Looking at Marvel’s previous track record of their sequels have either been vast improvements from the first one or absolute garbage. Like most of the world, I was a huge fan of the first Guardians of the Galaxy and was stoked for the sequel that came out last weekend. The problem I had going into it was that I had no clue what it even was about. From the marketing, all I knew was that Peter/Star Lord’s father was going to be introduced. I had a fun time with Vol. 2 and was excited to see the team again; but was it better than the first one?
The main improvement from the first one is the story. Vol. 2 is heavily a character driven film, and the cast has real chemistry. The core theme is family and what family is to each of us. It takes place a few months after the first film, and the team has formed their own little family. Front and center we see the relationship between Peter, his father Ego, and Peter’s adopted father Yondu. After Ego finds Peter, he promises him answers, such as why he was able to survive holding an infinity stone and why he didn’t die when he was in space. The team gets separated, and we discover that Ego is a Celestial, a god-like entity. Ego tells Peter if he stays with him he will teach him to control the universe. As expected, it’s a trap, and Peter’s father turns on him. In the first film we saw Ego had a deal with Yondu to deliver Peter to him once his mother died. This time we learn Yondu knew what he would do with him, so he kidnapped Peter and raised himself with the Ravagers. In the final battle, Peter learns all of this and the team kills Ego. In the process, Yondu dies in order to save Peter. At his funeral, Peter admits that while growing up, he created in his mind what he wanted his father to be like. Though that was directly based on his childhood hero, David Hasselhoff, it also describes his true father Yondu.
In the opening scene, the Guardians protect batteries from an interdimensional monster in exchange for Gamora’s sister, Nebula. After the events of the first film, Nebula is dead set on going after everyone who has ever hurt her. This includes Gamora, who their adopted father, Thanos, forced to fight every day. Whenever Gamora won, Thanos would remove part of Nebula’s body and replace it with cybernetics. Multiple times in the film, Nebula tries to kill her sister, but by the end, Nebula comes to terms with everything that had happened because Thanos made her do it. Nebula makes up with her sister and leaves her, while the Guardians head out to find and kill Thanos.
The first film introduced us to the group of misfits and established the intergalactic realm in the cinematic universe. From a storytelling point of view, Vol. 2 is a better narrative. The plot isn’t trying to set up the Infinity War films either. Personally, I feel like these franchises are trying to shoehorn the next film into these kind of movies so they can set up the next one. If done properly, it can be an Easter egg to the fans, but most of the time it can takeover the film.
This time around it has a far superior and complex villain that has a clear motive. This has been an issue that has been showing up in a lot of Marvel films. As the Marvel universe roster continues to expand, it has become important to balance the characters. What I mean by this is that in team films such as the X-Men and Avengers films you sometimes don’t get balanced screen time between the characters. Vol. 2 does this perfectly, like when the team is split up, and their subplots all come together in the end. One of my favorite characters in the first film was Drax. Actor Dave Bautista gives the best comedic performances out of the team this time and gets a lot more screen time. I really fear with the 20+ heroes that are going to be in Infinity War that it’s going to feel crowded.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2’s style is different too. Though the first film was colorful, this film sticks to a neon-based palette for the majority of the time. When they travel to different planets, it changes too. Once again director James Gunn kills it with the soundtrack. The first movie’s songs are more mainstream 70s and 80s classics, but I think I prefer the new soundtrack more. Vol. 2 also has Fleetwood Mac, and you can’t go wrong with Fleetwood Mac.
The only reason why I wouldn’t rank Vol. 2 higher than the first one is that it can’t be a standalone movie. You need to watch the first one before you watch this one. Below, I’ll put my current rankings for all the MCU films just to show you where it stands compared to the rest.
- Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier
- Captain America 3: Civil War
- Guardians of the Galaxy
- Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2.
- Iron Man
- The Avengers
- Ant Man
- Captain America: The First Avenger
- Avengers 2: Age of Ultron
- Doctor Strange
- Iron Man 3
- The Incredible Hulk
- Iron Man 2
- Thor 2: The Dark World