Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is everything that made the first film so good, turned up to 11.
An impeccable retro soundtrack, timed to the action in the movie? Check. Baby Groot (still Vin Diesel) dancing? Check.
Wisecracks and quips from Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), literal interpretations of language used for humorous effect from Drax (Dave Bautista), snarky commentary from Rocket (Bradley Cooper), and bad-assery from Gamora (Zoe Saldana). Check, check, check, check.
It’s impossible to discuss Vol. 2 without noting that it’s not quite as fresh and irreverent as the first film – but by no means does it suffer from second film syndrome.
The film kicks off almost immediately with our anti/heroes having to escape from the genetically perfect, golden-skinned Sovereign people, who are as deadly as they are beautiful. And boy, do they not take the sarcasm of Rocket “Trash Panda” Raccoon very well. Australian actress Elizabeth Debicki (The Man from U.N.C.LE.) plays their high priestess.
But moments before certain death, the team are rescued from an entire planet’s advanced weaponry by a lone humanoid alien, who turns out to be a weaponised planet himself. Enter, the hippy-haired Ego (Kurt Russell). It’s not really a spoiler to say that this man is Star-Lord’s long lost father.
The practically-perfect-in-every-way, Type A overachievers – that’s the Sovereign people – are still after the Guardians, and somehow Yondu (Michael Rooker) and his most loyal crewmember Kraglin (Sean Gunn, that’s Kirk from Gilmore Girls) also get involved. Karen Gillan returns as Gamora’s sister Nebula, and boy, do they have some sibling rivalries to work out. Along with a larger role for Nebula, Vol. 2 sees another female character join the cast, with empath Mantis (Pom Klementieff) providing comic relief.
This expanding cast wisecracks their way through the fight sequences as the film hurtles towards its conclusionk, with Fleetwood Mac’s The Chain driving the action forward with its thumping beat. The biggest issue in the film is that with many characters and their respective subplots, it takes a while to figure out what the central thread of the story is supposed to be.
While Vol. 2 isn’t as unexpectedly good as the first installment, what it does do is ramp up the feels. And not just in the sense that this is a film that focuses on family - both blood relatives, and the family people build for themselves. While DC’s Batman has copyrighted the angst-y comic book movie, Vol. 2 reminds the viewer that almost every member of the Guardians has a truly painful past.
Drax saw his entire family brutally murdered, and with the appearance of Mantis, we get a greater insight into the depth of his ongoing suffering. Gamora’s father is the capital-b Bad Guy Thanos, and she was forced to engage her sister in combat; and each time Nebula lost, she had another body part removed and replaced by machinery to make her ‘stronger.’
Rocket is the creation of mad scientists, who caused him unimaginable pain as they brought their furry Frankenstein to life. And Quill never knew his father, watched his mother die a slow and painful death, and then was kidnapped by aliens and thrust into the life of a bounty hunter.
James Gunn directs again, and if the plot this time is slightly more predictable, he’s been let loose with the visuals. The entire universe is a swirling kaleidoscope of colours, with nebulaes painted in pinks, greens, and purples, and explosions like fireworks.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 isn’t a perfect film, but families rarely are perfect. And by the end of this installment, that’s what this group of oddballs will feel like to you.
I mean, I dare you to not get emotional when Cat Steven’s Father and Son plays.
And then make sure to stay after ‘the end’ for the (multiple) post-credit scenes.
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