Guardians of the Galaxy arrived as a breath of fresh air in 2014 and it was universally adored, but the sequel, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, was more divisive. Since James Gunn was fired from the threequel and then rehired after he’d taken on another job, we’ll have to wait a few years to see another Guardians movie.
Unfortunately, this means that despite all the unresolved plot threads involving the Guardians from Avengers: Endgame, for a while, their first two solo movies will be all we’ve got. So without further delay, here are 5 things Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 1 did better than Vol. 2 and 5 things that Vol. 2 did better.
10 Vol. 2 - Villain
As great as Vol.1 is, it’s another casualty of the MCU’s “villain problem.” Ronan the Accuser is an incredibly bland villain. He’s motivated by the desire to be a bad guy and not much else. In short, he isn’t very interesting.
Vol. 2’s villain Ego, on the other hand, has a personal connection to the hero, as all great villains do. And we can understand his motivation. He’s so self-absorbed that the rest of life in the universe disappoints him and he wants to make over the world in his own image. That’s much more interesting than Ronan.
9 Vol. 1 - Pacing
The first Guardians movie has a focused narrative starting with its opening scene, where Peter Quill’s backstory and defining flaw are established. Additionally, the movie’s central MacGuffin is introduced and all the main characters are brought together with a common goal almost immediately.
Meanwhile, Vol. 2 takes a while to get going. A lot of the first act revolves around the Guardians’ dealings with the Sovereign, and their plotline feels tacked on. For one thing, the sequel could've been a lot more streamlined without them. Slow pacing isn’t always a bad thing, but in this Guardians movie, it is.
8 Vol. 2 - Strengthening The Characters’ Relationships
While the first Guardians introduced the titular group as a team, the second one developed them into a family. The original showed us the easy chemistry shared by Rocket and Groot and introduced Peter Quill and Gamora’s “Will they, won’t they?” romance, but the second one strengthened their relationships.
The source of Gamora and Nebula’s rivalry is revealed, we see how tragic childhoods made Quill and Gamora a perfect match, Rocket learns to grow from Yondu’s mistakes, and the Guardians learn responsibility from taking care of Baby Groot. There’s a lot going on in terms of character.
7 Vol. 1 - Humor
Both Guardians movies are funny, but more of the jokes in the first one land than in the second one. Rocket trying to tell Baby Groot which button to press on the detonator is an example of a bit that lands, but there are plenty more examples of bits that don’t (here's looking at you, Taserface).
A lot of the comedic moments in Vol. 2 seem forced, too. It was like James Gunn saw that audiences responded to the humor in Vol. 1, so he crammed too much of it into Vol. 2.
6 Vol. 2 - Soundtrack
Peter Quill’s mixtapes are awesome soundtracks, but in terms of matching music to scenes, Vol. 2 narrowly beats Vol. 1. The first one has pitch-perfect moments like Quill dancing to Redbone’s Come and Get Your Love and the Guardians arriving on Knowhere set to David Bowie’s Moonage Daydream.
However, the sequel has better moments, like Rocket tricking the Ravagers set to Glen Campbell’s Southern Nights, the Guardians’ arrival on Ego’s planet set to George Harrison’s My Sweet Lord. And of course, Peter yelling “You shouldn’t have killed my mom and squished my Walkman!” while Fleetwood Mac’s The Chain plays.
5 Vol. 1 - Drax’s Character Arc
The first Guardians introduced Drax the Destroyer as a complex character. He was a badass warrior reeling from his family's deaths, driven by his desire for vengeance. In the second one, he was reduced to a laughing stock.
There were dramatic moments that touched on his tragedy, like when Mantis feels his emotions while he thinks about his daughter, but on the whole, it’s just silly moments like bragging about his “famously huge turds.” Drax is lovable in both films, but his development was more interesting and congruous in the first one.
4 Vol. 2 - Theme
The themes of Vol. 1 aren't clear. It’s about Peter Quill moving on from his mother's death and not being a selfless hero for the people closest to him, but the plot doesn’t connect to these ideas in a compelling way.
The second one, however, does a better job of connecting themes to plot. It’s a movie about fatherhood, as Quill comes to terms with his biological father being evil, his adoptive father not being as bad as he remembers, and the broader realization that raising kids under any circumstances is tough. The plot reflects this in a meaningful way.
3 Vol. 1 - Peter Quill and Gamora’s relationship
Vol. 1 did a better job of conveying Peter Quill and Gamora’s relationship. Beautiful moments like Quill introducing Gamora to music or when risked his life in the vacuum of space just to save her introduce Quill and Gamora right off the bat as possibly the most interesting and lovable couple in the MCU.
The second one has some more touching moments between the two, but it doesn’t develop beyond mentioning “some unspoken thing.” Vol. 2 was just a stepping stone between Vol. 1 and Infinity War, the movies that really developed Quill and Gamora’s relationship.
2 Vol. 2 - Final moments
Compared to Vol. 1, the final moments of Vol. 2 leave an unforgettable impression on viewers. The first one ended with the Nova Corps thanking the team for saving Xandar and sending them off into their next adventure. It leaves you excited for a sequel, but not necessarily thinking about what just happened.
Conversely, Vol. 2 ends with Yondu’s funeral. Quill reflects on who his real father was all along, the Ravagers give Yondu a proper send-off, and Rocket sheds a tear, all set to Cat Stevens’ Father and Son. It’s a much stronger ending.
1 Vol. 1 - Freshness
This one might not seem fair to Vol. 2 with it being a sequel and all, but it didn’t feel as fresh as Vol. 1. Remember when Guardians of the Galaxy first came out? It was a wildly refreshing change of pace.
Here was a movie set in the same universe of The Avengers that took us to deep space, introducing us to a talking tree and a wisecracking raccoon. By the time the sequel rolled around, it just felt like more of the same. It was still great, but it wasn't as much of an event as its predecessor.