Back in 2014, director James Gunn - and the MCU - took a risk and introduced the world to the Guardians of the Galaxy. 3 years later and the hugely anticipated Vol. 2 is ready to kick off the Summer movie season with a bang.

Set in the depths of space, with characters such as a talking racoon and a tree that can only ever say three words, and the first Guardians of the Galaxy film came as somewhat of a "risk" for Marvel. However, the film proved to be a monumental hit commercially and critically (it's arguably one of the best Marvel films ever, and is certainly one of yours truly's favourite MCU pictures) and, today, the likes of Groot, Rocket Racoon, Star-Lord, Gamora and Drax are household superhero names. To no one's surprise, a sequel was announced. 3 years later, and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 - hotly anticipated by many - is finally here and, it's safe to say, these a-holes are back and better than ever. James Gunn has created yet another visually arresting, hilarious and dizzyingly wonderful adventure and another top tier comic-book film that certainly matches, if never quite surpasses, its predecessor.

Vol. 2 opens on Earth, introducing us to Kurt Russell's Ego and establishing that he is Peter (Chris Pratt)'s father. Jump ahead 34 years and we are reunited with our titular team as they undergo another crazy mission of sorts - Star-Lord and Gamora (Zoe Saldana) are still at their bickering; Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) is up to his usual tricks; Drax (Dave Bautista) is as badass and oblivious as ever, and Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) is as lovable and charming as before too - if not more so now that he is in Baby form after his brave sacrifice in the last film. After things go awry and the Guardians find an entire Sovereign fleet on their tails, Ego - alongside his caretaker of sorts, Mantis (Pom Klementieff) - comes to the rescue. From there, we get a family reunion of Peter and his father, and also Gamora and her sister Nebula (Karen Gillan repping Scotland like a boss) - who also comes back into the picture - whilst Rocket and Groot find themselves in the assistance of Yondu (Michael Rooker). And, of course, things don't go according to plan and our Guardians, once again, find themselves having to save the Galaxy.
What made the first Guardians so special was its humour and unique style, as well as the brilliant dynamic between the team. Where Vol. 2 excels is in upping the ante and delivering more of what we love; the humour, the heart and the characters, whilst adding in enough new flavour to keep things fresh. Expectedly, the dynamic between our heroes is as rich and enjoyable to watch as before; this cast have some genuinely palpable chemistry on-screen and they pop as a team - watching them work together and interact with one another and grow as a team is a genuine delight. However, James Gunn also expands the team this time around too, with the introduction of Mantis and Nebula and Yondu into our core Guardians roster and it works so seamlessly; Nebula and Yondu were - arguably - two of the weaker characters last time, but Gunn utilises them so superbly as a part of the team and expands on both of their characters so terrifically in Vol. 2. Whilst it can be said that Nebula stills feel a little underutilised, her sisterly story with Gamora brings a lot of emotion and heart to the proceedings this time around. However, Yondu is one of the best characters in this film. He really steals the show, proving he's more than just the MacGuffin he was in the first film; we get to see a wittier, whilst also more vulnerable Yondu, showing us that he has just as much emotion and heart to him as he does badassery and whistling skills.

Gunn just understands these heroes and this world and his writing clearly shows this; after all, only he is able to take sidelined characters like Nebula and Yondu and lesser-known ones like Mantis and make the audience invest in their stories and care for them. Of course, the original lineup of our eponymous team are all superb too; Gunn builds on them and their dynamic further and it's tremendously fun to watch. We get to see a real vulnerability and nuance to them all emerging this time around. Whilst it's perhaps too early to say at this time just how this film ranks up alongside its predecessor, there are certainly many aspects in which Vol. 2 is unarguably superior to Vol. 1. Whilst the characters feel richer and more grounded, this sequel is also a more emotionally riveting affair. Family plays a pivotal role the story but, unlike say the Fast and Furious films, Vol. 2 really explores this with a real sense of maturity and levity and emotion. As a friend of mine described the film, it feels kind of like this is "therapy sessions of the galaxy" at times. And because of how much we find ourselves caring for these characters, the emotion hits with quite the gut-punch and is surprisingly quite moving.

Vol. 2 is also quite a bit funnier than its predecessing entry too. The first film, of course, was popular for its sharp humour and quick wits and Vol. 2 is even sharper and wittier. From the opening credits sequence with a dancing Baby Groot right through to the end credits sequence, this film is hilarious. Genuinely gut-bustingly hilarious. Drax easily takes the belly share of the laughs, with Dave Bautista's delivery of the dialogue so perfectly capturing the character's blissful ignorance and lack of care/emotion. The cast all bring their A-game. Bautista gives one of a handful of great performances; it's also superb seeing both Kurt Russell and Sylvester Stallone in an MCU picture too! Speaking of which, typical of MCU tradition, Vol. 2 comes complete with some truly epic and entertaining action spectacle and some astounding visuals. Gunn's unique style and flair really shine, with a film that is neon-soaked and gushing with visual delight - there are many shots that will just have you in awe. Perhaps where the film falters is in its plot; similarly to the original Guardians, Vol. 2 can't help but feel a little too convoluted and the handling of all the many subplots - even the main storyline - can feel a little all over the place and rushed.
However, in the end, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is a triumph. Sure enough, the premise is a little askew and overstuffed but it cannot take away from the fact that Vol. 2 is wholly immersive and crowd-pleasing. James Gunn is two for two, delivering another delightful, rip-roaring adventure. This is a film that pops and has a real punch to it. It's downright hilarious and epic, whilst also equally as action-packed and badass, but also brings quite the emotion. If Guardians of the Galaxy is one of Marvel's best films yet, then you can be damn well sure that Volume 2 is also up there alongside it. It's a film for Marvel fans and casual moviegoers alike; to put it into perspective for you, one of my friends that I went to see this film with is not an MCU fan in the slightest yet she adored Vol. 2 loads and then some. Oh, and don't even get me started on Awesome Mix Volume 2. Of course, it's amazing. The use of music in this is just so seamless and pivotal to the proceedings themselves, bleeding together with the story to help to convey the emotion and direct the atmosphere. And it works. I will leave you on this note; if James Gunn is coming back for Vol. 3, it has the chance of bein one of the best comic-book trilogies out there. He is a genius and a true visionary with this franchise. I cannot wait for more.

Darker, funnier, and more emotionally nuanced, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is a truly dizzying and astounding delight.

About the Author

Awais Irfan
Founder of Oasis Awais, and avid lover of life, Awais Irfan's love of writing and film is unequivocal. Ever since he was a little kid, he has loved the cinematic experience; so much so, he is studying Film Production in Glasgow and hopes to be the next "big thing" in directing.

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