Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)
Heading into 2017, the runaway train that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe shows no signs of slowing down. This year has seen the release of Iron Fist on Netflix, with The Defenders coming soon. For this particular cinema viewing, there were trailers for Spider-Man: Homecoming and Thor: Ragnarok – and in case you’d forgotten about DC, Wonder Woman was in there too, with Gal Gadot trying to muster as much enthusiasm as possible in her trailer introduction. Even the Marvel Studios logo that opens the film has been amped up, with dramatic music and shots of its most familiar characters. So, does the latest offering – Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 – live up to expected standards?
Following the events of the first film, the Guardians of the Galaxy – Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax (Dave Bautista), Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper) and Baby Groot (Vin Diesel) – are now heroes for hire, though still very snarky and not above stealing from their customers. While fleeing with some ill-gotten gains and a prisoner – Gamora’s adopted sister, Nebula (Karen Gillan) – they end up encountering Ego (Kurt Russell), a god-like being who introduces himself as Peter’s long-lost father. Leaving Rocket and Groot to fix their damaged ship and guard Nebula, Peter, Gamora and Drax head as guests to Ego’s Planet – but while Peter grows to embrace the idea of having his father in his life, it turns out there’s a catch involved.
As with the previous one, the characters are easily the best thing about this film. With all the attention that’s been given to the adorableness of Baby Groot, I was worried that he might get all the focus like the Minions in the Despicable Me franchise – and in fact, the opening credits take place over a Baby Groot dance sequence while the other Guardians battle a monster in the background. But thankfully, Groot doesn’t take over the film: all the characters get their time to shine, with a more-or-less even amount of screentime, though I would have liked a little more of Ego’s empathic servant, Mantis (Pom Klementieff). There are some hilarious interactions: I especially liked the scenes between Rocket and Peter’s old boss/surrogate father, Yandu (Michael Rooker). It’s not all jokes, though: there are heartfelt moments too, particularly with Peter as he explores his daddy issues. But not all the characters get so much development: Drax, for instance, spends a high proportion of his screentime yelling or laughing. In fact, there’s a lot of yelling and laughing all around in this movie’s action scenes – sometimes there’s a sensory overload, which isn’t helped by the camera going all over the place.
The biggest weakness is that the story is pretty weak. Once the group splits in two, Rocket and Groot end up with some proper problems to sort out, but everything that happens with the others on Ego’s Planet feels more directionless until the end of the second act. Also, the film offers the exact same sarcastic, self-aware humour as the first movie – and while many of the jokes do work (the characters’ laughter is pretty infectious), others feel more stale. Also, given the generally comedic tone, there are a couple of revelations at the climax that are really dark and just don’t fit in the jigsaw, particularly as we switch back to tongue-in-cheek comedy for the action that follows.
By the way, the Stan Lee cameo in this movie should be particularly pleasing for the fanboys. Plus Sylvester Stallone is now part of the MCU, though he only has about 2-3 minutes of screentime and it’s one of those performances where it’s hard to understand what he’s saying. And as usual, be sure to stay through the end credits – there’s actually several additional scenes rather than the usual one or two.
I would rank Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 very slightly below the first one – most of its elements are the same, and while they’re not as fresh, it’s still enjoyable overall. Rating: 3.5/5.