'Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2' Review Round-Up: An Absolute Blast But Not As Good As The First

Next week will bring Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 to theaters. The advanced test screening scores were more than promising (they received the highest audience scores of any Marvel Studios film), and the brief reactions from the first press screenings had plenty of positive things to say. Now we have a Guardians of the Galaxy 2 review round-up that gives us a little more insight into what works in James Gunn's cosmic comic book sequel and what doesn't. In general, it sounds like the movie is still wholly entertaining, but it's not quite as good as the franchise starter that came before it.

Check out the excerpts in our Guardians of the Galaxy 2 review round-up below.

Haleigh Foutch over at Collider says director James Gunn mostly succeeds in crafting a worthy sequel:

With Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Gunn attempts to recapture that strange magic while fulfilling sequel expectations for more action and bigger world-building. By and large, he succeeds. Vol. 2 is uproariously funny (it will no doubt be one of the most vocal theatrical audiences you'll experience this year), possessing the same wit and wonder of the first film with a doubled down intent to explore what makes his heroes tick. But for all its strengths, Vol. 2 can never quite clear the impossibly high bar set by the first film.

Peter Travers at Rolling Stone echoes the same sentiments:

Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 can't match the sneak-attack surprise of its predecessor. You can only do that once. The good news, however, is that the followup, while taking on some CGI bloat and sequel slickness, hasn't lost its love for inspired lunacy. Hanging with Quill and his mercenary space misfits is still everything you'd want in a wild summer ride.

Terri Schwartz over at IGN sings the sequel's praises but recognizes its faults:

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is a fun go-around with characters we love to spend time with, but the second film is far denser and has a few more pacing and story problems than the first. Still, it's a very good movie with one of the most emotionally impactful endings of any Marvel Cinematic Universe story yet. Vol. 2 does a great job developing its characters and growing them over the course of the story, and does its best to address frequent criticisms of MCU movies, including throwaway villains and a lack of true consequences.

Owen Gleiberman at Variety thinks James Gunn is trying a little too hard, even though he mostly comes through:

Shot for shot, line and line, it's an extravagant and witty follow-up, made with the same friendly virtuosic dazzle. Yet this time you can sense just how hard the series' wizard of a director, James Gunn (now taking off from a script he wrote solo), is working to entertain you. Maybe a little too hard. "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2" is an adventure worth taking, and the number of moviegoers around the planet who will want to take it should prove awe-inspiring. But it doesn't so much deepen the first "Guardians" as offer a more strenuous dose of fun to achieve a lesser high.

Matt Singer at ScreenCrush cleverly recalls the last line of the first movie in reviewing the second:

In the final scene of Guardians of the Galaxy, Chris Pratt's Peter Quill (aka Star-Lord) asked Zoe Saldana's Gamora what they should do next. "Something good? Something bad?" he wonders, before settling on "a bit of both."

Those turned out to be prophetic words. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is a bit of both — albeit more good than bad when all is said and done. Here is a movie that will surely please fans of the original, just as surely as it won't please them quite as much as the original did.

Alonso Duralde at The Wrap thinks the movie is just a little too by the numbers for Marvel, but will work for fans:

As the Marvel Cinematic Universe continues to expand, it becomes clearer that there are two kinds of films in the series: those that introduce or embellish characters and include events that have ongoing consequences within this on-screen world, and those that merely act as a bridge from one big story point to another, allowing audiences to spend time with beloved characters and to watch some mammoth, special-effects-heavy fight sequences that ultimately don't add up to much.

The first "Guardians of the Galaxy" falls firmly into the former category, while "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2" fits into the latter. And if you're a fan of Star-Lord, Gamora, Drax, Rocket and Groot from the first movie, then what "Vol. 2" offers will be enough to keep you entertained with a mix of cranky banter, anti-heroic heroics and some deep dives into the Super Hits of the '70s.

Guardians of the Galaxy 2

Mike Ryan at Uproxx was more happy to spend time with these a-holes again:

The thing that people will ask is, "Is it better than the first movie?" And, right now, I like both about the same. These movies work because of their tone – so much that, honestly, it took me some time to get used to it in the first movie. And I like that Vol. 2 doesn't just send the team out on just another mission against just another bad guy.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 exists in its own little bubble and this movie is better off for it. Yes, this will all change soon when the next Avengers movie happens, but for now you just get these assholes. And the good news is: We all really like these assholes.

Our old pal Germain Lussier at io9 says the sequel can't quite shake the shadow of the first movie:

The biggest problem with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie. Vol. 1, if you will, was such a huge, surprise hit that most of the massive audiences who will flock to see Vol. 2 will all want to relive watching the first film. They'll get their wish, sometimes, but other times Vol. 2 is trying something different, by looking deeper into its heroes and their relationships. But one thing holds true for both movies: They're both still fun as hell.

there's nothing I specifically dislike about it, and I legitimately love a lot of it. But the shadow of that first movie just looms so largely. You can tell Gunn wanted to do something different with the sequel, defy some expectations. He succeeded—Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is a deeper, more surprising, emotional and layered movie than Vol. 1. But then there are those times it so perfectly captures the energy and excitement of the first movie, so whenever the film isn't basically mirroring its predecessor, you can't help but want more of what made you fall in love with the Guardians in the first place.

Eric Kohn at IndieWire continues the trend of enjoying the hell out of the movie, even though it doesn't quite achieve greatness:

If you've seen "Guardians of the Galaxy," you already know a lot about "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2" — a lively comedic space opera filled with banter between humans and imaginative aliens, astonishing visual effects, and the most idiosyncratic set of characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. (As a bonus, no distracting Iron Man cameos.) However, if you've seen "Guardians of the Galaxy," you've also encountered a better version of this experience.

Still, Gunn doesn't fall short of the potential; he excels at turning cheesy, technologically overwrought material into next-level spectacle. There's so much to enjoy about the "Guardians" that one can easily relax into its formula. It's often a thrill to simply roll with the lively classic rock soundtrack, smarmy banter, slapstick battle scenes, and a wooden alien named Groot, now more adorable than ever.

Kyle Anderson at Nerdist thinks the movie really settles into its unique groove in the MCU:

In a lot of ways, Guardians Vol. 2 is a smaller film than both the first film and the previous grip of Marvel movies. There are still the requisite CGI space battles and monster fights and universe-jeopardizing peril, but even more than the first time around, Gunn does all this directly as a result and reflection of his characters. It feels much more like a comedy of personalities than it necessarily does a comic book sci-fi movie, though it deftly proves what the cosmic side of the MCU ought to always be. There's clearly abundant love from the writer-director for the team, and even for the new characters and returning side characters. Each of them matters; they all get their moment or three to shine.

Brian Truitt at USA Today thinks the sequel missing some of what made the first one great is what helps it stand out a bit:

It's missing some of the ragtag underdog charm of 2014's instaclassic Guardians that made it one of the best Marvel efforts ever. Yet Vol. 2 becomes in its own way a more confident and well-rounded movie by experimenting with character relationships, familial rivalry and its own successful template.

Going against the grain a bit, Dave Schilling's review at Birth.Movies.Death almost cautions against comparing the movie to the first, as inevitable as that may be:

Guardians of the Galaxy 2 takes great care to remind its audience that idealizing the past can be a dangerous thing, even if it's great fun. Both of these films are a curious melding of the modern, ironic vibe that made Marvel the biggest thing in cinema with a wistful remembrance of the very childhood that forged our collective love for this form of storytelling. They are, in a small way, an attempt to reconcile who we are with what we were and where we thought we'd be by now. In our own way, we're all a bunch of weirdoes on a spaceship with no direction home, just trying our best to get by.

kurt russell guardians of the galaxy interview

Chris Nashawaty at Entertainment Weekly takes the good with the step down from the original:

In Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, the gag is starting to feel like it's getting a bit old. It's still a good Marvel movie (at times, a very good one), but it's a come down from the dizzying highs of the first installment. The laughs are still there, but they're less involuntary.

Not everyone is quite as praiseworthy though, as Bryan Bishop at The Verge writes:

Multiple storylines interweave in a way that may have looked Empire Strikes Back-sharp in an outline, but in practice, it's painfully awkward. A major issue is that none of the characters are particularly endearing this time around. Gamora and Star-Lord's slow-burn chemistry is still there, but it's sadly dialed back to make room for Gamora's relationship with her sister — and Gillan once again delivers the weakest performance in the ensemble. Yondu's storyline fares far better, with Rooker adding some unexpected depth to the mercenary as he struggles to redeem himself for past misdeeds, but there's only so much the ancillary players can do when the heart of the movie is so painfully, soul-crushingly inert.

Thankfully, Vol. 2 does come together in the end with a powerful emotional payoff, but that's only it becomes a computer-generated action-fest with the fate of the universe hanging in the balance again. It's the same kind of exhausting stakes-raising that nearly all Marvel movies rely on at this point, practically pummeling the audience into being wowed.

Scott Mendelson at Forbes wasn't as impressed either:

The Marvel Cinematic Universe seems to have a middle child syndrome. As is the case with Thor: The Dark WorldIron Man 2 and Avengers: Age of Ultron, the second Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is stuck with no major chess pieces to move into place. The "monster of the week" installment rambles along with very little plot, hoping that a fun time spent in good company, plus special effects razzle-dazzle, will distract from the lack of storytelling. There is enough to appreciate, especially in the comedy and the arcs, to merit a viewing. But there is near-fatal push-pull between an intimate character story and the requisite big-budget action setpieces.

Todd McCarthy at The Hollywood Reporter also didn't care for the film:

When a disarmingly wacky and amusing B-team of Marvel characters parachuted in three summers ago and made off with a worldwide haul of $771 million, the fifth biggest of any Marvel production, Guardians of the Galaxy resembled a makeshift expansion sports franchise that somehow played above its own level all year long and snuck into the World Series. But the second season brings this team back to reality, if not to planet Earth, and while the stadiums will remain packed, the results on the field are not nearly so pretty for this manic and sometimes grating continuation of a scattershot narrative, in which the survival of the universe is treated far more glibly than its knotty superhero daddy issues.

The attitude toward all the violence and mayhem is mostly good-humored, casual and tossed off, which provokes a few good laughs and chuckles, and writer-director Gunn gets away with a lot of lame stuff simply by moving on quickly to the next gag or explosion. As before, his bluffly cynical, good-times attitude supplies a devil-may-care feel to the proceedings that's quite appealing to audiences. But Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 plays like a second ride on a roller coaster that was a real kick the first time around but feels very been-there/done-that now.


The overwhelming majority of reviews lament that Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 isn't quite as good as the first movie, but it sounds like that in addition to feeling familiar, it takes some chances with how it handles its characters and a big shift in the tone of the movie. Even the reviews that found some shortcomings still said the movie was extremely fun and will be satisfying for fans. So hopefully when the movie arrives next week, everyone who already has tickets for the first showing will leave the theater with a smile on their face, at least after they've seen all five of the credits sequences.