Over time I have come to realise that I like my fantasy/science-fiction in two distinct forms, either the tense grittiness of something like the Alien franchise bordering on horror, or the more fun, joke filled space romps that you get from the likes of Star Wars, Galaxy Quest and The Fifth Element. Much to my delight, Guardians Of The Galaxy satisfied my love of the latter back in 2014, and I can’t quite believe it has already been three years since its release. As the closing titles of the film promised us, Guardians Of The Galaxy has returned, would Vol. 2 be able to capture hearts the way it did the first time around?
On the whole, I’m happy to say that yes, it absolutely did. Before I get in to the minutia and try to nitpick for fairness’ sake, let me be clear that Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2 is some of the most colourful, humorous, nostalgic fun you will have in the cinema all year. The film picks up a short while after the original left us, with the newly appointed Guardians of the Galaxy, Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax (Dave Bautista), Rocket (Bradley Cooper) and the crushingly cute Baby Groot (Vin Diesel) travelling the universe and completing jobs for hire. Of course, events very quickly turn, both when Rocket steals from the civilisation who hired them and when a figure named Ego (Kurt Russell) appears claiming to be Peter’s mysterious father. The narrative plays out in a semi Return Of The Jedi type fashion, with Peter and Ego bonding over their newfound connection whilst the rest of the crew deal with various factors that come together to create a blockbuster ending with possibly world ending ramifications. In an attempt to preserve the effective formula of the first movie, it would be fair to say that the filmmaker’s ambitions to crowd please are a little more transparent this time. What did the audience love three years ago? Groot? Okay you can have much more Groot. Drax’s lack of tact and inability to understand jokes? Okay you have much more of that too. Whilst this is by no means a bad thing, as I was certainly one such viewer who lapped these elements up in the Vol. 1, the level of pandering to the audience almost feels like a greatest hits tour rather than something completely organic. That being said, I loved every second of Baby Groot’s antics, Drax’s awkwardly forward remarks and other familiar hits like the new retro soundtrack.
Most importantly, Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2 is funny, and consistently so. The humour is nowhere near the R-rated territory of Deadpool, but it is irreverent and fittingly mature at times, making the film a fast paced and cheeky ride. The self awareness and tongue-in-cheek attitude that the picture possesses is its greatest asset, and the consistent levels of humour and laugh out loud antics that occur throughout the narrative pretty much make up for the fact that the central plot between Peter and his father starts to get a tad messy. Whenever a character in sci-fi starts revealing motivations of taking over and ending the world, just ‘because’, then I mentally start to check out. Though Ego (a name so painfully on the nose), is definitely a more rounded antagonist than Vol. 1’s Ronan, there are still elements of his character that feel very cardboard cutout.
As Peter Quill, Chris Pratt is the modern day relatable space dude that we all need. Much more at home playing a loveable doofus with insane skills here than a more serious, traditional hero in Jurassic World, Pratt provides the human connection to all of the otherworldly madness taking place on screen. Bradley Cooper and Dave Bautista both give crowd pleasing turns as Rocket and Drax, the two characters who are responsible for the majority of memorable humour in the film. With this and Fast & Furious 8 raking in cash left, right and centre, Vin Diesel is set to be the box office star of the year, though how much impact he has on the appeal of the effortlessly lovable Baby Groot is up for debate! Kurt Russell as Ego gives a perfectly solid performance, providing a believable father figure for Pratt’s Peter in both look and mannerisms. With a big cast like this its always difficult to pass comment on every single actor, so I’ll leave it with saying that Zoe Saldana is good if not slightly forgettable as Gamora this time around, Karen Gillan continues to be effective in playing Nebula, one of the most annoying characters in the Marvel universe, and special praise to Michael Rooker as Yondu, arguably the unexpected MVP of the entire film thanks to his badass deadly arrow set pieces and the poignant character journey that he and Peter take together.
Overall, Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2 does exactly what it always promised to do, give audiences a hell of a good time with a colourful aesthetic, loveable characters, genuine humour and fun action set pieces. Give or take a few gripes about the details and effort of the Ego plot, the film is a perfect example of pure cinematic escapism from start to finish. It wasn’t until last Friday that I didn’t know my life wasn’t complete until I witnessed a baby tree monster wrecking dudes as Fleetwood Mac’s The Chain blared loud and proud. This franchise continues to make a Marvel fan out of me.