Written by: James Gunn
Starring: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Michael Rooker
Refuge and safety should align with family seeing as the bonds of blood should leave those with that connection being the least likely to cause harm. It is then when those close and personal individuals in one’s life cause the most harm, it leaves a distinguishable mark. This pain united the characters of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 in the first feature and this equally spellbinding sequel dives into this trauma even deeper with even more emotionally resonant moments.
Now thriving as a team but still with plenty of bickering, the Guardians consisting of Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax (Dave Bautista), Rocket (Bradley Cooper), and Baby Groot (Vin Diesel) find themselves in a pickle after angering their latest clients. They then arrive on a strange planet, where they meet a god-like figure claiming to be Star-Lord’s father.
Cutting out their own little corner of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I adore that the Guardians can just do their own thing without having too much connection to the larger universe. Sure, they introduced Thanos but pretty much everything else remains contained to just these characters and the emotional journey they go on together. In a way, it feels grand but intimate in the way these characters can have this vast adventure with bright and wonderful colors while the themes hinge on the pain each of these characters has gone through. With this pain, they repel and unite each other in the ways families typically do, which just allows this to thrive amongst all of the other films within this series.
Each of these characters outside of Drax and Baby Groot has an emotional reckoning of their own and each of them deserves exploration, which this review will not necessarily do but I would love to highlight the beauty of them all. Gamora and Nebula (Karen Gillan) have their history and what initially appeared to be a petty sister rivalry gets further exploration of the pain their upbringing brought to one of them. A deeply resonant moment between them. Rocket has to come to grips with why he does specific actions and pushes people away despite moments of others trying to connect with him. This context gets received in the first film but gets further exploration here. Star-Lord ran around the galaxy with this large scab in regard to the death of his mother and the arc he goes through when interacting with his father, Ego (Kurt Russell) contains such richness about the pain and the arrogance of parenthood along with the damage it can leave the offspring.
Every single one of these characters has experienced trauma in their own ways and the brilliance found in this film allows the narrative to expound upon it while still having the trademark laughs one should expect for a James Gunn film. The balance on display makes it work to the highest degree of success possible where others would falter. Very easily this could have gone into the exploitative of the trauma these characters have experienced and need to rehash throughout but the material is handled with a soft and deft touch in order for it to flow beautifully well. Each emotional moment feels earned for what it contributes to the narrative and it picks up the pieces left by its predecessor so well to create a fully realized arc for these characters.
Marvel Studios films rightfully get a bad wrap for the flatness and lack of dynamism in their visuals, but this feature along with its predecessor seeks to dazzle with vibrant colors and truly showing this galaxy for all its splendors. Even with the darker topics taken on in this feature, the visuals on display on top of the action sequences demonstrate where a proper balance can be found in order to make the production as engaging on the eyes as it is through the script. Many shots stand out as one where it provides so much to take in, especially when you begin to compare it to other Marvel films. Sure most of those take place on Earth, where space allows this film to be a bit more imaginative, but it comes in all the small ways as well. Not every film needs to have such blandness to them and while many can claim certain things about Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, mediocre visuals are certainly not one of them.
Another wondrous success from a collaboration between Marvel and James Gunn, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 brings together another smacker of a soundtrack and an important narrative to complement it all. The misfits of characters get closer together and further apart in their individual and collective journeys throughout this feature but the main success comes from continually making me interested in how they progress. It covers the sensitive topic of what family represents, who can be a family member, and what can be done when this person has caused so much harm. The beauty found within this film flows not only from its visuals but the emotional voyage it takes us on.