Remember when, a few years back, it seemed as Marvel’s winning streak was about to come to an end. I mean, making a film about some minor characters – a team including a tree and a talking raccoon. And yet, it was a big success – Guardians of the Galaxy was a smash hit, one of Marvel’s most individual and best films to date. The question now was, with a sequel green-lit, whether a second film could recapture the magic. Well, the same formula is in effect and there is fun to be had, but Vol. 2 is simply not as fresh or exciting.
The Guardians of the Galaxy are fleeing from an alien race called the Sovereign, when they receive help from an unexpected source – Ego, The Living Planet (Kurt Russell), an ancient being who claims to be the long-lost father of the team’s leader, Peter Quill (Chris Pratt).
A lot of the original movie’s charm is here – the irreverence that made it such a joy is fully on show, and the sequel is just as fun. Wisely, it capitalises on its two comedic highlights and amps up their time – Drax (Dave Bautista) gets loads more lines, and almost every single one will make you chuckle. His wonderful misunderstanding, and his knack for saying just the wrong thing, is funnier here now he’s a more established character (as is his friendship with Mantis (Pom Klementieff), an empath and Ego’s servant).
It’s also the case that, as predicted, Baby Groot is a star of the picture. Its relationship with Rocket is a different one to the original, and we again get a few laughs out of him (plus, it’s adorable – one character refuses to kill it because it is so cute). It’s not just the old characters, though, who bring the chuckles – Kurt Russell is great as Ego, a name that says a lot about his character, and he gets more to work with as the film goes on. (There was also a big deal about securing Sylvester Stallone – he’s there for maybe five minutes, and his character contributes very little.) That said, it overplays the jokes at times – stuffing a gag into every minute doesn’t serve the film too well.
So, where does it suffer? As usual, as in most of Marvel’s pictures, the villains are (mostly – I shan’t say everything) a let-down. We’ve a grunt called Taserface, who is there to get annoyed when people laugh about his name, and a golden warrior character who hates disrespect. She disappears for most of the film, appearing only at the other mainstay of these superhero pictures – the bloated CGI final battle. It’s hard to really take in too much, and there’s no real emotional stake because who really believes anything is going to happen? (I’ll excuse one beat, although I thought it painfully clear from the start where we were going to end.)
There’s a lot of bloat in the movie, and at times, Vol. 2 feels rather unfocused and the pacing suffers at parts. We’re also laden down a bit by the separation of the team – when the easy charisma of our five leads was a focal point of the first movie, splitting them up seems an odd call. If you were a fan of the soundtrack in the first movie (and pretty much everybody who watched it was), you may be a bit disappointed with the music this time round. The songs don’t seem to fit quite as easily as they did in the original – again, it seems an attempt to replicate that movie, but it doesn’t land.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is a good movie, but it tries to recapture lightning in a bottle and can’t quite do it. You won’t be bored watching it, you’ll chuckle and if you liked the characters, you’re in for a treat. Despite the addition of some fun new elements (I really do like Kurt Russell), it overdoes what it did last time and loses something in the process. I enjoyed it, but there are wobbles here.
Director: James Gunn
Cast: Chris Pratt (Peter Quill/Star-Lord), Zoe Saldana (Gamora), Dave Bautista (Drax), Vin Diesel (Baby Groot), Bradley Cooper (Rocket Raccoon), Michael Rooker (Yondu)
Running Time: 136 Mins