Ever since Chris Pratt’s Star-Lord danced his way to saving the galaxy and right into the hearts of millions of fans, we’ve all been eagerly anticipating writer/director James Gunn’s follow-up to his irreverent 2014 breakout Guardians of the Galaxy. So have Gunn and co lived up to these higher expectations? Here’s what Kervyn, Nick and Craig thought.
The year is 2013, and I’ve just freaked out about the rumours that Marvel is doing a Guardians of the Galaxy movie. I am alone in my freaking though – outside of hardcore comic geeks nobody even knows who the Guardians are. Even us hardcore fans could not have predicted the colourful cosmic awesomeness that writer/director James Gunn and writer Nicole Perlman would unleash on us though.
Fast forward to 2017 and the problem now is that everybody knows about that colourful cosmic awesomeness. And “everybody” includes Gunn himself, who in Vol. 2 tries just a tad too hard to work through the bullet points of what he thinks fans loved in the first film and now want more of. Ooh-ed and aah-ed over cute Baby Groot at the end of the first film? Well, expect entire sequences now dedicated to his cuteness. These bits of excessive fan service, combined with a story that sees the main crew mostly scattered apart – and thus robbing us a bit of their edgy family dynamic – adds to the sequel feeling just not as tightly paced or plotted as its predecessor.
But while Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 drops the ball a bit in these regards, in others it kicks that ball right out of the atmosphere, pinballing from one lush, gorgeously realized, psychedelic corner of the cosmos to the next. New additions to the cast like Kurt Russell as Star-Lord’s enigmatic father Ego and Pom Klementieff as his buggy sidekick Mantis are fantastic, and while Elizabeth DeBicki’s Ayesha and Chris Sullivan’s Taserface have a little less to do, they deliver the goods. Gunn also adds more depth to the Guardians themselves, fleshing out their characters and their relationships with each other, especially when it comes Micheal Rooker’s Yondu. And of course giving Dave Bautista’s Drax some of the most gut-bustingly hilarious one-liners I’ve heard in ages.
Gunn also thrills with his action beats, which are as ingeniously funny and chromatically vibrant as they are just plain ice-cold cool in their execution. And while Vol.2 does end off with the now trademark manic Marvel CG-extreme battle bonanza, Gunn does such effective groundwork with the characters that it builds up to one of the most effective emotional payoffs the MCU has ever seen. This is brash, eye-wateringly beautiful and cheeky space opera writ large (and best viewed on IMAX).
However, even though Vol.2 is ridiculously fun and bold and fixes so many niggles from the original (gone is the undercooked villain and macguffin plotting) it stumbles just enough under its own, new mistakes to leave it a fraction of a step behind the original.
Review score: 7.5/10
It’s difficult to believe it’s been four years since Kervyn and I were blown away by the first Guardians of the Galaxy. I remember sitting in the cinema, not knowing a damn thing about any of the characters, thinking “Another Marvel movie, should be fun”. Then the opening hit us like a brick. What the heck? The lead is dancing to some old tune while doing karaoke with some rat-like alien creature? SOLD. What followed was two hours of grinning from ear to ear thanks to a then relatively unknown director called James Gunn. Luckily I can say the same thing happened with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2, although it veered slightly in reaching for too much.
Once again the opening is played out against a song from the new, more-than-likely to go platinum, Awesome Mix Vol.2 – and it works… again! This time round though Gunn has embraced all the new toys he has at his disposal. From beautiful sets to mind-blowing CGI the presentation just feels a whole lot more polished. Much like Scott Derrickson did with Doctor Strange, Gunn creates some truly fantastical and unique visuals that are Oscar-worthy. The end sequence is stunning but, as Kervyn mentioned, very Marvel standard fare with some extra elements that are new.
Also upping their game are the actors. They are given far more three-dimensional roles in a movie that has plenty of heartfelt moments; dare I say a tear or two will be shed. Shining out among them is Dave Bautista. He was apparently quite intimidated by the other actors in the first film so seeing him this confident on screen was great, and he is hysterical. No, really, he is. Kurt Russell also brings some serious gravitas to his role as Ego the Planet and shares one of the most memorable engagements with Drax that will have you crying with laughter. Chris Pratt, although the lead as Star Lord, takes a slightly less prominent role this time round as other characters are brought to the foreground. Yondu has always been one of my favourites and I was delighted with the attention he got. With a great deal of focus spread across so many characters there are inevitably going to be some issues in pacing, and storytelling though.
I am GROOT! I know many of you love the little twig, but by the end of the movie I wanted to snap him like an HB pencil. Far too much focus went into how cute the little thing is, like some marketing team made Gunn include every possible pose, facial expression and situation in order to produce 50 figurines to sell when the world only needs 10… I’d rather have spent more time listening to Gamora and Nebula fight or Rocket and Star-Lord swear at each other. The story does jump about quite a bit as the team is not always together. This works in one way – it offers more than one location and more crazy situations – but it does lean a little to the jarring side at times. That said, I think a great deal was accomplished with a movie so massive in scope. I’d recommend it in a heartbeat to any comic book fan and anyone who likes fun.
Review score: 8/10
With each and every Marvel movie, it seems the studio is trying to up the fun ante and in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, they have certainly brought that by the bucket loads. Not content with introducing us to perhaps the most bizarre set of characters in the MCU, James Gunn takes us even deeper into this world while introducing us to an even bigger universe filled with crazier and more extreme characters, especially the film’s chief antagonist. It’s a bizarre formula that on paper sounds too wild to succeed and yet it does.
Much of what makes the film work is its sharp sense of humour, incredible chemistry among its characters and a superb sense of fun. It just feels like every character is out to have a good time and it shows in how every scene is entertaining to watch. Gunn does a superb job in scripting some big and bold action sequences, while flicking between the different characters without losing relevance to what is going on. It’s the subtle details and facial expressions that show it’s all incredibly deliberate and well thought out. Even the unusual premise behind the film is told in such a simplistic and fun manner, that you barely care to spare a passing glance at the absurdity of it all.
Despite its efforts to throw bizarre situations at you, the film still doesn’t feel as fresh as the original did. Part of this may be because we’re kind of expecting it following the first film. I also think the story of that film and how its plot points tie together just felt more refined and purposeful than this sequel, which has too many moments that act as a setup for a gag or serve as an opportunity to delve deeper into the characters rather than move the story along. Don’t get me wrong, the character development is welcome and the added depth this film brings is refreshing, especially for a Marvel movie. It does all feel a little forced though and does not flow as naturally as the first movie did.
There is a whole lot to care about and you do feel like there is something big on the line, more than what we’ve come to see in Marvel movies. Yes, the end is very cliche and predictable at times, but there is some added drama and tension to give it some extra depth.
In the end, the film definitely holds a unique place in the MCU cannon and while it might not be as good as the first movie, it remains a blast to watch. It also features perhaps the best Marvel character of them all in Baby Groot. The appeal might be a little worn out by the end of the movie, but the character truly does steal every scene he is a part of. What’s not to like?
Review score: 8/10
Last Updated: May 3, 2017