Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2: Diminishing returns

Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios/Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

7 Taser Faces out of 10

With the surprising and widespread acclaim that the original “Guardians of the Galaxy” received, its sequel has a lot of pressure on it. So does “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” stand up to the original? The simple answer is, despite being hilarious and having some awesome looking action sequences, no. Unfortunately, the film has a fundamental issue that really holds back what is an otherwise extremely enjoyable experience.

All the things that made the original Guardians great are done on a bigger scale in the sequel. The action sequences quickly and often become huge spectacles, but they manage to hold on to the flavor of the originals, with plenty of jokes and classic pop music mixed in with the eye candy action. On the topic of jokes, they’ll probably be the most divisive portion of the film. Vol. 2 goes a lot more heavy on the humor that made the original such a stand out. It works for me, but I’m not a hard person to make laugh. Jokes are such a large part of the film that if any significant portion of them don’t land for someone it could ruin the experience. The thing I most enjoyed seeing return from the original Guardians is actually the weird Sci-Fi world it’s set in. Drawing on decades old comic books, the film possess a very campy and unique flavor of science fiction. In the original Guardians this was a little more subdued, but with its success Vol. 2 is more than willing to go all in on the weirdness. Consequently the thing I most missed when the film ended was actually the weird universe it had created.

Now onto the bad. “Guardian of the Galaxy Vol. 2” doesn’t work for one major reason: its ensemble cast becomes a weakness instead of a strength. The story of the film focuses on one of its characters and that inevitably leaves the other characters of the cast floundering around. There isn’t really much for a lot of them to do during the film, and it starts to become noticeable. There’s an entire jailbreak sequence in the middle of the film that, although cool, doesn’t serve the main narrative whatsoever. Really the entire sequence is the film going out of its way to make room for character progression outside of the character it focused on. But stuff like that shouldn’t be happening in an ensemble film. The strength of the original film was the cast interacting together and growing together. But instead of taking advantage of its ensemble cast, Guardians ends up having to awkwardly try to fit them all into a film that’s really only focused on one of them. “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” doesn’t do a horrible job of it, but inevitably characters end up not having much to do and the film suffers to make room for those that do have stuff to do.

Despite the failures of its ensemble cast, “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” is still a lot of fun. Most of the stuff that made the original great returns, and much of it is done on a larger scale. Ultimately it’s still an enjoyable film if not a great one.