It goes without saying that Marvel’s foray into worlds outside Earth is its riskiest but most rewarded return on investment. 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy served up a fun story that not only stood on its own but also blew up what the Marvel Cinematic Universe was capable of.
Three years and a whole bullet train of hype later, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is ready for lift-off. But perhaps it’s more apt to say that it never really landed. The original Guardians of the Galaxy is still roaring through the universe on gilded wings. Volume 2 isn’t exactly another chapter or a new story for the planet-hopping rogues. Much like the comic books it was based from, Volume 2 picks up where the first entry left off: where did Nebula escape to, what happens to the Yondu and the Ravagers, who exactly is Star-Lord’s father. The film never strayed far from home base to tread new ground, but goddamn, it’s still fun as hell.
Volume 2 excels in character development as much as Volume 1 did in world-building. The Guardians themselves have grown since the last one. (Literally in Groot’s case.) Peter Quill isn’t desperate for validation anymore; he’s more concerned about his biological and his adoptive Guardians family. Gamora takes on a more parental role in keeping the Guardians together. Drax is funnier and more sarcastic. Rocket comes to terms with him being part of a family now. Much of Volume 2’s story revolves around how these maturing characters interact with one another.
But that doesn’t take away from the second volume’s vast world-building either. Trailers have already introduced (and spoiled) us to Ego, Peter Quill’s biological father. As devout followers of Marvel Comics know, Ego is one of the more powerful cosmic entities, similar to Galactus and Thanos. Ego proves that Marvel can create compelling characters in supporting roles rather than those plastered on posters. Besides Ego, we’re introduced to Ayesha and the golden Sovereign race, who are teased to play a very important role in coming movies. We’re also shown more of the Ravager world introduced by Yondu and his crew.
To be fair, much of the new additions were too much of a plot pusher and teaser, rather than an actual story in this movie. Then again, didn’t we feel the exact same way with Yondu and Nebula in the last film? The Guardians team stayed and grew with them to their more compelling stories in Volume 2. The Sovereign and the Ravagers feel like they’re reserved for a Volume 3 story.
Overall, Volume 2’s story is good. It’s not revolutionary, but it’s enjoyable. It follows a lot of the tropes running rampant now in Hollywood (see: Fate of the Furious and its excessive abuse of the word “family”). But it’s a barrel full of laughs, as it should be. It doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s full of explosions, Easter eggs, and a generous helping of fun. In my opinion, it also has the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s most compelling villain and accompanying boss battle.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 isn’t new, but it has more fun and more heart than its successful predecessor.