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Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Review

"The Guardians vs. a God"

The Guardians of the frickin’ Galaxy are back doing what they do best – saving the universe in their own special way. Their sequel provides more of what fans loved the original film.

After saving the planet of Sovereign from an energy eating Abilisk they end up being chased by the gold-skinned residents after Rocket (Bradley Cooper) tries to steal their valuable Anulax Batteries. During the chase The Guardians are saved by Ego (Kurt Russell), a god-like being who claims to be Peter Quill’s (Chris Pratt) father and offers to teach Quill how to use his powers on Ego’s home planet.

When the original Guardians of the Galaxy movie was announced by Marvel Studios it was considered a risk because the characters were unknown – even amongst many comic book readers. Yet it was a gamble that paid off – being a great mix of comedy and sci-fi fantasy action – and became the Marvel equivalent of Star WarsStar Trek and Firefly.

At this point the Marvel Cinematic Universe is incredibly interwoven – many films reference each other and have to set-up up the future films as well facing the criticism that they are all too similar. The Guardians of the Galaxy series is slightly detached from the rest of the MCU because of the space setting, meaning there is little connection to the events of Earth. This gives Gunn more freedom than other filmmakers who have worked on MCU films and he shows this with the best title sequences the Marvel films have produced.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 has a great opening with the Guardians fighting the Abilisk and meeting Ego and has a final act where they have to fight a planet – it’s in the middle where the movie sags. The setting of the movie is mostly limited to Ego’s home planet – the interiors of spaceships and sci-fi buildings. There was little location shooting and the atmosphere seemed very restrictive. The first film was filmed mostly in studios but places like Xandar and Knowhere felt like living, breathing places. The plotting was also more like a two-parter for a sci-fi show like Doctor Who and Star Trek: the first half would have been about the heroes meeting an omnipotent being and question whether they should trust him – the second half would see the heroes needing to stop them and their evil scheme. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 overextended its 136-minute run time; a bit tighter editing would have improved it.

Although the film has a story structure style more suited to television, it still has cinematic visuals. It delivers on the action scenes like the opening. Rocket fending off a load of space pirates, Yondu (Michael Rooker) showing off his whistling controlled dart again and the final battle is with a planet – Transformers: The Last Knight certainly has a lot to live up to when Unicron shows up. At times Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 came across as a live action cartoon when Rocket uses gravity bombs and when some characters have to jump at warp speed to multiple locations in quick succession. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 delivers with its special effects, action and the make-up.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 succeeds with comedy with Rocket, Baby Groot (Vin Diesel) and Drax (Dave Bautista) being the main sources. As characters in the movie put it – Rocket is a professional asshole and it’s a delight to behold as he berates other characters: the pirate Taserface (Chris Sullivan) getting the worst of it. In the previous movie comedy from Drax was the result of him assuming a lot of expressions were literal: in the sequel he is able to roll with the punches and plays jokes and pranks on other characters. Humor that was based on naivety and misunderstandings comes from the new character Mantis (Pom Klementieff) – an alien who was raised by Ego, and had no other social interactions: it’s endearing and funny how she reactcs to Drax calling her ugly. The Sovereign also provides some humor because they are total jerks to each other – let alone to other species.

Whilst Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is primarily a comedy it has its fair share of drama and darkness. Nebula (Karen Gillan) reveals what Thanos did to her as a child and there is an effort from the movie to make the character into an anti-hero instead of a full-fledged villain – showing what drives her is emotional pain and a desire to get revenge against her dad. Rocket and Yondu also have epiphanies and Mantis has a tragic backstory. When Ego finally enacts his universe threatening plan Gunn shows the various civilians in peril. There was also a dark reveal of what Ego did in the past.

As well as the theme about personal pain, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 also has a theme about family and fatherhood. The Guardians are all lost souls: Quill was abducted by aliens as a child after his mother dies; Gamora (Zoe Saldana) was raised to be the ultimate assassin – Drax lost his family because of Ronan the Accuser, Groot is the last of his species and Rocket was experimented on – giving him his intelligence but also makes him resentful. They are a family unit: a dysfunctional one but a family nonetheless. Quill longed for a father figure and finally gets to meet and bond with him – yet was raised by Yondu. Nebula longed for a family and got nothing but abuse, whilst Yondu also lost his surrogate family – the Ravagers, who saved him from slavery.

The MCU has been criticized for having poor villains: with the exception of Loki and The Red Skull they have been forgettable and actors like Mads Mikkelsen, Christopher Eccleston and Mickey Rourke have been wasted in such roles. Ego will not match Loki as the MCU’s top bad guy but he is still in the upper echelon in the universe. This was because of Russell’s star power and charisma – making him a compelling presence and Ego had a nihilistic, self-centered philosophy that drives him: it is more interesting to someone simply wanting power or revenge for the sake of it.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 was a sandwich of a film: it had a great beginning and ending but the middle was slightly unfocused. There is an attempt at wider theme yet at its heart the film is pure popcorn fun.

Rating
7.9
Pros
  • Will please the fans of the first films
  • Unabashed fun
  • Excellent action and comedy
  • Lots of references for Marvel fans
Cons
  • Televisual structure of the plot
  • The saggy middle

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