It was a big ask for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 to try and topple its predecessor as (arguably) the reigning champion of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (and to meet my excessively high expectations). Though those particular feats might be out of its reach – even with Groots’ extending limbs – it should manage to sit pretty in most everyone’s MCU top five. And if nothing else, it’s certain to split the sides of even the grumpiest of moviegoers. If Baby Groot doesn’t melt your heart, then nothing will…you heartless wretch, you! Vol. 1 was packed with humour, this takes it to another level.
And the humour’s not the only of the Guardians trademarks expanded upon. What was already the most “eccentric” piece of the Marvel puzzle pushes its creativity and general wackiness even further. We’re talking heady imagery and bonkers visual gags aplenty, adding to an arsenal which already included a vibrant colour palette and seemingly effortless levels of cool. Not all of the stylistic choices land, but you certainly can’t knock the effort. With the laughs coming thick and fast, any other misdemeanors are quickly forgiven – it really is quite the charmer.
It’s a charm offensive that starts from the off, with teeny-tiny Groot boogying his way around a battle zone, waving happily to his compatriots. Drax, on the other hand, is the polar opposite, diving head first into battle (literally), and enjoying himself just as much as his shorter, dumber, and ridiculously cute friend at the same time. It’s this pair that capture the Guardians spirit best, when it’s irreverent, and going against the grain. Both are, however, kept mostly to the B stories, supporting rather than starring. In fairness, an entire movie of either might run a bit thin, yet a touch more of their unbridled playfulness would have been welcome in some of the more earnest parts of the central story, particularly as the frenetic opening pace calms and Kurt Russell’s Ego enters the fray.
Hot off their galaxy saving exploits in the first film, Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Groot (Vin Diesel), Drax (Dave Bautista) and Rocket (Bradley Cooper) find themselves as mischief makers for hire. The only problem being that Rocket can’t quite stop himself pilfering from his own employers. Once again hunted by powerful forces, our underdog heroes find reprieve thanks to Ego, a mysterious man who just so happens to be of great significance to Star-Lord’s past. It turns out that Star-Lord’s got some pretty serious daddy issues.
An exploration of the duo’s relationship takes up large chunks of the film’s second half, and while it’s an emotionally impactful dive into their connection, it’s the larger questions drawn about what it means to be a parent, and about Star-Lord’s relationship with his other father figure Yondu (the excellent Michael Rooker), that leave the lasting impression – no matter how loud and boisterous the resolution to Ego’s story gets (it’s about time we moved beyond the classic Marvel all-CGI final act).
Because it’s away from the glut of special effects, and in the lower key moments, that we discover the most about the Guardians and what they mean to each other. It’s through wonderfully written, witty, socially awkward conversations between Drax and series newcomer Mantis (Pom Klementieff) that we learn more about the former’s family. Through grizzled banter that Yondu and Rocket find an unlikely respect for each other. And through speaking heartfelt truths that Gamora and her estranged sister Nebula (Karen Gillan) begin to build bridges. It’s these moments which I much prefer to the sometimes overblown CGI set pieces.
No, it doesn’t have the freshness of Vol. 1, and nor does it progress the MCU greatly either. But what Vol. 2 does have though is emotion, fun cameos, easter eggs, an impressively de-aged Kurt Russell, a guaranteed laugh a minute, growth for all of the main players, some hilarious post credit scenes, and one heck of a soundtrack (obviously). And really, what more could you possibly want from the Guardians of the Frickin’ Galaxy?
Rating (out of 5):