After saving the galaxy in their last adventure, Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax (Dave Bautista), Rocket (Bradley Cooper) and Baby Groot (Vin Diesel) return as a team of heroes for hire. After a job goes sideways, the Guardians find themselves being hunted by their disgruntled former clients, the Sovereign, but are aided by a mysterious being claiming to be Star-Lord’s father.
Guardians of the Galaxy was commonly thought of as having the potential to be Marvel’s first disaster, but in fact turned out to be one of its biggest hits. It proved a breath of fresh air, different from the formulaic structure that has plagued the other Marvel movies. Surely recreating the surprise factor that made the original so well-loved would be prove an almost impossible task.
Well, luckily, James Gunn has proved that it was not impossible. Volume 2 offers the same light-hearted adventure and deep character moments that made us fall in love with the team in the first place. Whether or not the sequel matches the original Guardians is debatable, but Volume 2 more than holds its own against its predecessor.
Set just months after the first film, Guardians 2 opens up with the team on a job for the Sovereign, a race of genetically perfect aliens that are easily offended. What follows is easily the best opening credits sequence in recent memory, eclipsing Peter Quill’s karaoke in the first film, as we follow Baby Groot during the team’s battle with an inter-dimensional being with ‘Mr Blue Sky’ booming out in the background.
The opening really sets up the tone of this film, as for the first hour or so, it appears that Gunn has decided against actually having a plot, instead just deciding to stop in and watch the team carry out their everyday life. This works in the movie’s favour, as it makes the bickering and the jokes feel just that bit more realistic. Most of these jokes land, with Drax standing out yet again, but even those that don’t, most notably two running jokes about fruit and villain Taserface’s name, you tend to forgive.
It is the dynamic of the team, and the idea of family in general, that is the focus of Guardians 2. As well as Peter’s reunion with estranged father Ego (Kurt Russell), Gamora and Nebula’s past is explored, humanising and adding depth to the fairly bland antagonist from the first film. We also get a bit more information about Drax and his family. The only slight misstep was between Rocket and Yondu, as although the unlikely pairing proved a good partnership, their bond felt a little rushed.
The main worry with this film was whether Baby Groot would be a ‘Jar-Jar’, but fortunately Gunn manages to resist the temptation to have him feature heavily throughout, instead limiting him to two or three hilarious sequences. This applies to the whole team as well, as almost every character is given an arc, with none of them feeling as if they were being cast off in to a background role.
One of the main reasons for the success of this film is that it is very self-contained. Perhaps learning from Age of Ultron, there is very little in this film that links to the wider Marvel Cinematic Universe. And this is only a good thing. It means we spend more time with the characters that we care about.
It would be impossible to talk about a Guardians of the Galaxy film without mentioning the soundtrack. Like the first film, Awesome Mix Vol.2 does not disappoint. It shows Suicide Squad just how to use a soundtrack, with the songs fitting in with the narrative instead of completely taking you out of the experience. And, without spoiling the end of the film, it looks as though Gunn has plenty left in mind for Vol.3.
Guardians 2 could have struggled to live up to its surprise hit of a predecessor, but although it doesn’t quite hit the same heights, it certainly does not buckle under the pressure. It proves a light-hearted adventure with characters which we have grown to love over the course of these two films. The jokes, on the whole, land, and the film builds up enough good-will in the first two acts to allow for those that don’t, as well as a slightly CGI-heavy finale that borders on being overwhelming. And yes, there are five (FIVE!!!) mid/post credit scenes.