“If I chance to talk a little wild, forgive me; I had it from my father.” – William Shakespeare, Henry VIII
With a killer playlist, psychedelic visuals, unique humor, and an infectious sense of pure fun, James Gunn’s first entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe was just the right blast of fresh air that was lacking in their diminishing canon three years ago. A surprise hit, the original GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY and its titular ragtag crew of space miscreants charmed its way into the hearts of mass audiences, and so a sequel was beyond inevitable. Yet grasping the same energy in a follow up has never been a particular strength of the (abbreviated) “MCU”, and even Gunn’s attempts to recapture the magic fall short. The first film was far from perfect, but it was scrappy, bold, and the right amount of self-aware, and VOL. 2 proves that it was pretty much lightning in a bottle. In the second go-around, they’ve doubled down on a lot of elements that were at the core of what made its predecessor special, but an equal number have been scrapped, giving it a feeling of incompleteness and, ultimately, a lack of a real journey. It wants to have its darker moments and emotional punches, but it doesn’t truly set them up well enough for them to feel earned. That’s not to say it isn’t a good time, because there’s plenty to enjoy, and while the humor swings and occasionally misses, what actually connects is pretty hilarious. It’s a shadow of the previous film, one that reminds you of all the things you loved, whether they appear onscreen or not. The escapism is definitely entertaining and trippy, but it won’t quite live up to that first delightful trip.