Aside from Captain Marvel, the only other real shake-up in watching the MCU in timeline order is Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, the events of which take place shortly after the events of Guardians of the Galaxy. Watching the two in such close proximity to one another highlights a few things about the sequel, though.
Vol. 2 opens with a visually impressive action sequence, set to “Mr. Blue Sky” by Electric Light Orchestra – except the whole scene is framed by Baby Groot’s dancing. Groot’s infancy already felt like a fairly cheap stunt done as little more than a marketing gimmick, and the film’s opening being dominated by his dancing around, chasing after bugs, and generally getting in the way is both entertaining and irritating. However, the scene moves on to establish Vol. 2‘s sub-plot involving the Sovereign race and some stolen batteries, which then links in to Peter Quill discovering his Celestial father, Ego.
The hour that follows is generally unremarkable, with the film’s pace slowing to a crawl as its characters deliver lines that are either a) blatant exposition or b) comedy. That said, there are still flashes of what made Guardians of the Galaxy so enjoyable – the dynamic between the film’s characters is still there, and Drax and Rocket carry the film through its weakest moments with their individually excellent characterisations.
Mostly, though, Vol. 2 simply seeks to recreate the magic of its predecessor in the laziest way possible. It tries to achieve the same level of humour (which it can’t), and it tries to inject the same level of fun into its action (which it also can’t), and the whole affair comes off as a watered-down version of the preceding film.
Vol. 2‘s final few scenes are actually its only real saving grace. It’s where 90 minutes of dull exposition finally begin to pay off, and Vol. 2 actually starts actively addressing its intended themes. It’s where the film actually begins to genuinely entertain, with an emotional pay-off that just about redeems the experience.
To be fair, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 does have a lot of style. Visually, it’s remarkable, and its soundtrack is truly excellent, particularly the use of Cat Stevens’ ‘Father and Son’ in the film’s final scene. However, this style seems to have been employed to mask how hollow the film really is – while it addresses some of its characters’ deepest insecurities, it does so without any real conviction, and its use of gimmick-driven action (Yondu’s whistling arrow in particular grows incredibly tiresome after its fourth employment of the movie) does very little to elevate the film.
Guardians Vol. 2 has a lot of flash, but very little substance. It makes a successful stab at emotion in its final scenes, but other than that, it fails to do what it set out to achieve. It’s a well-presented film, but it doesn’t hold up overly well under close scrutiny, especially when watched directly after Vol. 1, which is significantly more well-rounded.
Summary: Mostly uninteresting and uninspired, most of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2‘s appeal is surface-level. While it fails to live up to the standard set by its predecessor, it does manage to deliver a decent pay-off, and somewhat rounds out its central characters.
Highlight: The final few scenes deliver the film’s entire emotional payload all at once – and they’re far better executed than the rest of the film.