Watched this when it was released but I have been putting the review off.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
James Gunn (2017)
When you did not like the original movie, hearing that the sequel is more of the same is not the most enticing thought. Predictably enough, the things I did not like in Guardians first of the name bothered me again in Vol. 2. Thankfully, the latter is a better movie, so the things I had enjoyed I was able this time to enjoy more, and some flaws have been corrected.
A lot of my qualms with the older brother involved using the word "nonsense" a lot. The universe make no sense: no society operates like Xandar and how does a regular cop have access to his planet's highest authority? The characters could virtually be reduced to one characteristic each (badass green woman, doesn't understand sarcasm, is a tree) and had the thinnest inklings of personalities. The plot developments flirted with the absurd like they had two weeks to repopulate the planet.
In many ways Vol. 2 should have been the first movie. It was the first time I felt there was something real beneath the characters. It goes much deeper into their relationships and explores backstory. Gamora still hasn't earned that « most dangerous woman in the galaxy » moniker but she is far closer to it than she used to be. Nebula, a formerly atrocious « grumpy who hates everything » villain cliché, finally gets a personality and we come to understand why she became this way and what her relationship with her sister is. Yondu behaves like someone who once had to care for a child instead of being s dismissable tertiary afterthought. Unfortunately all these arcs are made much less powerful than they should be because, after being drastically mistreated in the first movie, who cares about these anymore, really?
The science-fiction part of the movie, however, continues to be incomprehensibly nonsensical. It is annoying enough that Gunn cannot come up with better ideas for new species than giving humans a new coat of paint, or sometimes horns or such, but the video-game based military software belongs on Galaxy Quest-like space comedies, not an MCU movie. And therein lies the fundamental problem of the Guardians of the Galaxy duology.
James Gunn refuses to be a team player and inscribe his movies in the MCU. If not for the tenuous plot points of the first one, there would be nothing to connect the two franchises. His cosmos in no way fits with what was described in Thor, which came earlier. He reduces Thanos instead of building upon him and introducing elements that could be later exploited, etc. Primarily though, the issue is one of tone. Gunn makes movies that care little for logic in a franchise that is held by its own brand of realism.
That matters because for better or worse Marvel chose to include these movies in its franchise, so every time they stray away from the established rules of the universe, they weaken its fabric a little more. The MCU is not a collection of individual works but a team effort where everyone tries to coordinate their scripts to produce a whole that is bigger than the sum of its parts. The Guardians movies are better enjoyed when you forget they're part of the MCU, which is the surest way to know they're doing it wrong. The same could be same about other Marvel movies, and one might ask what was Stark was doing while SHIELD was getting its ass kicked in Winter Soldier, but those are flaws within those movies, not jurisprudence on acceptable practices.
Watching Guardians 2 was like turning on a version of The Two Towers that becomes a Pythonian comedy by the middle, and then plays the battle for Elm's Deep as a social mores drama. You could make those movies, but inside the Jackson trilogy it would jar, and lessen the whole thing.
It is a pity because this could have been such a good movie. It is so funny, and not in the usual Marvel smartass way. Its comedy brand is probably the most original in the franchise and in the second movie the characters truly become likeable and enjoyable instead of bipedal gimmicks. The soundtrack is pretty great and off the tracks for a space battle movie and the cast does good work, even though I still think Zoe Saldana looks like a starving twig compared to the character she is supposed to be playing.
The clearest way to know this is a Marvel movie though, is to see how tragically it spoils its villain and the wastes the talent playing it. I don't know how you take a literal god and do nothing more interesting with him than trying to take over the universe because narcissism. His motivations are simplistic and his plan uninteresting. I suppose you're already shooting yourself in the foot when you name your character Ego, but surely there was a way to say something about narcissism between all out shooting scenes? His powers are also pretty boring for someone virtually omnipotent.