Following the events of the first film, the self-proclaimed Guardians of the Galaxy have capitalized on their new-found fame by becoming “heroes for hire”, charging exorbitant fees for their heroic feats. But after a job for an alien species called The Sovereign goes south, the crew is rescued by someone unexpected: a man called Ego (Kurt Russell), who is Peter Quill’s father. As Quill finally learns about his mysterious parentage, the crew embarks on a new adventure. Along the way, they collide with faces both familiar (Gamora’s sister Nebula and the space pirate Yondu) and new (Ego’s empathetic sidekick Mantis). Oh, and Groot is now Baby Groot.
Surprisingly, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is simultaneously the wackiest film in the Marvel franchise and one of its most serious. The film maintains the original’s goofy sense of humor and quirky characterization, and really ramps up the silliness even during most of the action sequences. Everything we loved from the first is still here: Drax’s complete literal-mindedness, Peter and Gamora’s flirty banter, Rocket being a crazy psychopath, and (of course) more 70s pop music. The film also expands on its comedy by branching into significantly raunchier jokes and outrageous celebrity cameos, including Sylvester Stallone (and not to mention the best Stan Lee bit yet).
And yet, Vol. 2 is at times a very serious film. The movie ventures into significantly darker territory than the first, indeed darker than most Marvel films. The stakes are much higher than the previous film, and although the action scenes are often weird they also possess much more dramatic danger than is typical for a superhero film. There’s much more emphasis on character development, showing vastly more complex and nuanced characters than the first film generally portrayed. And the themes of the movie, concentrating on what makes a family, are completely earnest and sincere. The film is, dare I say it, somber at times.
And yet, there’s also a really funny joke about Kurt Russell’s penis. And that pretty sums up this film: when it isn’t doesn’t make you laugh, it makes you feel. And sometimes it makes you feel while you’re laughing. While in the hands of less-talented cast and crew it could have easily become an incoherent mess, James Gunn has yet again made what is easily one of the best entries in the Marvel franchise. It may not be as unique and original as the first one, but it’s even sillier and packs a significant emotional punch. Whether or not you’ve seen the first one, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is a film that shouldn’t be missed.