Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)
It’s time for the difficult second album, or rather, cassette. Following the frankly incredible success of Guardians of the Galaxy, director James Gunn returns to have another go around, and, whilst it’s not quite as tight as the first, he still succeeds in creating a fun, psychedelic comedy with the big heart.
Star-Lord (Pratt), Gamora (Saldana), Drax (Bautista), Rocket (Cooper) and Baby Groot (Diesel) now travel together as a unit from job to job, some of it good, some of it bad – a little of both. Whilst being pursued by the elite Sovereign race, led by Ayesha (Debicki), they come across a man/planet named Ego (Russell), who turns out to be none other than Star-Lord’s own dad.
The film starts with an ingenious sequence; as we get back to grips with the rag-tag group of jackasses, they grapple with an inter-dimensional being whilst Baby Groot dances along to Electric Light Orchestra’s Mr. Blue Sky. At once both insanely adorable and savage towards the small aliens that have angered him, it is a joyful experience to witness a tracking shot where most of the chaos happens in the background.
It’s a great opening to the film, but it struggles a little from there. Whilst an enjoyable time at the movies, re-watching it makes it evident that it’s not really about much at all – Star-Lord may find his biological father, but, with maybe Rocket being the exception, there aren’t many character arcs to be found here. At around 137 minutes, it’s not exactly breezy, but the story feels insubstantial, a small adventure in a much larger universe. Watching it feels like a quick catch-up with friends.
But, luckily, what friends they are. The cast are all on good form, easily slotting back into their characters and gelling with each other instantly; the chemistry is perhaps even better than in the first. However, it is Michael Rooker as Yondu that shines the most, providing the film with its emotional core, not to mention iconic line delivery (“I’m Mary Poppins y’all!”). A Gunn regular, this might be one of his finest performances.
Kurt Russell, also, has immense fun as Ego, the living planet. Russell has always been larger than life, but you get the sense that it feels this is something he can really sink his teeth into. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that he is the villain of the piece, and, whilst said villain may have generic intentions (the power of the universe!), it’s one’s of the few times Russell has been gifted the evil role, and he relishes it wholeheartedly.
It’s an insane amount of fun, but not without its negatives. Whilst the first film used its soundtrack to punctuate story beats throughout the film, it feels meandering here, despite being a pretty good soundtrack. In fact, only one song is used to coincide with the film’s events; Brandy (You’re A Fine Girl) by Looking Glass. It’s a shame that this strand of DNA was not transferred from the first film to the second, as it created such an impact back then.
Even though it may contain too little for a film over two hours long, it does, however, have a wonderful subplot regarding Rocket’s inability to let others in. One forgets that Bradley Cooper voices the furry little creature, but it’s a fabulous performance, and one that you can connect to on a deeper level.
It may not be as revelatory as the first, and it does meander throughout, but it still has a heart as big and as gold as any other Disney movie. Consistently funny, it is more The Winter Soldier than Thor: The Dark World in terms of second outings.