Not every Marvel movie is a smash hit. Some are great, some are flops and some — many in fact — fall somewhere in the middle. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 best fits in the latter.
While the first movie was, for many, a surprising and enjoyable success, the sequel suffers from the same pitfalls many sequels fall into: a stale and rather predictable plot and a general lack of the magic that carried the original.
The movie, in short, features the return of Peter Quill, Gamora, Drax, Rocket and Groot, now in awe-inducing baby form, as the five meet Quill's long-lost father. Quill and his father begin to bond, and that's about all that can be said without spoiling the movie. However, the predictability of the plot means it does not take long for viewers to figure out who the bad guy is.
The characters, having been established in the first movie, do not have much room for growth. Yondu and in some ways Rocket undergo some crucial and believable character development, while the remaining characters end up as almost parodies of themselves. Gamora seems muted and underwritten, Nebula, Gamora's sister from the first movie, is comically overacted, and many of Drax's traits from the first movie seem entirely abandoned.
Stylistically, the movie continues its colorful atmosphere, but at various points it approaches a level of abusing its zany style.
The same goes for its comedy, which aims to capitalize on the charm of the original, but leaves many jokes falling flat or carrying on far too long. Some jokes in particular amount to nothing more than a wasted pop culture reference.
Watching the movie, the plot flows through almost every major movie trope there is. There are scenes that seem almost completely lifted from other well-known movies and leave the viewer feeling disappointed. When it's not spitting cliche dialogue or lengthy exposition at the viewer, the movie veers off into underdeveloped plot threads, many of which feel left over from an earlier version of the script.
While it's understandable that some Marvel movies just have to carry a story arc through to establish the larger cinematic universe, some of the threads would only make sense if Disney intends on making 20 different spin-offs from this franchise that already serves as a spin-off from its core Avengers-centric universe. One thread in particular featuring the return of Nebula is given a fair amount of screen time, but does not serve any real purpose aside from filling time in the main plot.
That thread, however, focusing on the relationship between the two sisters, widdles itself down into basic sibling jealously, in only one of the many ways the movie beats the viewer over the head with the family motif. Between Gamora and Nebula mending their sisterhood, Quill bonding with his father and Drax interjecting with stories about his wife and daughter, as only three of the several notable examples, the movie ultimately ends up lecturing to the viewer how it is all one big, unsubtle metaphor for family.
In the end, the movie feels like a sequel, in the sense that, without the need to establish the main characters and their motives, it exposes itself to an unoriginal and underwhelming plot riddled with cumbersome exposition and unsubtle motifs that falls short of the freshness that made the first movie a hit.