Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2 (Cert 12A)
US (2017) Dir. James Gunn
It’s comic book sequel time as the eponymous motley crew of aliens, humans, animals and miscellaneous return to wreak havoc across the stars to the hit sounds of a 70’s and 80’s mix tape, in the hope of swelling the coffers of Marvel and Disney after the $773 million success of its 2014 predecessor.
The self professed Star Lord Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper), Drax The Destroyer (Dave Bautista) and Baby Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) rise the ire of the Gold skinned Sovereign race when Rocket stole some valuable batteries from them, having just completed a task for which the reward was the release of Gamora’s estranged half-sister Nebula (Karen Gillan).
As the Sovereign attack the Guardians’ ship, they are helped out by another ship that forces the Guardians to crash land on a nearby planet. This helping hand reveals himself as Ego (Kurt Russell) – Quill’s biological father! Along with his alien companion Mantis (Pom Klementieff), an empath, they travel to Ego’s home planet to establish the father and son bond between Ego and Quill, but Gamora doesn’t feel that all is as it seems.
Of course it isn’t but the viewer can surmise as much from the pre-credits opening in which a young version of Ego is seen wooing Quill’s mother (Laura Haddock) on earth back in 1980 (this film is set in 2014), explaining Quill’s half alien-half human biological make-up. Plot wise this is straightforward with no pretensions of being deep and meaningful, the most profound message being about cherishing the bonds of friendship and family.
But we have 136 minutes to fill out so we have to have some distractions around which to flesh out this spindly plot which is where the Sovereign come into play. Having failed to retrieve their stolen batteries from the Guardians, the Sovereign High Priestess Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki) hires Yondu Udonta (Michael Rooker), the Ravagers leader and father figure to Quill, and his crew to recapture the Guardians.
They manage to capture Rocket and Baby Groot but Yondu has second thoughts about betraying Quill so his deputy Taserface (Chris Sullivan) stages a mutiny with Nebula’s help. Needles to say the old friends Rocket and Yondu put their heads together and break free (with some help from Baby Groot in one of the film’s funnier moments), wiping out most of the crew and upsetting the Sovereign once again.
Yet the real threat is closer to home and the further Quill is enamoured by Ego’s achievements in his world building and adroitness with mystical powers, Gamora’s concerns grow stronger. She becomes increasingly suspicious of Mantis who grows closer to Drax – if only he wasn’t so thick headed to realise she was actually trying to tell him something of great import.
The pseudo-autistic “oblivious-to-irony” character trait of Drax was established in the first film so this development shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone but in this time round this is pretty much the sum of his contributions to the story. The bulldozing beast from before has been replaced by a hulking hyena, laughing at the misfortune of the others and cracking jokes of poor taste, afforded only two moments of kick ass action.
In fact, inappropriate comedy – or to be more accurate, inappropriately timed comedy – becomes the film’s leitmotif, with nary a poignant or dramatic scene allowed to pass without a wise crack to punctuate it. At the risk of sounding curmudgeonly, this is not a complaint about the humour in general, which is often very funny, but there is a time and a place for it, something writer-director James Gunn needs to be reminded of.
A similar example of misuse is the celebrated music soundtrack of classic and obscure pop hits from yesteryear. Nothing wrong with the choices, often matching and enhancing the sentiment of the mood; the issue is that they are too liberally applied, cropping up in scenes they shouldn’t. For example, the final battle deserves a stirring orchestral score – instead we get Fleetwood Mac’s The Chain. Great track but completely ill fitting here.
Most audiences won’t care about this however, and will simply soak it all up as part of the escapist experience on offer, also ignoring the overstuffed screenplay crammed with extraneous plot set ups that go nowhere and patchy character development. And who can blame them with such impressive visual distractions – a vibrant, multi-coloured, psychedelic maelstrom of bombastic CGI excess and high-octane battle scenes.
Chris Pratt steps up as the main focus of the film, holding his own against Kurt Russell as Ego, whose comfort in the gravitas role of the veteran suits him. Aside from running around a lot and getting into some nifty scrapes, Zoe Saldana still can’t make Gamora interesting, a similar struggle Karen Gillan has with Nebula despite welcome revelations about her issue with her sister.
Dave Bautista’s Drax is reduced to cracking jokes and laughing, harming his imposing nature as a destroyer, but makes a good pairing with Mantis, a delicate turn by Pom Klementieff. As before, everyone is overshadowed by CGI companions, the wisecracking Rocket and scene-stealer Baby Groot. Be sure to look out for star-studded cameos which I won’t reveal (except to tell Asian film fans Michelle Yeoh is one).
A heads up that there are FIVE post-credits scenes to hang about for, whilst a cute gag during the credits sees the text occasionally read “I Am Groot” which then changes into the correct translated information.
The first Guardians Of The Galaxy film didn’t excite me as much as it did others so my expectations coming into this sequel were moderate at best. Again, I found myself enjoying it more than I thought I might yet still wondering what I am missing that others adore about this.
Unabashedly fun, entertaining and visually spectacular but overlong with a needlessly bloated script, Vol II will keep the fans happy at least.
Rating – ***
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