Guardians of the Galaxy made a huge impact on the Marvel fandom when it was first released. The classic Marvel banter, along with the found family and a stellar soundtrack spoke to many fans. That’s why it was disappointing that the second outing for Earth’s most…troublesome heroes didn’t quite live up to its first outing.
Right from the beginning, it was clear the story itself was going to be lacking. The introduction of the Sovereign race posed so many interesting possibilities. It was yet another opportunity to explore themes revolving around religious extremism, which the first Guardians of the Galaxy had initially introduced and promptly never returned to again. In Vol. 2, this was also never addressed although there were many opportunities where the Guardians could have faced off against these seemingly perfect beings. The end credits scene teased a return of the Sovereign race, we have not seen it to date.
The smart choice Marvel made was to separate this seemingly ever-expanding cast to give us character moments as they’re paired off together. Fans got to see more of Gamora (Zoe Saldaña) and Nebula (Karen Gillan). Nebula in particular was set up for a larger role in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), which Gillan absolutely ran with in the best way. Yondu (Michael Rooker) and Rocket (Bradley Cooper) were clearly well matched and had a lot to work through. Mantis (Pom Klementieff) and Drax (Dave Bautista) were probably the most fun to watch, and the comedy timed with the emotion these two brought to every scene added such character to the movie as a whole. The flaw was that there were simply too many characters in the movie to give them all adequate screen times. Although it was a good idea to pair the characters off this way, it just made me think how much more I wanted to see from these characters and how much more fans could have had.
Chris Pratt returned as Peter Quill/Star Lord, with all of the daddy issues that had been set up in the first movie. Unfortunately, the execution left something to be desired. We only got the briefest glimpse of Yondu in Guardians of the Galaxy, but the way he was portrayed in Vol. 2 implied that the audience knew him much better. The emotional climax of the movie asked us to mourn his death when truthfully we had just begun to get to know him. The character development we saw for this character was rushed and his ultimate ending really wasn’t deserved.
The contrast between Yondu and Quill’s birth father Ego (Kurt Russell) was possibly meant to be a meditation on the meaning of fatherhood. It ultimately fell flat, however, and Ego was yet another Marvel villain quickly dispatched and regulated to the garbage bin that claims so many Marvel villains with potential. Although the plot twist to reveal Ego as a villain wasn’t bad, it was a very abrupt change in the story. His motivations were so unsympathetic, which was made worse by the fact that he was a galactic god. Having grounded motivations was a must for such a villain, as it would have led to a much more grounded story.
Finally, Sylvester Stallone’s appearance really represented everything wrong with this movie and with Marvel in general. Giving an actor of such exceptional caliber a nothing part with nothing to do was insulting. Marvel has made it a trend of taking actors that would in no way ever be associated with superhero movies and turning them into superheroes. When it works, it works spectacularly. When the actor is given nothing to do and is regulated to little more than a cameo (looking at you Harry Styles), it doesn’t serve the story Marvel is trying to tell.
While fans of the first Guardians of the Galaxy were no doubt excited to see these heroes team up for a subsequent outing, there was so much missing from what made the first movie a Marvel fan favorite. While the first was a fun galactic romp with a found family, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 tried to do too much to really be effective. Hopefully the third installment starring this group will be a return to form, and will give fans a Guardians sequel that lives up to the original.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is currently available to stream on Disney+.