GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2
Director: James Gunn
Cast: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, Pom Klementieff, Elizabeth Debicki, Chris Sullivan, Sean Gunn, Sylvester Stallone, Kurt Russell
UK Distributor: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Genre: Action | Sci-Fi | Superhero • Year: 2017 • Country: United States • Running Time: 136 minutes • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 • Image: Colour • Language: English • Rating: 12A
Back in 2014, James Gunn catapulted the characters of Peter Quill, Gamora, Drax, Rocket and Groot into the Marvel Cinematic Universe with the critically-lauded, box office blockbuster, Guardians of the Galaxy (Vol. 1), a fearless, tongue-in-cheek take on the familiar that took the superhero movie world by storm with its euphoric visuals, knock-out soundtrack and boundless sarcasm.
Volume 2 continues in much the same vain, though with an opening crammed so full of mockery and insults that threatens to wear thin fairly swiftly. Thankfully however things soon settle into something far less forced and trying, rekindling the strongest aspects of the first film with a cleverly crafted sequence that establishes the now wide-eyed ‘Baby’ Groot as runaway star, taking centre stage as the renowned bounty hunters battle an inter-dimensional giant squid-like monster to a toe-tapping soundtrack of ELO’s Mr. Blue Sky.
Though it continues to develop many of the themes and plot strands explored in the first film, what is ultimately presented is not so much a sequel as simply another chapter in the seemingly boundaryless adventures of The Guardians, here concerning itself principally with Quill/Star-Lord’s attempts to discover the truth about his parentage.
Following a relentless drone battle with the Sovereign race, the Guardians are forced to crash-land on a mysterious nearby planet where they find themselves confronted by the mystical Ego (Kurt Russell), a bearded sage who reveals himself to be Quill’s father.
Accompanied by Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and Drax (Dave Bautista), Quill (Chris Pratt) accepts Ego’s invitation and travels to his breathtaking home planet, leaving Rocket (Bradley Cooper) and Groot (Vin Diesel) behind to repair the ship and guard their newly acquired bounty: Gamora’s estranged and violent sister Nebula (Karen Gillan).
It is here that the film splits off into two (almost standalone) storylines, with Rocket and Groot soon ending up in the hands of the mutinous Ravagers (re-introducing Michael Rooker’s now repentant Yondu back into the mix), and Quill and co. discovering that Ego, and his hallucinogenic planet – a sort of LSD inspired dreamscape – are not all they appear to be.
Accompanied by another inspired soundtrack – the Awesome Mix Vol. 2 – the film is driven by strong performances from its ensemble cast. Pratt, Saldana and Russell are expectedly sturdy, with Copper and Diesel once again offering excellent voice work.
Former WWE star Dave Bautista excels as the deadpan Drax, demonstrating some brutally hilarious repartee with Pom Klementieff’s Mantis, whilst Michael Rooker turns in a brilliant performance as the blue-skinned buccaneer Yondu; a previously supporting character now elevated to principal status as he attempts to right past wrongs.
Gunn’s epic vision is undeniably admirable, though it’s a vision that often resembles that of an overly-excitable child; one who has been given carte blanche to paint his wildest imaginings on an endless blank canvas. Reining things in on occasion would certainly tighten up the overall structure, though in doing so would expose some slight gaps in narrative the big-budget set pieces are utilised to detract from.
Gunn’s signature blend of sarcasm is there in spades, though it feels refreshingly less gimmicky than the first film, with all the establishing groundwork already done and dusted. It may not have the originality of the first instalment, but Vol. 2 is significantly more tender and heartfelt in its execution.