It’s not surprising to note when discussing Marvel that they are a dominant force with regards to superhero films. They have shown in previous years that they are capable of introducing new characters that only those familiar with their comic book origins might recognise, with the release of Ant-Man and Doctor Strange, both of which were met with positive feedback by fans and critics. As well as this, they have also shown that they know how to incorporate a wide variety of characters, offering them their own room to breathe which was seen in The Avengers and, my top film of last year Captain America: Civil War. And above all else, their films have managed to be both enrich character studies and solid popcorn entertainment, something which their counterpart DC has failed to accomplish with the films of their own cinematic universe. Such is the case with Guardians of the Galaxy, which falls under both of the categories discussed above. Back in 2014 the first film was a huge hit both financially and critically and as you could imagine, everyone was excited to see what was in store for this collective of ‘a-holes’.
Three years later and the gang is back with the charismatic Peter Quill aka Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), the cold blooded Gamora (Zoe Saldana), the oblivious Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista), foul mouthed rodent Rocket Raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper) and the pint-sized and ridiculously loveable Baby Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) all back for some more intergalactic adventures. This time they have run in to trouble with another alien race known as The Sovereigns all the while Peter is starting to uncover the truth about his own biological father Ego (Kurt Russell), a storyline which was only hinted at in the previous film. There’s old friends such as the mechanically enhanced Nebula (Karen Gillan) and the arrow-whistiling Yondu (Michael Rooker) and new friends such as the telepathic Mantis (Pom Klementieff) along with a brand new selection of old school tunes which was easily one of the best features of the previous films. So, with all of this being duly noted does it live up to the hype and is it as good as the first film?
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is not as good as the first film but that does not mean that it is bad. It is far from it. In some cases the film builds on certain aspects of the previous one. There is more world exploration taking place and it is all brought to life with some jaw-dropping CGI. This is definitely one of the best aspects of Guardians as it expands the scope of the universe and establishes certain plot-lines that will probably be uncovered in further detail in future films. Not to mention the film does an excellent job at offering characterisation to secondary characters such as Yondu and Nebula, both of whom are given a lot more to do in this film and deliver some truly exceptional performances, in particular Michael Rooker who owns the role of Yondu. All of the returning players are good too, however characters such as Gamora and Drax are occasionally pushed to the side to focus on Peter Quill’s attempts to rekindle a lost relationship with his father. The films also has, which is in my own personal opinion, one of Marvel’s best opening credit sequences.
Where the film falters is with the structure of its plot. At times, it’s a mess. The film has a tendency to shift gears from focusing on the bland group of golden beings known as The Sovereigns, led by the stoic Ayesha (Elisabeth Debicki) (who, like Ronan the Accuser in the previous film, fails to leave any impact and are very one note with regards to their performances), to focusing on the exposition of heavy scenes involving Ego and Quill, to splitting the team apart to have Rocket and Baby Groot imprisoned by the ruthless gang of space pirates known as the Ravagers. The film hops around so much that it occasionally loses focus. Also, the humour which at times is effective and leads to some laugh out loud moments, does become tedious after a while and has a tendency to be used in moments where it may not be necessary.
But like all Marvel Movies, there are some very entertainment moments ranging from some laser shoot outs, to some spaceship dogfights, to some well filmed hand to hand combat sequences all of which harken back to some earlier sci-fi classics such as Star Wars, Star Trek and times draws a great amount of similarities to Joss Whedon’s Firefly, which is funny considering that Joss Whedon was involved in directing both of The Avenger’s films. Gunn has composed some witty and well written dialogue for his characters, in particular the exchanges between Quill and Rocket. It is great to hear that James Gunn is on board for a third film because I can’t really imagine anyone else taking the directorial helm for this, well that is if Joss doesn’t proceed with his plans for a Batgirl reboot.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 marks Marvel Studies fifteenth superhero feature and also continues their streak of entertaining superhero films. It isn’t anything original and it is narratively jumbled and inconsistent with regards to its tone but when it entertains, it does it pretty damn well. When the jokes land, they hit a bullseye and aside from that there are also some emotionally heavy moments especially towards the third act. Check it out on the big screen and enjoy the sci-fi thrills. Sean Moriarty