Cut to three years and and a $773.3 million box-office return later, the newly infamous Guardians of the Galaxy are back. In the simply yet aptly titled 'Vol. 2' the action picks up a mere two months after the original, with the loosely-defined heroes on a mission for a society of self-proclaimed perfect beings, The Sovereign.
Needless to say, with The Guardians as prone to mischief as they are valour, things rapidly go awry and they find themselves scattered and on the run.
Marvel films of late has faced criticism from some audience members regarding its lightness of tone, especially when defensively compared to the recent output from DC and Warner Bros. Almost in answer to that, James Gunn demonstrates even further the deft hand he has in weaving a tale that is packed with equal parts heart and humour. You will laugh. You will cry. You will laugh until you cry.
At a run-time that extends well over two hours, proceedings never feel as though they are dragging.
Whilst the first volume suffered from a slight lull towards the end of the second act and a climax that was mildly uninspired until a certain dance-off challenge, the second successfully learns from its history. Even when the charismatic quintet are separated by their own missions and sub-plots - and engage in quieter, reflective moments - the steady stream of heart-wrenching depth work, genuine tension, and laugh-out-loud moments keep things moving at a swift and thrilling pace. All building to one of the most action-packed, high-stakes, and emotional conclusions of any Marvel film to date.
Such is the greatest accomplishment in 'Guardians of the Galaxy'. Though it is as standalone from the rest of the MCU as you could possibly get, it doesn't simply refresh and repeat. In the spirit of all truly great sequels, it refuses to rest on its laurels. It takes what was already there and was already great - both in terms of the world and the characters - and expands upon it. Rather than give the characters fresh wounds to deal with and explore, it merely delves deeper into the ones established in 'Vol. 1'. Be it Drax reflecting further upon the family he lost, Peter reconnecting with the Father he never knew, or Rocket coming to terms with and reconciling the conflicting aspects of his nature. All the while strengthening the bonds between the characters, but between them and the audience as well.
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