family you get to choose for yourself? Can you have both? These are questions that are satisfyingly put in front of the entire team, and then some, and in ways that are both personal for each of them and that deal with the construct of the team of the Guardians as a whole. Of course as a Marvel movie, the more poignant aspects of the storytelling take some notable backseats in places to both action and humor.

On the humorous side, Vol. 2 is definitely laugh-out-loud funny in places, but it feels a little more hit-and-miss than the first effort did. Perhaps the most out of place humor comes from Drax the Destroyer (as played by Dave Bautista), just because in places we get traditional "Drax humor" in the same vein as the first film, but it then goes to some weirdly irreverent and sometimes out-of-character places for him. Really, though, that's about the only gripe to be had with the humor here, since you'll be laughing quite a bit in this movie. As far as the action is concerned, it only felt excessive in the middle of the film, even though the finale goes to a far bigger scale than any other Marvel movie has to date. Thankfully, it doesn't get too unwieldy, largely because of the nature of the threat that the team has to take on.

Perhaps more solidly proving their strength as an ensemble this time, though, is the cast. There's a whole lot more familiarity here between all the major players that feels genuinely warm. Even the characters who weren't physically present on the sets in the way that Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana and Dave Bautista were got some very solid interactions from the principal on-set performers, which seems like a feather in their respective caps as well as Gunn's. One fear that is perfectly reasonable to have going into any sequel is a feeling of over-processing, where the relationships may end up being more manufactured than genuine. Happily, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 nicely avoids this pitfall, cementing the Guardians as an ensemble that may even give the Avengers a run for their money in the MCU more than they already did in the first film.

Overall, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 presents a very solid start for Marvel Studios' catalog of 2017 releases (since we certainly have a lot to look forward to, just check out this "Amontage" from Amon Warmann). As a follow-up to Guardians Vol. 1 it does a great job, but it's also nice to see that the masters of the Marvel Cinematic Universe are also perfectly comfortable with letting a standalone film release every once in a while. There's not an Avenger to be found in Vol. 2, and while it's hard for an MCU fan not to love that team immensely, it's also good that we get to go on a galactic jaunt with the Guardians without necessarily having to check into the threads that will lead us into next year's Infinity War.

There's still plenty of that to come later this year. In the meantime, definitely jump aboard the Milano and make some room on your shoulder for Baby Groot.


Chris Clow is a comic book expert and former retailer, and a writer with work having appeared in the Huffington Post, Fandango, and various fan outlets. He's also a regular on podcasts hosted by Batman-On-Film and Modern Myth Media, while hosting his own show called Comics on Consoles. You can find his weekly Comics on Film column every week here at Movies.com, and you can follow along on Twitter @ChrisClow.

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