Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2 (2017)
Directed by: James Gunn
Written by: James Gunn
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Chris Pratt, Dave Bautista, Karen Gillan, Kurt Russell, Pom Klementieff, Vin Diesel, Zoe Saldana
Guardians of the Galaxy surprised many with its charm, sass, space fights and soundtrack. As it was one of Marvel’s lesser known comics, it was a gamble that paid off in one of 2014’s biggest blockbusters. Unfortunately lightning doesn’t strike twice, and Vol. 2 feels like a poor imitation of its predecessor. Now a seemingly established group of galactic heroes for hire, the Guardians appear to have made a name for themselves, and have been hired by the Sovereign, a species of highly intelligent beings, that are beyond human needs and customs. After inadvertently double crossing them, the the group are pursued through space, during a fun set piece that eventually leads them to cross paths with Peter/Star Lord’s (Chris Pratt) estranged father, Ego (played with smooth ease by a chilled Kurt Russell). It’s from this point the film takes a somewhat pedestrian turn, as the rag tag bunch of misfits seem to set on a personal journey of self discovery. This all coincides with the return of Yondu and his band of Ravagers, who just so happen to be calling in to question his leadership skills. We’re also introduced to new character Mantis (Pom Klementieff). A seemingly unnecessary character, in terms of driving the plot, however she does get some fun moments and unfortunately becomes the butt of a cruel joke.
There are jokes aplenty throughout the film, however this is not necessarily a good thing. Perhaps the most disappointing thing with this sequel is that it tries too hard to do what the original did so easily – be funny. From the outset, it felt like they were throwing mud and seeing what sticks, in terms of the smart quips between the team. Nothing seemed to flow naturally, and the rally of throwaway insults between each character lacked the chemistry that made the first film so enjoyable. Even Rocket (Bradley Cooper) felt like a bum note this time around, with his only saving grace being the blooming relationship between him and Michael Rooker’s scene stealing Yondu. In fact this seemed to be the underlying theme, with each character having their own subplot about developing relationships with their paired up counterpart, be it Nebula (Karen Gillan) or Gamora (Zoe Saldana), or Peter and his father and Drax and his wit.
Paternal figures are another prevalent theme, and things seem to get a bit Fast and Furious too, with the term ‘family’ being thrown in the mix a few times, like Dom Toretto was about to walk through the door. Despite Drax being one of the funnier characters this time around, he seems to be yelling at literally everything. Dave Bautista does a great job, yet the writing is wafer thin, and save for one deep moment halfway through, he serves as nothing more than a gobshite just taking the piss out of someone every time he’s on screen. It’s as if they didn’t really know what to do with him, but rather than side-line him, just bloat out the jokes. There’s a fair amount of pop-culture references in there too, which is enough to make Adam Sandler blush, and although at times amusing, it more often than not fell flat. Not to mention an extremely cringeworthy cameo. In fact it’s an REO Speedwagon song away from being a Happy Madison film. Everything seems to stand still for most of the films duration, with only the films action scenes seeming to have any energy behind them, and even then it can seem laboured. It’s as if no one’s heart was in it until towards the end, where exchanges seemed to flow a little more fluidly. Baby Groot fans won’t be disappointed, as when he’s in the spotlight he can be quite funny and cute (and yes, he still is voiced by Vin Diesel), but he doesn’t overstay his welcome, save for for the opening credits sequence. The visual effects are pretty great, as are the locations, especially Ego’s home planet, which is probably the most ‘sci-fi’ a utopia you’ll see on screen, and although a lot of the scenery is CGI, it’s not quite George Lucas levels of blue screen.
One of the films other big let downs is the soundtrack. The first movie was almost defined by its colourful collection of 70s earworms, however Awesome Mix Vol. 2, with Fleetwood Mac near enough on repeat, and a George Harrison solo song, it’s somewhat lacklustre. So much so, that Tyler Bates’ score completely outshines the pop songs throughout the film, and considering it’s near enough standard Marvel fare, that’s saying something. It’s almost upsetting how much of a let down this diminished return is. One can draw parallels to another highly anticipated sci-fi sequel, in terms of tone and imagery, throughout Vol. 2 (I’m talking about Empire Strikes Back), but it doesn’t hold a candle to it. If the first Guardians of the Galaxy was A New Hope, Vol. 2 is more like Attack of the Clones. At least the post credit teases, of which there are a few, leave Vol. 3 open to good prospects.