MOVIE REVIEW – ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2’

Review by J.T. Johnson

DIRECTOR: James Gunn
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Henry Braham
WRITER: James Gunn
MUSIC: Tyler Bates

In 2014, “Guardians of the Galaxy” surprised moviegoing audiences with a great story about a ragtag group of antiheroes that become full-on heroes of an entire galaxy. It was an untested franchise with lesser known Marvel characters and Marvel Studios proved that they could introduce these characters to new audiences. With that out of the way, they unleashed writer/director James Gunn for the sequel.

First off, let me go ahead and say that I thoroughly enjoyed “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2”. Before I get to why, though, I must admit that this film is not quite as fresh as the original film and it does have some flaws that I want to quickly address. The first is that it suffers from what I like to call the “Jurassic Park” Syndrome.

In 1993, “Jurassic Park” hit the screens and blew us all away with never before seen visual-effects and a surprisingly good story surrounding its central plot. One of the many reasons that the sequels can never match the original is that the element of surprise is gone. The same can be said for “Guardians Vol. 2” as we know what we’re getting now so it’s going to be hard to top the original experience.

This is not the only flaw, though. The first half of the movie’s story is a bit aimless as well. You never quite know what the real threat is until about the midway point in the movie and you do begin to wonder if anything truly dire is ever going to happen. It eventually does, but it definitely takes a moment to set itself up.

Another slight flaw is that the movie’s attempt for comedy can be a bit much at times. The worst part of this is when the jokes occur in a scene that should probably pay more attention to the dramatic tension rather than the humor.

Despite the film’s problems, though, it still succeeds for many reasons. The first reason is due to the fact that even though the story is flawed, it still pulls itself together and definitely has a central theme. This is still a fresh team that is also a family of sorts, but the individual teammates are also trying to define what it means to even be a family considering their troubled backgrounds.

This is complicated even further with the introduction of Ego (Kurt Russell), Peter Quill’s (Chris Pratt) long lost father. The movie’s second half is definitely stronger when all the various threads start to finally come together. Thankfully, the movie also features its stellar cast from the original movie.

All of the actors turn in great performances, but there are a couple of standouts. This includes Michael Rooker as Yondu, the Ravager captain that abducted Peter when he was a kid. The first film left open a question about why Yondu let Peter Quill get away with so much when he would have normally killed anyone else. This movie focuses on that quite a bit and Rooker has a lot of fun playing with Yondu’s more complicated story this time around.

The other standout is Dave Bautista as Drax. His character humorously adds more of the brutally literal honesty that helped make his character a standout in the original film. Yet, Bautista also plays Drax as someone who is more caring about his fellow Guardians now and this makes him even more enduring.

Finally, there are the special-effects and the action sequences. From the intro onward, this film boasts some of the best visual effects I’ve ever seen in a movie. The various locations and all the wonderful scenery gives audiences a visual feast that they won’t soon forget.

The action is top-notch and it definitely hits you over the side of the head. I will admit that it might be a little too much for some audience members, but I thought the action was fun pretty much throughout the whole movie.

Of course, the greatest visual effect is Baby Groot. I never thought I could find a CGI tree so adorable, but here we are. Every time Baby Groot was onscreen, it brought a smile to my face. Like with the first film, the various visual effects companies that were used to bring this movie to life deserve most of the credit for why this film ultimately works.

“Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” may not be as good as the first film, but there is still plenty of life here in a film that decides to go all in with a fantastic cast, great visual effects, and superb action.

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