Director: James Gunn
Starring: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, Pom Klementieff, Kurt Russell, Elizabeth Debicki, Sylvester Stallone.
Written by: James Gunn, (based on the Marvel comics) Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning
Running Time: 136 mins
Release date: 28th April 2017
Guardians of the Galaxy was the unexpected smash of three years ago. One of the lesser known Marvel creations, this took everybody by surprised, managing to mix self-deprecating humour, a off-kilt soundtrack and with the same wonderment that you got from watching Star Wars the first time, this was a massive turn-about for the superhero franchises and managed to inject new life in the company’s ever-growing universe. Now comes the difficult second album. Does it match the original? Almost.
Star-Lord, Gamora, Drax, Rocket and Baby Groot have been sent to protect a planet from having its valuable batteries eaten by an alien. When the mission is accomplished, they fly off, only to discover that a horde of this kingdom’s ships are attacking the Guardians because Rocket has stolen the batteries for himself. With almost certain death, they are saved by a mysterious egg-shaped craft. Inside is an aging man named Ego, who turns out to be Peter Quill’s father. Yet there’s something not quite right about Ego and his magical planet.
Writer and director James Gunn set the bar so high that he was almost certain for a fall with a sequel. Guardians 1 was such a pleasant surprise, brimming with wit, characters you wouldn’t mind hanging out with and a cracking collection of cheesy songs, that everything else would pale into insignificance. Vol 2 manages to tick all the right boxes, only this time, someone forgot to tell Gunn that more isn’t necessarily best.
Let’s look on the bright side first. This is still as much fun as you can have in the cinema. The opening credit sequence, in which the Guardians are battling a giant monster while Baby Groot dances in the foreground to ELO’s Mr. Blue Sky, is possibly the most inventive opening to any film, where the camera is focusing on the tiny walking twig than the on slaughter in the background. The bickering and smart-alec comments from the team are another constant pleasure. They worked the first time round and they work again, only this time there is a lot of caring going on. They might have edges of sarcasm and pithiness but deep down these misfits have grown to really look out for each other.
Where the film does falter is the amount of time the Guardians are away from each other. As a unit, these people are hilarious. Apart, they are amusing but they don’t have the same level of banter that they do when together. The story is crammed to the hilts with subplots, from the main focus of Quill and his father to pirate Yondu coping with a mutiny, Drax falling in love and Gamora having a love/hate battle with her sister, Nebula. Family plays a vital part in the whole proceedings.
It also feels strangely too long. Guardians number 1 was a perfectly slim 2 hours. Now we have an extra 19 minutes and it may be 19 minutes too much. Some tweaking and editing, particularly the middle section, could have been done to save it. It also falls into the trap of other lesser comic book movies where the final act is a mass of explosions and spectacle that does slightly outstay its welcome. Having said that, mixed between these moments of mayhem and madness are some genuinely touching moments that do manage to surprise. Not in the same way the first film did throughout but who would have thought Cat Stevens’ Father and Son would be so poignant?
The soundtrack isn’t as strong as the first, which I rate as one of the best. There are plenty to enjoy from George Harrison’s Mt Sweet Lord to Sam Cooke to Fleetwood Mac’s The Chain but there are some that may have passed us by and apart from a hilarious moment with Glen Campbell’s Southern Nights, aren’t as well used as last time (thinking of Rupert Holmes’s Pina Colada Song).
It is still brimming with charm and plenty of neat references to things gone by. As with Footloose last time, mentions of Cheers and the Hoff (who also appears rapping during the closing credits) are nicely placed as well as another blink-and-you’ll miss him appearance from Howard The Duck. Marvel’s post credit sequences are pushed to the limits with five, yes, five different short sequences that more than likely set up Avengers: Infinity Wars and future Guardian films.
The cast all seem to be having the time of their lives and it thankfully rubs off on the audience. Kurt Russell makes for a welcome inclusion into this odd universe as Peter’s father. Dave Bautista’s Drax gets some of the best lines and it’s nice to see a lighter side to the tattooed psycho-killer, yet it is Baby Groot, still voiced and now body animated by Vin Diesel, who steals the film from everyone.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 is still a blast, still full of inventiveness and still massively entertaining. Even though the element of surprise has gone and it does feel baggy in places, it’s a perfect way to spend a couple of hours. Don’t go unless you have seen the first film otherwise, you will feel like someone coming late to the party and missing out of the party games. If you are a fan of this bunch of A-holes, then you’ll be glad to be back in their company again.