What the critics are saying about Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

The wait is finally over: Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2, the highly anticipated followup to writer-director James Gunn's surprise 2014 mega-hit, storms into theaters (and hopefully our hearts) May 5. Because the movie arrives a week earlier in the U.K. on April 28, the review embargo has already been lifted. Let's check out what some top film critics have to say about the Marvel Cinematic Universe's latest blockbuster.

Entertainment Weekly

Chris Nashawaty begins his mostly positive review by acknowledging that the first Guardians marked a surprisingly pleasant departure from the usual superhero movie formula, before admitting that unfortunately, Vol. 2—although often "a very good" Marvel movie—proves "the gag is starting to feel like it's getting a bit old."

Nashawaty's main issue is that there's so much going on, certain characters are bound to be relegated to the background. What fans will find most shocking, aside from the lack of interaction between the titular guardians—who are split up for much of the movie—is that Kurt Russell's much-hyped Ego barely features at all. EW's main takeaway is that "Guardians Vol. 1 was so original and unpredictable and irreverent and silly and sublime that Guardians Vol. 2 can't help but feel like a step backwards."

Variety

The joke isn't so much getting old as it's being overcooked to the point of madness, according to Variety's Owen Gleiberman, who found that Guardians Vol. 2 is just working way too hard—particularly to make us laugh. Gleiberman describes it as "a more strenuous dose of fun to achieve a lesser high."

He also points out how weird it is that Vol. 2 actually turns out to be more of an origin story than its predecessor, dealing primarily with where Chris Pratt's Peter Quill (a.k.a. Star-Lord) came from. Rather than feeling like an organic progression, "stuff happens because the movie needs stuff to keep happening." As for the blatantly sequel-setting-up ending, it seems less really is more, as Vol. 2's self-belief in its own awesomeness actually makes it feel like considerably less of a big deal.

The Hollywood Reporter

The sub-header for THR's review reads "the second time's no charm." And indeed, critic Todd McCarthy goes so far as to describe Vol. 2 as "grating," a space opera in which "the survival of the universe is treated far more glibly than its knotty superhero daddy issues."

The issue second time around, as McCarthy sees it, is that the team of misfits we loved so much has transitioned into a bickering family of sorts "and not in an amusing way." He singles out Gamora, in particular, for seemingly being "in a rotten mood" throughout. McCarthy credits the flick for staging its many space battles imaginatively, albeit in a "manically suspense-free manner." Watching it is compared to both being stuck in a pinball machine and "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." Ouch.

Uproxx

Connecting the Guardians franchise to Star Wars, Uproxx's Mike Ryan points out how similarly Vol. 2 and The Empire Strikes Back are structured, given that both separate a group of characters we grew to know and love in the previous film—a risk just as big today as it was 30 years ago.

It's a gamble that pays off for Ryan, who sees this mix-and-match element as the strongest part of Vol. 2 because it allows characters such as Drax, Yondu and newcomer Mantis more room to shine. He also points out that these two movies' existence in their own bubble is fleeting, and we should probably enjoy it while we can. As he puts it, "the good news is: We all really like these a–holes."

The Wrap

The Wrap's Alonso Duralde, on the other hand, describes Vol. 2 as "filler" that "isn't going to win you over" if you're not already down for the cause (and also you need to be really down for the cause). However, he also acknowledges that fans of the first film who wanted more of the same should be happy with this second installment.

Duralde, unlike Ryan, isn't sold on splitting the team, feeling they work better when they're all together, riffing off each other—especially in light of what he sees as a light story. "Why sacrifice story for character," he wonders, "if the characters don't get to be together?" The strength of these movies, as he sees it, is with the guardians themselves, so "If they're just vamping until Volume Three, or the inevitable Avengers crossover, at least they're doing it with some panache."

Nerdist

In direct opposition to other reviews, Nerdist's Kyle Anderson feels Vol. 2 gives everybody their moment to shine, from the bigger characters to newbies and even those on the side, describing the movie as feeling "much more like a comedy of personalities than it necessarily does a comic book sci-fi movie."

However, Anderson also sees Gunn's desire to give everyone their moment in the spotlight as a slight deterrent, arguing that "the culmination of storylines tends to veer into the realm of schmaltz, sentimentality, and blatantly cutesy heartstring-pulling"—which, er, doesn't really work for a movie like Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. These seemingly minor quibbles aside, Anderson still feels this is "one of the best sci-fi adventures you could hope to see."

Empire

Empire's Chris Hewitt acknowledges, as most others have, that Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2 was always going to have a tougher time than its predecessor because it's lost the element of surprise. However, he happily reports that "Gunn has done it again" with "a sequel that keeps the focus on the characters we fell for first time around while pumping up the volume."

Echoing the idea that the movie is at its best when it leaves the Guardians and their cohorts to just hang around and banter with each other, " it's a shame when Gunn finally makes a concession to convention and remembers that films like this typically have to have a) a plot and b) a villain." Hewitt even describes the movie as "unappealing" and "abrasive" when its many, many, many jokes falter. However, he acknowledges that "It's easy to overlook the odd off note when a mix is this awesome."

The Guardian

The idea of Vol. 2 being something of a cash grab is floated by The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw, who claims "there's a weird air of pointlessness, almost plotlessness to this sequel." He describes Vol. 2's many narrative strands as zinging and pinging "around with the same pinball-velocity as everything else in the film." It's enjoyable, but empty, even though the familial ties strain for credulity and heart. Bradshaw also notes that the movie "doesn't have the same sense of weird urgency and point that the first film had. They're still guarding, although the galaxy never seems in much danger."

Screen Daily

Tim Grierson of Screen Daily sees the decision to turn Vol. 2 into a "family affair" as a net positive, noting that "the real stakes" of the movie concern its more human moments between father and son, sister and sister, et cetera. He also argues that Vol. 2 boasts "a more dynamic visual and emotional palette" than its predecessor.

Grierson acknowledges that this is another massive Marvel spectacle movie, but where it differs is in its hugely likeable, flawed cast of characters, who aren't goody-goody Captain America types: "What's consistently appealing about the Guardians is how rarely they behave nobly outside of their actual work, often acting selfishly when not called upon to protect the universe from evil." Gunn also excels at grounding the spectacle with "genuine pathos." In a sea of Marvel mishmash, Grierson sees Vol. 2 as "impressively self-contained."

The Verge

The Verge's Bryan Bishop is less complimentary than many of his peers, describing Vol. 2 as "trying to be about family"—to its detriment. However, he says without it, the movie feels "scattershot and rambling."

Bishop furthers the complaints about the movie being Empire Strikes Back-lite and the characters not being endearing enough. Further, "the movie lacks the combination of heart and spirit that made the original such a wonderful surprise, leaving the audience uninvested and waiting for the next joke to drop." The biggest issue, as Bishop sees it, is with trying to do too much at once—being a huge Marvel movie and a self-contained space opera simultaneously. In the end, he reckons audiences will forget Vol. 2 "before they've even left the theater."