Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Review
There’s that particular phrase: the difficult second album. It’s when a band’s first outing is so great, so creative, and so well received that anything that followers can’t possibly measure up to that. It feels like a good analogy going into the sequel to the very musically minded Guardians of the Galaxy, the group of unlikely heroes having become the rock stars of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (that’s the MCU to the really cool kids). The first film, helmed as this one is by James Gunn, was a fun and irreverent tale of space shenanigans that, whilst suffering from a weak villain, had just about everyone grooving to its beat with its action, almost nonstop laughs, and likeable cast of main characters. Is Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2 another sell-out showcase spectacular? Or would it have been better if the band hadn’t gotten back together? Well the end result is somewhere a bit more in the middle, like when a band from when you were younger have a revival to do all their old songs and you really enjoy it, but you also wish that they would try something new.
And I promise I won’t do any more music metaphors.
Some time after their last galaxy saving adventure, the Guardians, led by Peter Quill AKA Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) are doing a job and intending to collect a bounty on Nebula (Karen Gillan), the insane cyborg sister of assassin Gamora (Zoe Saldana). Things go wrong thanks to the hijinks of Rocket (Bradley Cooper) and the group find themselves in trouble. They are aided by the mysterious Ego (Kurt Russell) a powerful being who is also Peter’s long lost father.
Straight away the movie starts off on a high with this great action sequence of the group fighting a rainbow plasma spewing squid thing whilst Mr Blue Sky by ELO plays. It’s hilarious, it’s fun, and it’s everything that you want out of a Guardians Galaxy movie. After this though, it’s a bit more business as usual and while in one sense it’s nice that we are just following the group on their wacky adventure, in another there isn’t any kind of escalation of stakes, that something extra which takes this a step further than what we’ve seen before. Also since this is a sequel it’s less of a contrast to the other Marvel films, so lacks that breath of fresh air quality. There is of course the question of how to raise the stakes after they already saved the galaxy in the first film, but it would have been nice to see them try.
The introduction of comic character Ego, a very fitting name, as Peter’s father is a curious one. Kurt Russell does a great job; there isn’t anyone else who could have worked this well in the role. The problem is that the plot is so thin and simple that I don’t think it carries the movie. Also the MCU quota of daddy issues has already been filled by Tony Stark. The idea of found family over blood is a great one, but there are more interesting ways to tell it than this one. The rest of the team fair so-so. Drax (Dave Bautista) is there, he’s fun, but not much else. Mantis (Pom Klementieff) is also there, and in a way that I doubt will satisfy any of her fans from her comic appearances. Gamora once again is given little to nothing to do other than fight and have a maybe romance with Peter, despite the well of potential that is her character’s backstory. At least there is more this time with her and Nebula and their relationship, and Nebula herself is great to watch; a wildcard with a psychotic edge that Karen Gillan is clearly having a ball with. Similarly Michael Rooker’s Yondu has gone from sub-antagonist/reluctant ally to one of the movie’s highlights. The interplay between him and Rocket is a lot of fun, and one sequence focussing on them is a chaotic jamboree that manages to push the 12A rated violence as far as it will go. Which to be fair isn’t far, but you have to give James Gunn points for trying. Surprisingly, Rocket does get some character expanding, dealing with being part of a group when he is not much of a team player. Baby Groot is obviously a delight, so adorable that even the bad guys can’t hurt him. Gunn has said that in this film Groot was treated more as an actual character this time around, rather than a thing the cast would forget about during filming, and it shows with a lot of great little interactions. So like much of the film there are things that are great, but there isn’t enough. This is meant to be a group movie and it would just be nice if the focus was shared a bit more rather than concentrating so much on Peter.
The jokes are rapid fire and you will almost definitely laugh all the way through the movie, but there are fewer jokes here that will really stay with you afterwards. There is a lot in the film that feels really forced where in the first movie it felt a lot more natural and had a lot more charm that left you falling in love with the setting and the people. Peter being a child of the 80s is pushed even more and doesn’t work as well when at times they lay in on too thick. Okay, so this movie opens in 1980 before Peter’s birth, and the first movie establishes him being taken into space by Yondu in 1988, which means Peter would have just been seven, even though he looked more like eleven. Who in their thirties can go on an extended rant about the tropes and ratings of a sitcom they might have seen when they were seven? Especially when they probably haven’t been exposed to sitcoms since they were seven. Unless there are Cheers-like sitcoms in space, in which case disregard this particular nitpick. The point is that at times I was just as likely to be rolling my eyes as I was chuckling. The soundtrack is fine, the songs all work well in the scenes that use them, particularly that first one as mentioned before, but it’s just that, fine, not something special.
This is an entertaining movie that for fun factor alone will hit all the right spots, but it doesn’t surpass the first one and in terms of story it just feels like its coasting a little which is frustrating.