I sometimes think about the day I first heard about Guardians of the Galaxy all the way back in the ancient times known as 2013. In fact, if I remember correctly, my exactly line was:
“A walking tree and talking raccoon are the main characters? What the hell is this film? Lord of the Nania?”
So while my original impressions were not of the favourable kind, I’ve never been so glad to be proved wrong as Guardians of the Galaxy was easily one of my favourite films of 2014.
Like the multitudes who helped the original film storm its way to a box office of nearly $800 million worldwide; I’ve become a firm fan of the franchise; with the sequel (GOTG2) making my list for most anticipated films of 2017. But can writer-director James Gunn successfully overcome the dreaded Second Album Syndrome?
Four months after the events of the first film, the Guardians of the Galaxy find themselves on the planet Sovereign, hired by their leader Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki) to protect some valuable batteries from a hungry space monster.
Though successful, Rocket (Sean Gunn/Bradley Cooper) takes this chance to steal some of the batteries, incurring the wrath of Ayesha and her people.
Now forced on the run, the Guardians must seek refuge, but in doing so come across a powerful individual: Ego (Kurt Russell); an ancient and mysterious being who happens to be Starlord’s father.
If it was possible to distill all the themes and plot-lines of this film into one word, it would be this:
So though he may have taken a leaf out of the Fast and Furious approach to storytelling, James Gunn nonetheless crafts a movie that really digs deep into the horrors and emotions that our characters have experienced over the course of their lives.
The upheaval Starlord (Chris Pratt) must weather when realising he is not alone in the universe; the pain Drax (Dave Bautista) must endure when reminiscing of his wife and daughter; and the never-ending sibling jealously between Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and Nebula (Karen Gillan) are just a few examples of how intimate the character development can sometimes get.
Though I may be giving the impression that GOTG2 approaches Empire Strikes Back levels of sequel darkness, nothing could be further from the truth. Bouncing around a variety of colourful locales, GOTG2 has more hilarity stuffed into it than a 2017 White House Press Briefing.
If anything, there’s a sense that that this film has too many jokes throughout its 130 minute running time. While this might sound slightly oxymoronic, like a bad blowjob or a good Transformers movie; there are nonetheless several moments of heightened emotion that are simply tossed aside in the pursuit of a farcical payoff.
But standing out above all else is hands down Baby Groot (Vin Diesel… Though God only knows why). Easily the star of GOTG2, I might as well just have pre-recorded my “Awwwwww’s” just to save time. And if you have kids, I suggest you get ready to dig deep for the endless requests for toys.
Regardless of the good, it’s hard to get away from the fact that much of GOTG2 is merely a repetition dialled up to eleven. 80s Flashback? Check. A selection of 70s and 80s pop hits? Check. The villain hunts for an all powerful energy force? Check. Disparate characters come together to stage a prison break? Check.
Not to mention there are a few baffling plot moments. While a number can be put down to a desire for comedy, others are clearly for plot convenience. One good example being a character shooting the living shit out of someone, and yet literally ten seconds later decides to save them. What changes in those ten seconds, I have no idea.
In addition, part of the joy of the original GOTG was the interplay between all of the Guardian members. But here they are split apart for large chunks of the film. While not devastating, structurally it does feel like an odd choice. After all, what’s the point of an ensemble film if the characters don’t get to be together?
While nowhere near as original or fresh as back in 2014, GOTG2 is still a rollicking fun ride with lovable characters; as well as another solidly entertaining entry into the Marvel Cinematic Universe.