Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 ★★★★★

98/100

Sometimes the one thing you've spent all your life searching for... Has always been there right by your side.

The best MCU movie. Easily. No room for discussion.

It's insane how everything in this is superior to the first entry. Everything, but mostly the screenwriting and direction; James Gunn has really outdone himself this time around.

The opening credits scene showcase, in a beautifully registered, meticulously articulated tracking shot, the overall scale of the film: accompanying Baby Groot dancing while the rest of the team battles a giant beast, Gunn's camera tells us that this is a movie focused on the little beings inserted in the middle of events of epic proportions, rather than the battle itself. I don't wanna give away the plot just like the trailers didn't, because to experience it first-hand is a bliss. Gunn takes a major risk by investing in a much slower pace in Vol. 2, but it works flawlessly precisely because of his confidence as a writer and director. He knows these characters are compelling enough to keep the audience interested, so he can sit back and let these characters do their jobs while patiently setting the foundations for the third act. The fact that Gunn doesn't need senseless action all the time to entertain us like Doctor Strange, Civil War and the likes also allow him to make each and every action set piece in here an iconic, cathartic masterwork. The Yondu-Rocket sequence alone is more memorable than most post-Avengers MCU movies.

The story is not that painfully formulaic narrative with obvious plot points. It just happens; before you know it, it's happening, it flows naturally. It's clearly the work of a writer who started his tale from his characters, and not one who came up with a story and then thought what characters could tell it - which is the easiest screenwriting mistake to make. The dialogue is just as fun, but immensely better developed than in the first entry - we get to learn a lot more about these characters, their personal conflicts that are each treated separatedly until they eventually come together. It's essentially about family, and each character has an unique ghost in that ethos: Peter has abandonment; Drax has loss; Gamora and Nebula have abuse; Rocket has misfitting; Groot has communicative inability; Yondu has regret; and Mantis has the overall lack of social skills. All these ghosts spawn complex arcs that could easily go sideways in the wrong hands, but thankfully, these are James Gunn's hands, and the man develops them with care in his reflective tale of punctual action, until it eventually blows up in an all-out The End of Evangelion climax. Even the text cards informing the names of the planets have narrative relevance - hence the impact when after we've seen two different planets with proper denominations, we suddenly get "Ego's Planet".

The performances are all great - Sylvester Stallone's brief apparition was delightful and I really love that they picked him for that role -, I can't really point one single highlight here because they're all so well balanced. Kurt Russell is tremendous as Ego, and boy does he do justice to the name. Dave Bautista evolved a lot since the first movie - where he was already terrific -, and besides still being the most hilarious part of the whole thing, gets to work better on Drax's most dramatic spots. Chris Pratt remains a solid lead and highly entertaining as well, but I really gotta take my hat off for Michael Rooker here. His performance, and Yondu's arc itself, is a complete turn around on the way we see the character's decisions even back in the first movie.

Personally I didn't find the Awesome Mix tracklist quite as iconic as the one from the previous installment, however it does have a better application throughout the movie - one specific song has a dramatic significance to the narrative and its lyrics are revisited with new layers as the plot unfolds. Needless to say, the visual effects are outstanding, but it really catches one's eye how they mingle them with the cinematography to create some beautiful compositions. There are certain shots in here that I could very well frame them in my wall. Tyler Bates score is aces, you don't need me to tell you that, but in a cinematic universe that's so unbearably uneven when it comes to musical identity, it's great to see that this one remains solid.

In a completely different league than your regular Marvel flick, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 sure is one hell of a time, but more importantly, an emotional, contemplative, reflective and maybe even a tad existentialist piece of superhero extravaganza. My favorite MCU film to date, I certainly hope this inspires more of its kind, and that mr. Gunn keeps up his excellent work.

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