Guardians of the Galaxy was a breath of fresh air in an era of comic book films that were starting to feel predictable and repetitive. The film introduced amazing new worlds and characters to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, expanding it exponentially and setting the groundwork for what was and still is to come.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, released three years after the first film, could have fallen into that class of predictable, repetitive comic book films. The film shares so much in common with its predecessor from the production design to the cast and creative team, but instead of feeling like a lesser retread of Guardians, the sequel delivers more of what was so great about that first film and takes it one step further.
James Gunn, who wrote and directed both Guardians films and is sort of the “shepherd” of the franchise, knows these stories and characters, and it’s clear that he really cares about them too. I’ll admit that even I’ve fallen victim to “superhero fatigue” here recently, but to me, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is, like the first film, a standout in the MCU and in the comic book film genre. The cast is diverse and charismatic. The screenplay is packed with action, humor, and emotion. The visual effects are top-notch, and the production design is unlike anything I’ve ever seen.
The Guardians of the Galaxy themselves, Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper, and Vin Diesel, are as magnificent in this film as they were in the first—no one’s phoning it in here. If anything, everyone’s stepping up their game for round two, especially Michael Rooker, whose character Yondu is much more involved this time around. Kurt Russell and Pom Klementieff are the two most notable additions to the cast of the first film as Ego and Mantis, respectively, while Sylvester Stallone and Elizabeth Debicki appear in smaller, supporting roles but still manage to make an impression.
The first Guardians boasted an incredible soundtrack that included songs like “Hooked on a Feeling” and “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” and those songs were purposeful and were seamlessly and memorably incorporated into the narrative. The songs in Vol. 2 aren’t nearly as memorable, and their placement in the film often feels random rather than organic. The second area that could be improved is the pacing. The film clocks in at two hours and sixteen minutes, which is about average for a contemporary blockbuster, but I feel like it would have benefited from cutting about ten minutes. There’s plenty of action and enough jokes to keep the momentum for the most part, but it does start to lose steam at some point in the third act (which, to be fair, is a criticism I would have for most films in the genre).
Ultimately, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is a fun, expertly crafted blockbuster and a worthy follow-up to one of my favorite films in the genre. It may not be groundbreaking in the way that the first film was, but if you loved Guardians of the Galaxy as I did, I can’t imagine you’ll find much to complain about in Vol. 2.
Bonus Features ✮✮✮
This release includes a good amount of bonus content, as most Disney-Marvel releases do. Personally, I would have liked for some of these “featurettes” to be longer and to dig a little deeper, especially into the visual effects and production design. There is an audio commentary with James Gunn, which is great, but I think a film of this scale deserves more comprehensive bonus features. What we do have here is great, but it will likely leave fans wanting a bit more.
• Visionary Intro
• Bonus Round: The Making of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
• In the Director’s Chair with James Gunn
• Reunion Tour: The Music of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
• Living Planets and Talking Trees: The Visual Effects of Vol. 2
• Showtime: The Cast of Vol. 2
• Music Video
• Gag Reel
• Deleted Scenes
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is absolutely worth owning, either digitally or on physical media. The film itself warrants multiple viewings, as the best comic book films do, and while the bonus features aren’t as thorough or insightful as I feel they should be, there is enough content here to justify adding the film to your digital or physical collection, especially if you’re a fan of these films.
Angelo Thomas is a student, a filmmaker, and an advocate for eating disorder recovery and awareness, among other things. It's his goal for everything he makes or has a hand in to be something he finds genuinely exciting and engaging and to have some level of meaning and ambition, whether it's a short narrative film, an LGBTQ+ documentary, or even a Taylor Swift music video — because that's how the magic happens.