Coming off the smashing success of Guardians of The Galaxy with it's excellent soundtrack dynamic fun characters and cosmic adventures akin to those of Star Wars and the new Star Trek films it was a tall order to come back and do another film just as fresh and fun as one that stars an 80's loving leading man,a green girl, a talking raccoon/tree duo and a big dumb muscle guy.
This film tries its best to deepen the characters that have over the past 3 years become household names. Much like Age of Ultron following Avengers, this film had a lot of hype going in and the results were a bit flat. While not nearly as average of Ultron, Vol. 2 is definitely a lesser sequel. The characterizations are undoubtedly excellent. The relationships are taken in interesting directions and everyone is seemingly paired off to explore their similarities and differences and allow them to come together as more of a team by the end of the film. We get to see Peter and his father explore their relationship. Rocket, Gamora, Nebula and especially Yondu all have their stories deepened in various ways while Groot and Drax more or less stay the same, providing comic relief most of the time, Groot being a plus all the time and Drax wore out his welcome a bit too much for me, bursting into hysterics a bit too much for my liking but his antics with Rocket proved entertaining.
The music becomes a crutch where it is less about Peter's connection to his mother and more about “Hey Quill likes 80's music, we should be playing it while we do stuff.” The music isn't even as good as the original, (also Fox on the Run was cut) that could possibly be also because of the more clunky fitting into the story. Much like Ultron serving too many storylines, Guardians is serving too many songs.
There are a few gut punches and emotional beats that are great but the overall story is one that has come up pretty frequently. Even the Gamora/Nebula storyline is very Thor/Loki. What I want more than anything is for Marvel to not have to worry about creating a film that needs a bad guy to introduce and defeat, just give me a chapter in a story and know that eventually we will have our finisher. What made Civil War work so well was that it was more a clash of ideologies and had friendships tested (They still didn't need Zemo). Vol. 2 has a great plot revolving around Peter and his father they can exploit but include an antagonist that is really only there to be bad guys and doesn't add to the story in any meaningful way. The first film had a group bounded by money, which lead to friendships and a vendetta towards a common enemy for some of the characters helping justify their inclusion. In this film its just a new bunch of bad guys to fight its in between the fighting that is interesting
The exposition Peter's father spouts on about was reminiscent of Man of Steel complete with shifting dioramas that are narrated by Peter's dad. It was clunky and not what I wanted to see. When things start to go wrong there are some good payoffs in amongst the chaos. In fact it plays the same way that so many other films do to try and add an emotional weight to the story. I guess when you are watching a comic book film it isn't to see a story we haven't seen before and it does work for the film and I did almost tear up a bit by the end that gives “We are Groot” a run for it's money.
Overall I'd say it is worth seeing. There are some entertaining moments and some great character moments, I just wish that was more the focus and we didn't have to have these bad guys that once again don't really amount to much other than to be a threat. Less toe tapping, slightly less laughs, a solid plot spoiled by dumb villains but with heaps more character to make up for it puts Vol. 2 somewhere in the good Marvel films without reaching the heights of the greats.