The first reviews have arrived for Marvel Studios and writer/director James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. The first Guardians of the Galaxy was something of a surprise critical and commercial success when it hit theaters in 2014, in the process evolving Gunn’s image from being the off-beat creator of such demented indie films as Slither and Super, into a household name, as well as fan-favorite Marvel Cinematic Universe filmmaker. Seeing as the Guardians sequel was a frequent candidate on most anticipated movies of 2017 rundowns earlier this year, it was always going to be a challenge for Gunn to recreate the flash in the pan effect that he enjoyed with his initial venture into the cosmic side of the MCU.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 dives even deeper into its source material’s vast catalogue of eccentric space-based Marvel comic book characters than its predecessor, in the process incorporating such unique additions as Ego the Living Planet (Kurt Russell) and Mantis (Pom Klementieff) into a blend that includes returning players Star-Lord/Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista), Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper), Nebula (Karen Gillan), Yondu (Michael Rooker) and now-Baby Groot (Vin Diesel). As with most sequels, however, this still begs the question: does bigger and “crazier” also mean better, when it comes to Guardians round two?
We’ve rounded up a handful of SPOILER-FREE excerpts from the first Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 reviews released online, in order to provide a general impression of what critics are saying about the sequel so far. You can click on the respective full links included below, if you’re interested in reading the reviews in their entirety.
Collider – Haleigh Foutch
Ultimately, Vol. 2 can’t quite live up to the legacy of the first film, but it’s got everything you could want from a big superhero spectacle and then some. If you came for big laughs and good tunes, you’re going to get that, plus a surprising amount of emotional poignancy, and once you see what Gunn has in store for the Guardians, you’ll be happy he’s already confirmed to finish their arcs in the final film of the trilogy. However, if they hype machine has you expecting the best Marvel movie yet, you would be well served to adjust your expectations accordingly.
Empire – Chris Hewitt
[When] you’ve lost the element of surprise, following that is no easy task. Happy to report, though, bar a few last-act wobbles and the odd tonal shift, Gunn has done it again, crafting a sequel that keeps the focus on the characters we fell for first time around while pumping up the volume… There’s plenty to enjoy here, whether it’s the perfectly deployed Baby Groot moments, or a general strain of anarchic weirdness that runs all the way through the credits and which still feels unique to this franchise, not just within the MCU, but blockbusters in general.
Variety – Owen Glieberman
Shot for shot, line and line, it’s an extravagant and witty follow-up, made with the same friendly virtuosic dazzle. Yet this time you can sense just how hard the series’ wizard of a director, James Gunn (now taking off from a script he wrote solo), is working to entertain you. Maybe a little too hard. “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” is an adventure worth taking, and the number of moviegoers around the planet who will want to take it should prove awe-inspiring. But it doesn’t so much deepen the first “Guardians” as offer a more strenuous dose of fun to achieve a lesser high.
The Wrap – Alonso Duralde
[If] you’re a fan of Star-Lord, Gamora, Drax, Rocket and Groot from the first movie, then what “Vol. 2” offers will be enough to keep you entertained with a mix of cranky banter, anti-heroic heroics and some deep dives into the Super Hits of the ’70s. If you’re not already on the “Guardians” train, of course, this follow-up isn’t going to win you over, nor will it appeal to those who demand that sequels attempt to offer the same jolts of unexpected pleasure that first chapters do. “Vol. 2” is filler, to be sure, but if you like the flavor of these movies, you’ll enjoy this second bite.
The Guardians – Peter Bradshaw
It’s the same combination of cartoony action and intergalactic screwball with some ambient production design recalling the photorealist sci-fi imagery of Roger Dean or Chris Foss in a bygone age, creating a visual sense of earnestness to offset the archly retro pop culture gags. Again, it has its own supercharged Heart FM playlist of 70s and 80s music… This film rattles along and there’s a lot to enjoy, but there’s a weird air of pointlessness, almost plotlessness to this sequel.
Birth. Movies Death – Dave Schilling
As proudly unconventional as these films have been up to this point, they remain genre entertainment, with all the expectations and cliches implied by that distinction. Yes, there’s a doomsday countdown clock at the end. They make light of it, but it’s still there. You get your sarcasm and winking at the audience yet again, but just like the first Guardians, this sequel still adheres to the Marvel house style — superheroics with a smile and a sincere admiration for the mythic nature of the comic book passion play.
THR – Todd McCarthy
When a disarmingly wacky and amusing B-team of Marvel characters parachuted in three summers ago and made off with a worldwide haul of $771 million, the fifth biggest of any Marvel production, Guardians of the Galaxy resembled a makeshift expansion sports franchise that somehow played above its own level all year long and snuck into the World Series. But the second season brings this team back to reality, if not to planet Earth, and while the stadiums will remain packed, the results on the field are not nearly so pretty for this manic and sometimes grating continuation of a scattershot narrative…
IGN – Terri Schwartz
It’s difficult to catch lightning in a bottle twice, and that’s exactly what James Gunn tries to do in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. Ultimately Vol. 2 isn’t as amazing a film as the first and suffers from some pacing issues, but it still proves to be a fun time with a lot of heart.
With a 92% Fresh Rating on Rotten Tomatoes after 36 reviews and counting, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is well on its way to becoming another critical success for Marvel Studios and the MCU alike. However, one thing that most every review for the sequel so far appears to agree on (even the rare negative one) is that the second Guardians film doesn’t quite reach the level of its predecessor, in terms of either innovation or how it balances its quirky humor and characters with its larger storytelling goals. As was mentioned before though, the odds were never in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2‘s favor in this sense, given how the first Guardians caught the general masses off-guard.
With Guardians 2 set to open big at the box office, the early critical word of mouth ought to further ensure that the sequel performs according to expectations, if not necessarily fly higher than was previously anticipated. Marvel Studios has two more MCU films hitting theaters later this year after the Guardians sequel (in the forms of the Marvel/Sony co-production Spider-Man: Homecoming and Thor: Ragnarok), but by the sound of it Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 gets things going on the right foot; if not, per se, the MCU’s strongest foot too.
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