2017 has already been a pretty great year for movies. Sure, Lego Batman could have been a little more fun. But John Wick 2 was a remarkable sequel and a solid (if over-the-top) action movie. Logan was a powerful superhero movie (and by far the best Xmen movie in years). And don’t forget Get Out, the top grossing, unflinching exploration of race in America that’s housed in a strong horror movie. Into this lineup comes the first of the summer movies, Guardians of the Galaxy 2. As with most sequels, the reviews for Guardians 2 have been somewhat balanced. Critics are writing things like “It’s a blast but not as good as the first” or “what was fresh now seems institutionalized.” Those kind of reviews always sound kind of halfhearted to me, so let me tell you not to fall for them. Guardians of the Galaxy 2 is one of the best movies you’ll see this year. It’s as funny as Deadpool (though it’s a very different sense of humor, to be clear), it’s got much better characters (and arguably better action sequences) than Rogue One, and it’s a WAY better Chris Pratt movie than Passengers. Don’t listen to the haters; it’s a heck of a lot of fun.
The movie picks up (after a brief flashback) roughly where the last one ended, with the Guardians doing Evolve-style contract work. It’s amazing how quickly these characters feel familiar again and the opening credit sequence is the funniest sequence I’ve seen since last year’s Deadpool. Things move quickly and new characters and familiar faces soon join the cast. The cast splits up for much of the movie – think Empire Strikes Back – which gives each character more of a chance to shine. Baby Groot and Rocket Raccoon are great, Mantis is pretty fun, and Kurt Russell and Michael Rooker are always awesome. Nebula emerges as a surprisingly sympathetic and interesting character (and she makes Thanos more present than ever, even though he doesn’t appear in the movie). However, while all of them are fun, this movie really belongs to Drax whose literal interpretations and lack of social skills make him hilarious whenever he appears.
What doesn’t work about the movie? Oddly enough, I’d say Starlord. Not Chris Pratt per se, he’s his usual charismatic self. But the story this time has him exploring his family history and dealing with some pretty heavy psychology. We don’t see much of the fun energy and levity that Pratt brought to the role last time. His relationship with Gamora also stalls out in a painful dialogue about love and Cheers. Pratt’s given better material in his scenes with Kurt Russell, whose confident performance here is fun to watch (invisotext minor spoilers: and maybe I’m reading too much into this, but I think you can tell he’s hiding something in the way he uses his eyes). But all of the complicated relationships Pratt navigates pale next to Gamora and Nebula’s sisterly beatdown. Nebula was kind of a backbencher last time, here she becomes one of the most interesting (and damaged) characters in all of the Marvel Universe. She’s the character from this movie I most anxious to see in Infinity War. Well, next to Drax.
Is it better than the original? Ultimately I’d say yes. The first movie was well loved because it was so surprising good. Even with the greater expectations this time around, Guardians 2 was still better than I expected it to be. But, whether or not you agree with me on that point, I think I can pretty much guarantee you’ll have a good time at Guardians of the Galaxy 2. And, if you’re like me, you’ll leave the theater with a lot of questions. Like, what was the Sylvester Stallone stuff all about? Is Howard the Duck going to appear in all of these movies? Are they ever going to actually fight with Thanos? And, most important, is there any way Marvel can send more of its heroes into space, like they have with Thor and Hulk? These space-centered movies are a blast. Heck, let’s put Ant Man and Dr. Strange out there and see what happens.