*Although ever-loving care has been put into this review to remove any spoilers, I am only human and your interpretations are your own, so still read with caution.*
Vol. 2 is not as good as the first. Lets get that out of the way, but there are moments in the film that work better than the first, despite an uneven and overstuffed plot.
The crew are at it, and they’re just as good as they were in the first film. Chris Pratt leads the team with his charm and charisma, which just oozes on screen. Zoe Saldana is great as well. She’s got a lot more to do with her sister Nebula played by Karen Gillian. I didn’t think their relationship was established well in the first film, but here in the sequel it’s explored more which is a plus. Dave Bautista’s acting is a lot better too. I felt the delivery of certain lines within the first film were kinda dry, but here he delivers them with more natural ease. The comedy involving Drax also felt more natural too, but this time around he isn’t involved in a lot of action sequences besides the opening of the film, which is a huge disappointment. Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel do excellent jobs projecting their voices to Rocket and Groot.
Aside from Pom Klementieff, the supporting characters however, they are the one’s who shine. This to me was Yondu’s film, as much as it was Hawkeye’s in Age of Ultron. Michael Rooker totally brings his acting chops into full flare. James Gunn gave him a nice solid arc to his character and it’s quite touching. We see a lot more of Yondu and who he is. He shares most of his screen time with Rocket, and the two come to a realization that they are a lot more similar than they think. More backstory is also fleshed out with his character involving Sylvester Stallone’s Starhawk. Yondu’s right hand man Kraglin played by Sean Gunn, James Gunn’s brother also has way more to do in this one.
Gunn also gives Karen Gillian’s Nebula a full story with something to contribute. While I thought she was kind of disregarded in Vol.1, here I finally got to know her better. Her backstory and her motives are fleshed out and we finally get to see her interact with Gamora a lot more. Their complicated love/hate relationship doesn’t ever bring the movie down. It’s handled eloquently and doesn’t get too over the top.
The same can’t be said with Mantis played by Pom Klementieff. It’s not her performance really, it’s just how the character was handled. I thought the naive attitude and characteristics she presented felt forced and overplayed. The film already tries to showcase how cute and naive Baby Groot is so I didn’t feel like the film needed another character who does that. She does contribute to the plot however so kudos to Gunn for figuring all that out, but I would have preferred an iteration of Mantis more closer to the comics, who is slightly more mature with martial arts background, who could have easily been a body guard to Ego in the film, rather than some servant.
Speaking of Ego, I enjoyed Kurt Russell’s Ego. He brought a sense of warmth as Peter’s father. I bought into his character within a few scenes, simply because Russell knows how to deliver his lines effectively. Chris Pratt also effectively delivers on his performance anytime he has a scene with Ego. Without any spoilers Ego and Star-Lord’s arcs in the climax are what salvages the film from what is a draggy and choppy middle act.
As for the villains, Taserface and Ayesha played by Chris Sullivan and Elizabeth Debicki, they don’t bring too much into the table, but they also bring enough. They don’t have much to do, but in a film that’s got so many moving parts, Gunn again finds a way to have them be apart of the story.
The visual effects dazzle and the color palette is bright and vivid. I commend the hardworking visual effects artists who probably didn’t get much sleep working on this film. Action set pieces are awesome and fun to watch, just wish Drax had more to do in that department.
Aside from the occasional “been there, done that,” feel to the film and a draggy second half, there is still enough to enjoy, with a few new elements sprinkled in. Gunn still manages to make a cohesive and entertaining film despite it being really uneven. I would hope that Vol. 3 would have a new tone and feel to it. It isn’t Marvel’s finest, but it’s serviceable, not as terrible as the first two Thor films and the last two Iron Man films, but falls somewhere along the rankings with Ant-Man or Age of Ultron.
Stick around for the credits, there are five and they’re not setting the seeds for the future really, but they’re fun little segments. One of which perplexes me in a good way, and if you know the rights issues between Sony, Fox, and Marvel/Disney, you know exactly what I’m talking about. It was quite surreal and makes me wonder what other surprises are in store for the future of Phase 4, or whatever our Marvel king Kevin Feige decides to call it.