Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol 2 FILM REVIEW
If you wanted ammunition to diss Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol 2, there’s plenty to choose from. The follow-up to Marvel’s superteam space opera has quip Tourette’s. It’s near relentlessly silly – even in the middle an intense action scenes it lobs in gags that’d be more at home in Wreck-It Ralph. It has a fascination with juvenile toilet humour. The ’70s music is often shoe-horned it. It regurgitates gags and fan-fave moments from the first film. It’s little more than a succession of Easter eggs.
Well, yeah. All that. But you’d have to be one of the most joyless souls alive, or a dyed-in-the-wool Batman Vs Superman apologist, to concentrate on such things. Because while this isn’t a film for geeks who like their sci-fi all grim and gritty, it’s still far more emotionally engaging, poignant, touching and downright entertaining than the overwhelming majority of genre blockbusters.
Plus it has awesome action sequences and a cute baby tree.
Is has a lot to live up to. The original Guardians may not have been the biggest box office hit from the Marvel stable but it is one of the most intensely loved. That film had the shock of the new – there had never been a comic book movie quite this bonkers and irreverent, and CG characters had never felt quite so goddamned living and breathing as Groot and Rocket.
So it’s difficult to judge if the sequel is better. It’s certainly as good, but it’s also slightly different. Not tonally, but in scope. Sure, there’s a galaxy-wide threat at the climax and there’s lots of planet hopping, but this time the storylines feel more smaller and more personal. Peter Quill reunites with his dad, who turns out to be a living planet called Ego (whose human avatar looks stunningly like Kurt Russell). Gamora and Nebula also have some sibling issues to sort out. Rocket is deliberately trying to piss everyone off and gets some psychotherapy from a very unexpected source. Yondu has the face the consequences of his decisions.
But don’t go thinking this is more soap opera than space opera. Vol 2 has some simply stunning – and wildly imaginative – action set pieces, but probably shoots itself in the foot by giving us its its most memorable battle scene as its opening volley. There’s one massive tracking shot (possibly four-to-five minutes – believe us, we were too dazzled to be checking our watches) cleverly choreographed to Electric Light Orchestra’s epic “Mr Blue Sky” based around a very special conceit that we’re not going to ruin here.
Sure, it is just a new spin on the opening to the first film, and many the moments from Vol 1 get a reworking in Vol 2. But the film never feels like a mere cover version; this is a film giving fans what they want but with a new slant, in each case. Hell, even one of the many, many end credit extra scenes is the next logical step from one of the original film’s end credit extra scenes, but it doesn’t feel like a swizz at all; it feels satisfying.
Baby Groot once again steals the show but Rocket this time feels even more of a “real” character rather than a comedy sidekick. Nebula has far more depth this time round, and this has a positive knock-on effect on Gamora. And newcomer Mantis is an amusing twist on the “tell me of this Earth thing you call love” trope, played with adorable fragility by Pom Klementieff.
If anyone is short-served it’s poor old Dave Bautista’s Drax. One of the unexpected delights of the first film, this time round he’s pretty much reduced to delivering smutty gags and laughing very loudly… a LOT. He’s still fun, but a little one note. Hopefully he’ll have more of a chance to develop in Vol 3.
Kurt Russell, meanwhile, is as great as you’d expect, although we don’t want to talk to much about why. But there are some great awkward father/son moments.
It also looks amazing; not just the FX – which deliver some of the prettiest fight scenes ever witness – but the sumptuous and quirky production designs, costumes and make-up. Body paint has never been in so much demand since ’80s Duran Duran’s pop videos. The only slightly weird design choice are some frankly disturbing giant statues created by Ego that are almost as freaky as that one of Black Canary in Arrow. Presumably this was a conscious decision by director James Gunn (perhaps they’re supposed to look like cheap action figures?), but it might be a subtle allusion too far.
And let’s not forget, Guardians Of The Galaxy produced more belly laughs than the average Hollywood comedy. Amazingly not all the best ones have been in the trailers.
Vol 2 also feels less polished and a little more punky than its predecessor; a bit messy at the edges. In other words, more James Gunn and less Marvel. This actually works in its favour; after all, irreverent quipping is hardly new in Marvel films, but this more anarchic approach truly marks Guardians out as something unique within the MCU and not just Avengers In Space.
The bottom line, then, is Guardians Vol 2 is a little creaky in places, but in no ways significant enough to detract from its overall bat’s-arse magnificence. Weird and wonderful has rarely been weirder or more wonderful.
Review by Dave Golder