GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2 Review: Easily The Funniest And Most Emotionally Engaging MCU Movie Yet

The review embargo on James Gunn's Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 has now lifted, so you can find out what I thought of the Marvel sequel after the jump. There may be some very light spoilers...

The first Guardians of the Galaxy remains not only one of my favorite Marvel movies, but is up there among my favorite movies full stop - so it's fair to say I had very high expectations for James Gunn's sequel. Were they met? Well, Gunn cranks pretty much everything up to 11 this time, and for the most part, it does pay off.

If you know the basic premise of GOTG Vol. 2 then you kinda know the entire plot. That's not to suggest that there are no surprises along the way, but the story definitely takes a backseat to the characters in this one. While that might be an issue for some, personally I was perfectly happy just to spend a couple of hours in the company of this group of A-holes again, and see them developed to such a satisfying degree.

Out of the 5 returning team-members, Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) is obviously the main focus, but nobody gets the short end of the stick here. In the first film, I felt Gamora was underused and really didn't make much of an impact, so it was great to see her with an expanded role that gives Zoe Saldana so much more to work with. Ditto Dave Bautista's Drax, who has developed a much more jovial, comedic personality (admittedly, some of his scenes are overplayed) this time around, and provides most of the movie's biggest laughs. Rocket is still a "professional asshole", but is given a hugely fulfilling arc that ties in with Michael Rooker's Yondu, and is also predictably hilarious.

Then there's Baby Groot. No matter how adorable you think this little guy is already, be prepared for 80% more d'awwww factor. However, that doesn't mean he's only there to look cute, as Groot has a role to play that's every bit as important as his teammates.

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Unfortunately, the new recruits don't fare quite so well. Villains Ayesha and Taserface (LOL) serve their purpose, but not a whole lot beyond that. Kurt Russell does a good job as Ego, but - and here's where we get into mild spoiler territory - his relationship with his son, Peter Quill, really isn't as engaging as the movie seems to think it is, and his character is taken in a somewhat preposterous direction. Likewise, as great as Pom Klementieff is as Mantis, she really only seems to have been introduced to add some more comic relief... in a movie that already has at least 4 other comic relief characters.

This brings me to something I can see many people taking issue with: For the most part, GOTG Vol. 2 is played completely for laughs. Marvel movies have been criticized for an over-reliance on humor in the past, but at least here it does (mostly) feel organic and is genuinely funny. The thing is, if you're constantly trying to squeeze an extra gag out of every situation, some of them are inevitably going to miss the mark or come across a bit forced, and that does happen a couple of times: A Drax dry-retching bit and a slightly cringey father/son bonding moment spring instantly to mind.

Not everything is a joke, though, and when GOTG Vol. 2 gets serious it gives us, hands down, the most emotional moment of any Marvel Studios film yet. Plus, though the mood does lighten somewhat afterward, Gunn allows things to resonate and doesn't cheapen the event by moving on to something else too quickly, which is a problem I have had with certain scenes from other Marvel flicks.

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As far as the action scenes go, adrenaline junkies should be very happy. There's always plenty going on, but the highlights are a fantastic opening credits scene involving the team attempting to take down a space-beast, and a seriously cool prison break. Things do get a little CGI-heavy towards the end, but chances are you'll be enjoying yourself too much to care.

Perhaps not quite on par with the first, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is still an absolute blast from start to finish, and is easily the funniest and most emotionally engaging entry in the MCU yet. Despite a few issues, Gunn has served up a brilliantly bonkers follow-up that should leave any fan of these terrific characters very happy indeed. Bring on the Infinity War.

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