After an initial flashback on Earth, we rejoin the titular guardians of the galaxy mid-mission, three months after their initial assembling. While the assignment is a success, Peter ‘Starlord’ Quill [Pratt] is unable to control the rogue elements of his team and enrages their client, who pursues them fervently. This attack proves almost fatal until the team are saved by a single man seemingly surfing on a spaceship. Crash-landing on an uninhabited planet, the team are introduced to the man who saved them: Ego, Peter Quill’s father, played by Kurt Russell.
The fact that this is the fifteenth Marvel film in nine years it’s frankly a cinematic miracle that this franchise hasn’t outstayed its welcome. And one of the key contributory factors to that are the Guardians Of The Galaxy films. Emulating their comic origins, Marvel haven’t made the mistake of simply rehashing the same cape-origin films over and over. Instead, we now have superheroes, mythological heroes, magical heroes and cosmic heroes, all offering tonally different adventures catering to different tastes. While 2014’s Guardians Of The Galaxy was a bit of a gamble, there was always the concern that the elements that made it fresh and unique (and a welcome break from Avengers-based tales) would be watered down in following releases to allow it to easily integrate into the fast approaching inevitable all-singing all-dancing mass crossover. If anything, this sequel takes everything people enjoyed about the original and amps it up even further while still feeling genetically linked; no matter how ambitious the antics, I can still see an arrogant Thor or wise-cracking Spider-Man inserted effortlessly into the mix. As a standalone, the Guardians films exist in their own bubble of eclectic absurdity, feeling very much like a rogue production that snuck through while everyone was so devoutly focused on the dour superheroics and politics of the other instalments.. but there are some issues that need to be addressed.
At its core, Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2 is wonderfully and unabashedly vibrant, bombastic and silly; more than that, it has a big dumb beating heart at its centre. As such, you know exactly what you’re getting with this film. I mean, I doubt anyone could accurately predict the narrative in advance but an easy to follow formula became apparent very quickly: 80s references, toe-tapping soundtrack, constant bickering and back-chatting, funny dialogue, begrudging friendships, immaturity and a reluctant soppiness that sucker-punches you in your emotion factory. I’ll openly admit this isn’t for everyone. Certain audience members (and even fans of the source material) will find it too bright and giddy, some will find the constant hijinks and sophomoric humour frankly draining but I wouldn’t say any of that makes this a bad movie.
Even if the energetic, madcap escapades of the leads are exactly what you’re after in a movie, there is the underlying feeling that this film isn’t as good as its predecessor. Not worse, per se, but not nearly as fresh. Bountiful amounts of new and exciting imagery is on display throughout and the film does everything in its power to expand on what came before but in the process fails to really excel. This isn’t at all unusual in sequels and it could easily be because a great deal of Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2’s runtime is devoted to answering questions and providing closure for open-ended elements in the first film. Admittedly, this a bit of an unorthodox thing to chastise but the nature of how these films have left cliff-hangers and spooling character developments over the last decade means that almost any resolve we are given has the immense potential to be both clinically satisfying and yet surprisingly hollow. Guardians Of The Galaxy ended with so much potential for exploration and swashbuckling adventure and while we are presented an abundance of it, there is a distinct pang of obviousness. Family is the family you make not the family you have, etc. Having said that, I’ll be the first to admit this is a bit of a petty observation but it’s one that could signal an eventuality Marvel fans don’t want to face: what if the only pay-offs we get are just ok? On top of that the second act drags distinctly and while it serves decently enough, it never matches the chaotic and frenetic levels that the film’s opening or closing manages to achieve.
And yet, in a way, all of the technical failings are irrelevant. The CGI is bold and colourful, the music is appropriate and complimentary and the direction is inventive and fun but you fall in love with the characters and that fact supersedes everything. The continuation of this blunt, dysfunctional family is a joy to watch and the cross-pollination of personalities retains its charm and versatility. Pratt, Saldana and the medley of people who play Rocket are on fine form, Groot being presented as a much more innocent and naïve character lends itself to so many adorable and hilarious moments and Drax reveals himself to be funnier through his abrasiveness and outspoken, yet unmalicious, crassness. We also have superb performances from the returning cast and the introduction of some really impressive individuals. I love Kurt Russell, the man is an absolute acting powerhouse that completely commits to any film he’s in and is a complete show-stealer. Casting him as Quill’s father was a frankly wise and brilliant move. The real surprise is how much I enjoyed Pom Klementieff’s role as Mantis; I was very concerned that Mantis’ naiveté and self-deprecating personality would cause her to either fade into the background or feel like a rehash of an element already prevalent in a returning character. Thankfully that wasn’t the case and the empath is a welcome addition to the crew.
Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2 is very much an example of more of the same. It takes everything that worked in the first film and replicates it. The only way I imagine you wouldn’t enjoy this film is if you weren’t sold on the first instalment. But in all honesty, if that was the case, why would you show up to this release? For everyone else, Vol. 2 is a solid sequel free from the self-made shackles of the broader franchise and a genuinely enjoyable romp.
28th April 2017
The Scene To Look Out For:
There are plenty of standout moments throughout this entire film. The action sequences are big splashy, the comedic developments are memorable and the emotional sideswipes seemingly come out of nowhere. One genuinely simplistic scene that has a surprising payoff is Peter first harnessing his father’s power. Being a living planet, Ego is able to conjure all manner of things into existence, remarkably Peter shares this ability and forms an orb of light, which he passes to his father. This is then passed back to him. And in slow motion we watch a fatherless child literally playing catch with his dad. Thanks to the earlier setup, this development is more rewarding than it deserves to be.
To literally echo my comment above, there are plenty of standout characters throughout this entire film. From the returning characters to the new introductions, to the one-off cameos, it’s really difficult to pick one individual above the others. So instead I will pick one of each. For me, the best returning character is still Rocket Racoon. All the sass and aggression is an obvious defence mechanism but it’s a wonderfully entertaining one and makes the genetically enhanced space rodent even more endearing. Of the new additions, Kurt Russell is a great deceptive character, fatherly and welcoming but unsettling enough that you really can’t gauge his motives or agenda; very much drawing on the antihero roles he’s played in the past – albeit a significantly more matured version. And of the many cameo parts and references to the comic, nothing is as wonderful or satisfying as Stan Lee. For Marvel fans it’s a genius move that brings together every single cameo he’s had over the last seventeen years or so.
“I have famously huge turds”
In A Few Words:
“A more than capable and competent sequel that brings back everything you know and love from the first”