UK Release Date: 28th April 2017
Runtime: 136 minutes
Director: James Gunn
Writer: James Gunn
Starring: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Karen Gillan, Kurt Russell, Michael Rooker, Pom Klementieff, Elizabeth Debicki
Synopsis: The group, fleeing a powerful alien race after a mercenary job goes horribly wrong, find themselves under the protection of Star-Lord’s mysterious father on a strange planet.
Guardians of the Galaxy arrived into cinemas in 2014 as something of a dice roll. Even the enormous backing of the Marvel machine seemed unlikely to save this weird tale of talking trees, raging raccoons and, as David Bowie would say, space oddity. The inevitable sequel reunites the oddball cast with writer-director James Gunn and, somehow, it manages to best the first movie. Even without the element of surprise, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is a joyous, endlessly entertaining take on the superhero movie that feels mercifully separate from the endless scrum of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) and his buddies are working as mercenaries, but they rile up priestess Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki) when Rocket (Bradley Cooper) steals from her. As they flee from Ayesha’s fleet, Star-Lord and Gamora (Zoe Saldana) find themselves in the care of the mysterious celestial being Ego (Kurt Russell) – who reveals he is Star-Lord’s estranged father. Meanwhile, Drax (Dave Bautista) forms a friendship with Ego’s assistant Mantis (Pom Klementieff). Away from Ego’s planet, Rocket and Baby Groot (Vin Diesel) find themselves at the mercy of Yondu (Michael Rooker) and his band of ravagers.
The first Guardians of the Galaxy film pushed the edges of the MCU to see just how weird the formula could get. This time around, Gunn has been given the freedom to escape from formula completely for a movie that does contain superhero action, but is predominantly a character piece that explores these oddball creations and deepens the relationships between them. There’s very little screen time for the group as a whole, with Gunn’s script primarily spinning them off into intriguing, smaller groups. This allows supporting performers real chance to shine – with Karen Gillan and Michael Rooker actually getting the most defined arcs.
But that’s not to say that Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 runs away from its major stars. Kurt Russell emerges with a hugely enjoyable role as Ego, Dave Bautista is funnier on his own than the entirety of most other Marvel movies and Zoe Saldana thrives in an expanded role as Gamora. Perhaps most exciting, though, is Baby Groot. The diminutive reincarnation of the first film’s breakout star was already beloved as a result of his brief cameo in the first movie, but he’s an all-out revelation here. He’s the star of an utterly joyous opening sequence and is deployed neatly throughout the film to create real comedic highlights. It would have been easy to over-use him, but he instead provides a welcome dose of comic relief and cute factor in amongst a story that features moments of shocking violence.
The film’s marketing wisely concealed the nature of its true villain throughout and it’s not revealed until more than halfway through the story. By the time Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 shows its hand in terms of its evil threat, you’ll probably have worked out what’s going on already, but the depths of the character’s dark actions are surprising and intense. Marvel’s villain problem is real, but this is a baddie who immediately joins the franchise’s upper echelons. In a film in which just about every character has dark edges, the true villain has to be pure malevolence and that’s what we get with this film.
If Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 has missteps – and it does – those are with its action sequences. The early space dogfights are fun, but lack stakes, and the climactic battle is one of the few times that Gunn allows his film to slip into Marvel formula. There are subversions thrown in and the visuals, which are reminiscent of the more psychedelic palette of Doctor Strange, are strong enough to carry the story through its more generic beats, building to a highly emotionally-charged, melancholy finale. It does outstay its welcome somewhat with five – yes, five – of the now traditional post-credits sequences, but the film itself is such good fun that you will leave with a smile on your face either way.
Pop or Poop?
Marvel has hit its biggest home run in some time with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, which improves on its predecessor in just about every way. New characters shine, old ones get added depth and the storyline is satisfying in itself, rather than relying on reams of MCU knowledge. It falls down a little with its action, but there’s so much cracking comedy and memorable music that it’s hard to care.
After lending his characters to the Russos for Infinity War, Gunn will be back for a third installment in this franchise. Frankly, it can’t come quick enough. I’m certainly still hooked on a feeling.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.