By Travis Trombley
Vol. 2 astutely revisits much of what worked in the original - awkward charm, striking visuals, juvenile humor, pop culture awareness, approachable characters, and attention to a central theme. Its core is entertainment, and it stays true to itself by balancing jokes, heart, and spectacle, seamlessly weaving 70’s anthems with superhero roughhousing. It’s bright, both visually and tonally, a welcome departure from the faded Marvel palette and grit that revels in its unique ability to showcase an adorable dancing Ent baby while a rainbow-breathing kraken flails about in the background.
However, there remain a number of areas in need of improvement, chiefly the screenplay and the use of action. The restraint Gunn demonstrated so artfully in the last film is lost here, and the character-driven theme doesn’t find grounding in genuine decisions, resulting in something that, while certainly fun, both falls short of its potential greatness and fails to surpass, or even match, its predecessor in most categories of execution.
As always, major spoilers ahead.
Picking up some time after the events of the previous installment, entirely unaffected by the rest of the MCU’s shenanigans, Vol. 2 finds the Guardians together, but strained. Communication issues and pride fray the family fabric, resulting in a series of inter-character spats throughout: Quill and Rocket’s egos clash in bouts of biting insults; Peter and Gamora bicker over the legitimacy of Quill’s father and the nature of their will-they-won’t-they relationship. The theme of familial tension expands with the ensemble, too, with the Ravagers turning on Yondu, Peter connecting with his long-lost father, and, of course, the continued sibling rivalry between Gamora and her cyborg sister Nebula. All the ingredients are present for a conversation about dealing with relationships.