Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Review
Following the wildly successful Guardians of the Galaxy, a sequel reuniting its misfit band of intergalactic adventurers seemed inevitable and earlier this summer, three years after the first film, a second volume was released with big box office returns. Writer/director James Gunn returned to lead his Marvel heroes Peter "Star-Lord" Quill (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax (Dave Bautista), Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper), and Baby Groot (voiced, sort of, by Vin Diesel). Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 retains the freewheeling attitude of its predecessor while perhaps focussing a bit narrower on its plot.
There are basically three things going on here narratively, beginning with the guardians doing a job for a planet full of gold-skinned inhabitants called the Sovereign, with reputations for having a superiority complex. When something goes awry, the planet's high priestess (Elizabeth Debicki) seeks revenge through a fleet of remotely-flown attack vehicles. A mysterious saviour, who turns out to be Peter's celestial father Ego (Kurt Russell), rescues them and sets up an epic reunion on a seemingly otherwise unoccupied planet. Meanwhile, Rocket and Baby Groot are captured by a wild group of ravagers who free the captured Nebula (Karen Gillan) and turn on Yondu (Michael Rooker). This ultimately forces a somewhat unlikely teaming to both escape the ravagers and rejoin the rest of the guardians, who have encountered issues of their own on Ego's planet.
Films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe tend to crisscross and zigzag around with nonsensical names so a relatively quick summary of the plot seems necessary. Compared to the first Guardians film or the ones in the Avengers series, this storyline is rather straightforward, if still jagged in its structure. The primary thread seems concerned with the relationship, or lack thereof, between Peter and his father and then how that contrasts with the familial bond he's built with the other guardians. It's not a particularly nuanced or novel exploration of family values. These characters could hardly be seen as developed with any careful depth in terms of their overall dimensionality. Each seems crafted from cardboard using shiny tools and bright colours but unconcerned with a sense of consequences.
To some extent, if you're going to ask viewers to spend 136 minutes with two-dimensional comic book characters who have little to no motivation beyond serving themselves and each other there should probably be a reason to care about them. It's just not clear that any such connection exists here. Everything is shallow - polished, but shallow. The film, doubling down on the previous entry, uses a collection of musical cues to tap emotions in a way that feels unsavoury. Having Cat Stevens' "Father and Son" play during a crucial, visually dazzling coda at the film's end is so cheap as to potentially diminish the song. Nothing we've seen deserves the emotions the film wants to convey by using that cue.
Those viewers wishing to take a more one-eyed approach to the film can enjoy the cutesy Baby Groot, the wisecracking dynamic between Peter and Gamora, and pretty much everything Drax says throughout the movie. It's a fairly well-plotted diversion that looks amazing. But the failure to challenge its audience in any way or provide characters who stick with us for longer than the popcorn consumed while watching remains troublesome. Movies like Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 eat up a lot of cultural attention and they should be considered not just for the two hours or so that they play on the screen. There's no reason popular movies must lack artistic ambitions. The continued ubiquity of comic book cinema only exacerbates this problem.
Marvel Studios releases Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 through Buena Vista Entertainment on UHD and in this Blu-ray + DVD + Digital edition. It is region-free. This is the North American release under review but those in the UK will see it issued a couple of weeks later.
The wide 2.40:1 image looks fantastic in HD, coming through in crisp digital clarity. The vast array of colours put together by the visual effects team is dazzling. This is a seamless digital transfer.
Audio, too, makes an impact via the primary English 7.1 DTS-HDMA track. It effortlessly distributes music, sound effects and dialogue for a balanced, robust listen. Volume remains consistently strong and even throughout the movie. Alternate audio tracks include English 2.0 Descriptive audio and Spanish and French 5.1 Dolby Digital dub options. English subtitles for the hearing impaired as well as French and Spanish subtitles are also on the disc.
Audio commentary by writer/director James Gunn - in which he discusses the making-of the film and shares anecdotes on the production
Bonus Round: The Making of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 - a four-part look consisting of In the Director's Chair with James Gunn (8:36) that again focusses on Gunn's contribution, Reunion Tour: The Music of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (7:37) where several of the songs on the soundtrack as well as the score are discussed, Living Planets and Talking Trees: The Visual Effects of Vol. 2 (10:44) that mostly looks at the work put into creating a scene like Rocket in the forest and what it took to get Baby Groot on screen, and Showtime: The Cast of Vol. 2 (10:41) which touches on each of the main characters and the actor playing that role. All in all, pretty celebratory and basic, press kit type of stuff
Guardians Inferno music video (3:34) - easily the most entertaining of the supplements as this crazy song gets a crazier video featuring cameos from the film's stars and even David Hasselhoff
Gag Reel (3:41) - movie stars laughing, cursing (with bleeps) and flubbing lines
Deleted Scenes - four that didn't make the final cut, including Adolescent Groot Extended (1:01), Memorial to the War on Xandor (1:18), Kraglin and Quill Talk Tunes (0:41), and Mantis and Drax Feel the Sadness Extended (2:00).
There's also a few previews, including the theatrical trailer for Thor: Ragnarok.