James Gunn returns to direct the follow up to his hugely successful debut in the Marvel Cinematic Universe with Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2.
You’ll be pleased to know that Guardians 2 does not disappoint. Gunn does an excellent job of brining back Starlord (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax (Dave Bautista), Groot (Vin Diesel) and Rocket (Bradley Cooper), as well as successfully bringing Yondu (Michael Rooker) and Nebula (Karen Gillan) to the forefront of the film. It’s a huge roster of characters even excluding the introductions of Kurt Russel as Ego The Living Planet and Pom Klementieff as Mantis but Gunn does an incredible job of giving everyone their own moments to shine.
Visually, Guardians 2 is very pleasing. The colours and aesthetic used by Gunn create a very attractive film backed up by a predictably brilliant soundtrack. The CGI characters such as Rocket and Groot look fantastic as do most of the special effects even if the final act leans too heavily on CGI and green screen. Some of the art design towards the end feels a tad lazy and generic with the use of the all too familiar ambiguous blue light used to denote ‘power’ or ‘energy’ in pretty much every sci-fi franchise. It would’ve been nice to see something more original.
Gunn gets the blend of action, comedy and character pretty much spot on. Drax is even funnier this time around and Baby Groot is pretty adorable without being annoying or gimmicky, thankfully. Gunn cleverly pairs up characters in interesting ways to give us new dynamics and new insights into the characters we first met in 2014.
The film is surprisingly moving. Starlord’s daddy issues are explored to heartbreaking effect. Rocket and Yondu get their moments to prove that they might not be as shallow as they appeared in volume 1 with some unexpected touching moments together. Nebula and Gamora’s backstory is given new dimensions which adds a huge amount of weight to their relationship.
Guardians 2 is a really effective sequel. It doesn’t retread old ground but builds on it and moves the characters and the story forward. We get to delve deeper into each character’s motivations and backstory which really pays dividends come the final act.
The film, as we’re constantly reminded à la Fast and Furious, is about family. It builds on the idea that these misfits we met in volume 1 have formed a kind of dysfunctional family. The main focus is on Peter and his father. We learn of Peter’s heritage, which turns out to be a lot more interesting than I expected and this makes up a large chunk of the plot so I won’t delve into too much detail. What I will say is that Peter’s search for his biological father provided a surprisingly heartwarming insight into his relationship with the only father figure he ever knew, Yondu. Michael Rooker is the stand out for me in a role which I really wasn’t expecting to have as much significance as it ends up having.
Does Guardians break the MCU mould of having an uninteresting villain with ambiguous motives and a final act with too much CGI and green screen? Unfortunately, not quite. The villain is kept a mystery for most of the film which is definitely a good thing and keeping them under wraps for such a long time builds intrigue. However once we’re introduced to them, they soon become annoyingly generic. The villain was a missed opportunity. This was a chance to give us a more ambiguous villain with an understandable or even relatable motive, somebody we can empathise with. Originally, it seemed as if this is exactly what we were getting but sadly, we did not. Come the end of my second viewing I’m still not sure what the end goal was or what the motivations for their ‘evil plan’ were.
The final set piece is very reminiscent of Man of Steel with CGI destruction just for the sake of it. Bigger isn’t always better. It’s a shame because it undermines the emotional stakes that the film has built up really effectively until that point.
Overall though, Guardians 2 is a great deal of fun, full of humour and heart. A worthy successor to the surprise 2014 hit.
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