Mike’s review published on Letterboxd:
Throughout this entire film I was thinking to myself, "Damn, Nebula's face looks a lot like the poster for Moonlight..."
The first Gurdians of the Galaxy is my favorite MCU film. I just loved how it didn't take itself too seriously, having a very lighthearted atmosphere. The film also had a killer soundtrack that I still listen to every once in a while (I own the vinyl). Needless to say, I had high hopes for this film. While it wasn't as good as the first, Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 is still a solid superhero flick and a ton of fun.
The plot takes place roughly a couple months after the first film and follows Peter Quill and the guardians on another cosmic adventure. It leads them to find Ego, Peter's dad, and Mantis, Ego's protégée. The film is more about family, delving deeper into the backstorys of these characters, Peter Quill in particular. While the story isn't as good as the first one, It still gives some nessecary backstory on these characters while still trying to tell a complete story. While it does have to set up other films in the MCU with the inclusion of characters like Ayesha, it doesn't delve into more important things like the infinity stones or thannos. The story is definitely more personal This time around due to the inclusion of this father and son relationship. Besides building on Peter and Ego's relationship, the story also takes some time to focus on the relationship between Nebula and Gamora. It was interesting delving deeper into their backstory, giving some characterization and motivation for what happens in the film. There are characters that are well utilized in this film, like Nebula and Peter Quill, but then you get a character like Drax. In this film, Drax is just used as a punchline. They rarely go into his backstory, giving him the most shallow characterization in the film. Every so often he takes something too literally, just because the script needs more humor. I swear he talked about his nipples like three times in the film, and it wasn't that funny to begin with. Also, although Baby Groot looks cute, he does very little for the plot. He's there to make the audience go awwww, that's it. One thing I did like about the film was seeing who the villain was. FINALLY there was a good villain in a marvel movie. Trust me, the villain is the highlight of this film. However, the finale kinda just turns into another CG fuckfest that the humanity that has been building up throughout the film kinda gets lost until the end. Also, the Sovereign Race led by Ayesha serves no purpose whatsoever, and only are there to set up a future film and be the nameless army that marvel films are known so well for. So, while the story isn't as good as the first film, it still does give some depth to these characters and has probably the best villain in a marvel movie.
I really enjoyed most of the performances in this film. Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel all have incredible chemistry and play off each other really well. Zoe Saldana and Karen Gillan also had great chemistry together. Both of their characters kinda contradict each other, but surprisingly that led to some great moments between the two. I was a bit mixed on Pom Klementieff as Mantis. For one, she portrayed the character very well, but her line delivery was a bit iffy at times. I can see her being utilized more in future films, but for now she just comes off as another Drax type character. It was really cool seeing Kurt Russell in this film. He just has this aura of cool around him, and I really enjoyed him in this film. Elizabeth Debicki, I felt, was wasted in this film. She's such a talented actress, yet she did absolutely nothing in this film. I hope she'll be used more in later films, but for now she really disappointed me. Despite that, the performances were generally good in the film.
James Gunn takes us back to the cosmos and damn does it look good. All of the CG looks great and each of the planet designs are all truly unique. There was one in particular I liked, which was on a snowy planet with a lot of neon signs and shit. If you know me, I like some good neon/vibrant lights so that entire planet just stood out to me in a positive way. If I had a complaint it would be that In the final battle, there was just so much going on that it was hard to focus on one thing. The screen was just so cluttered with debris and bullets that it just made it hard to tell what was going on. Other than that, I thought the overall design and aesthetic was great. The cinematography also looked really well, with scenes having a lot of movement as opposed to a more lock it on a tripod approach.
You can't talk about this film without taking about its soundtrack. While it isn't as great as the first, the tracks had more meaning. I felt like Gunn wanted the tracks in this film to correlate with what was going on screen. While I commend him for doing this, the songs just aren't as memorable as the first film. Needless to say, there were some good songs in there like Surrender and The Chain. It's a good listen nonetheless, it just isn't as memorable as the first film.
Overall, while Guardians of the Galaxy vol 2 isn't as good as the first film, it's still a worthy sequel that builds on the characters and providing us with the best marvel villain since Loki. While it's not a must see in theaters, I definitely suggest you check it out at some point.