DIR/WRI: James Gunn • PRO: Kevin Feige • DOP: Henry Braham • ED: Fred Raskin, Craig Wood • DES: Scott Chambliss • MUS: Tyler Bates • CAST: Chris Pratt, Karen Gillan, Vin Diesel
Judging by the Thor: Ragnarok trailer released last week, the Guardians effect has filtered through the Marvel Comic Universe… lifting other instalments to its self-aware, fast-talking, cool nostalgia, and bringing us comic book adaptations that are fun, colourful, and entertaining as hell. Pitched somewhere between the great character evolution of Captain America and the deadpan R-rated craziness of Deadpool, the burden was definitely on Guardians Vol. 2 to deliver, and give us a sequel worthy of the hype.
Plot first! We rejoin the Guardians (Peter Quill/Star-Lord – Chris Pratt; Gamora – Zoe Saldana; Drax – Dave Bautista; Rocket – Bradley Cooper; and Baby Groot – Vin Diesel) a few months on from where we last left them as they work a job for the Sovereign people, led by Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki), protecting powerful and lucrative batteries on their planet. A genetically perfect, (and irritatingly sanctimonious), race, they would rather risk the Guardians life than that of their engineered people.
The Guardians each do what they do – while Baby Groot adorably introduces us to Awesome Mix Vol. 2, the all-important soundtrack to our story. When the irredeemably thieving Rocket angers them, the Sovereign give chase to the Guardians, who now have Gamora’s ex-sister Nebula (Karen Gillan) in tow, as they stumble across a mysterious man, Ego (Kurt Russell), who may hold the key to Quill’s alien parentage. Travelling to an unknown planet, in the company of Ego and his empath, Mantis (Pom Klementieff), while pursued by both the Sovereign people and Quill’s old crew of Ravagers – led by murderous-father-figure Yondu (Michael Rooker) – the struggling group must face what it really is to be a family in this crazy universe. Just as the cracks begin to show in their friendships, a deadly new power threatens the entire galaxy… and nobody else has a name that’ll lend itself more perfectly to protecting it!
There are some heartfelt moments in this instalment, especially when harking back to Quill’s mother’s death – already a tough opener from the first movie – and how Quill deals with the possibility of having a father, as well as what that means for who he is as a part-human, part-alien. Meanwhile, Gamora and Nebula also try to cope with their upbringing by the cruel and sadistic Thanos, while Rocket battles his own demons as a cybernetic creation, and Drax mourns his wife and children. Aside from all these deep and meaningful emotions, Guardians Vol. 2 continues with the plan set forward in the first – to have fun, be irreverent, thread the fine line between criminality and legality, and dance, dance, dance.
Where it loses points is in marrying the deep plot bits with the entertainment – it mostly works, but it hits the brakes a little on the forward momentum, while the final battle loses itself in too much CGI splurging. However, the main setups are great fun, and the back and forth between the cast still has humour and proper zing, which makes it a joy to watch overall. The new characters bring conflict, opportunities for laughter and some necessary distractions, and the old characters evolve and deepen into their roles
Not quite reaching the all-out perfection of the original, Guardians Vol. 2 is still a brilliantly cool addition to the MCU, soundtracked at every beat with nostalgic hooky lines and riffs, and mostly delivering on the promise of the first. Since James Gunn has signed on for Vol. 3, keeping hold of the reigns where Joss Whedon let the studio take too much control, we look set for more fun times with these hilarious friends/family/misfits… and they’ll never break the chain (awesome mix reference!).
12A (See IFCO for details)
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is released 28th April 2017