Traditional thought in Hollywood is that space operas usually flop on their arse. While the genre has it’s cult fanbase, the combination of the high budget they demand and that they often struggle to relate to the man in the street usually mean a lot of people lose a lot of money. However there are exceptions and to the surprise of many, Guardians of the Galaxy became one of those exceptions. Many predicted it to be the end of Marvel’s great run of successes but it ended up being one of their best yet. But how can they follow it up when many of their sequels have been lacklustre? Let’s see with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.
Not long after the events of the first movie, the Guardians of the Galaxy are doing their thing. However after a meeting with the Sovereign goes wrong, they are greeted by a mysterious man named Ego (Kurt Russell, The Hateful Eight) who claims to be Peter Quill’s (Chris Pratt, Jurassic World) father and the man responsible for taking him away from Earth when he was a child.
So what is lovely about this movie is that you can instantly tell that it is being done in the spirit of the fantastic first film. When you have an action scene early on, especially one with a giant monster that has the teeth of a Sarlacc, most films would love the chance to show an especially colorful battle. This film decides to have that in the background because it is more interested in us following baby Groot (Vin Diesel, xXx) dancing to ELO’s Mr. Blue Sky. This really shouldn’t work but watching this cute little tree dance to a classic tune while all the mania happens behind them is really fun and creatively done. It’s the sort of thing you come to expect from a movie like this and it really kicks everything off with a fun tone.
What’s wonderful to see also is that the chemistry between the cast is still there. You know you are in a good place where you would happily just spend two hours in a bar with the characters with very little happening and still have a good time. Peter is just a funny guy to be with, Gamora (Zoe Saldana, Avatar) is still a bad ass and good straight man to work off, Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper, Silver Linings Playbook) is a blast even if he is very very arrogant, Drax (Dave Bautista, Spectre) is now full-on comic relief and it works as well as you’d expect and Baby Groot is as cute as possible. There are new additions to the Guardians this time around with Mantis (Pom Klementieff, Old Boy) joining the fray but instead of upsetting the chemistry, something that was very possible, they just make it even better.
But what new things does this movie bring as we do want more than just a retread of the original? Well, you do get a very intriguing plot line with Ego. This was hinted at a lot in the first film and so to finally see Peter meet his father is a huge moment which feels big because of the way it has been built up over the two movies. And they got someone fantastic to play him as well because who doesn’t want Kurt Russell as their dad? He plays the part brilliantly and you can see why Peter would fall so easily into being his son, even when they are other things he should be suspicious off. This is a well executed part of the movie and shows that this series is not just about the flashy effects, music and jokes.
Of course, we do have to mention the music because it is this that gives the movie its identity just as much as the characters. You could argue the music is a character if you were an obsessed film student trying to make more of this film than it actually is. We do have an Awesome Mix Volume 2, I have no idea how he got it but we’re not questioning how a Walkman is still working after decades in space when it would break in your pocket on Earth so let’s roll with it, and it is an amazing soundtrack. I’ve already mentioned Mr Blue Sky, but we also have The Chain, Come A Little Bit Closer and Wham Bam Shang-A-Lang, all brilliant songs that deserve regular play time. And this isn’t just the director James Gunn (Super) picking songs from a Spotify playlist that he found cool one morning, they all fit in whatever moment they are being played and enhance the story on screen rather than distract. Looking at you Suicide Squad. However, I do have to say that using The Chain will just make me wonder where Lewis Hamilton finished this weekend.
My only fault with the movie is the second third when we end up on Ego’s planet. This is when the movie has to stop dead in its tracks because we need to spend time developing Ego as a character and go through the various stages of a relationship with Peter. This happens through a lot of exposition and some old sitcom clichés. Yes it may not be in a sci-fi setting, but we’ve all seen the bit where someone becomes obsessed with a new person in their life while an old friend urges caution and we all know where it’s going from there. That’s what this film does and it stretches it way longer than what an average sitcom episode does. Luckily the movie does cut away to see what Rocket and Yondu (Michael Rooker, Cliffhanger) are doing which is much more fun, but the movie definitely sags in the middle.
Even with this, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is still a very fun movie to watch. It is a bit worse than the original, but that did have the complete lack of expectations as an advantage whereas this had a lot of pressure to be as brilliant as that one. This one has all the things you loved about the original including the fun cast, great jokes, and spectacular space battles so if you enjoyed that, you will love this. Yes, the pace does drop badly in the middle but the film does well to recover in time for the final third and once again show why Marvel is the king at making reliably enjoyable movies.