One of the few things that may hamstring Marvel’s second installment in the kinetic and joyous Guardians of the Galaxy series is the sheer success of its predecessor.
The shock hit that took the world by storm, turning Chris Pratt and names like Groot and Gamora into household names overnight, was so successful that it would seem wise to believe it couldn’t be topped.
Thankfully we are in safe hands with James Gunn back in both the writers and directors chair and the films wondrous opening credit sequence proves it, in a dazzling display of humour, action and a kickass song that sets the plot in motion.
Set just a few months after the events of the first film, we find the gang defending some batteries belonging to a technocratic society known as The Sovereign from an inter-dimensional cthulhu. The usual banter and baiting we know and love occurs, with the group debating how high on the priority list a boom box to play tunes on should be before the monster arrives, hell breaks loose and Mr Blue Sky by Electric Light Orchestra gets cranked as an adorable (and notably mass marketable, thanks Disney) Baby Groot (Vin Diesel) dances around the carnage.
It’s a sequence that lives up to the dizzyingly fun beats of the first movie, assuring the audience that these are the Guardians you know and love, and we’re all here to have a good time.
However the film soon departs from that to a less plot driven, more character focused arc as the gang is separated once Peter Quill (Pratt) stumbles across his long-vacant father, Ego (Kurt Russell). The phrase ‘looking for something that’s right in front of you’ is one that can be applied to multiple levels of Vol. 2.
As Peter spends the bulk of the film resolving his daddy issues, while the other characters focus in on their own demons and dislikes of each other, by the halfway mark I was curious as to when the big bad, or really, the actual plot of the movie was going to show up. But as the phrase goes, it was right in front of us the whole time, as Peter realises his dad was too, with the gang finally reuniting in yet another wildly imaginative action sequence that involves essentially blowing up an organic death star.
However Gunn knows that simply hanging out with these characters and watching them banter and open up to each other is the reason we come and see these films (aside from the music).
And as we expect a fun-filled actiony character bantery, ending for the film, Gunn throws a curve ball at us culminating in a touchingly emotional ending with a little help from Cat Stevens and gruff but gracious performance by Michael Rooker’s Yondu.
While fans maybe disappointed that it’s not as pacey or cohesive as the first film, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, heads in a different direction that delivers more on character moments than action chops, though it has those in spades.
And as sequels to action films at the moment seem to be simple carbon copies of themselves, of which Marvel itself is guilty of, it’s refreshing to find a film and cast capable of breaking new ground while keeping so many of the elements we love about the original. Roll on Vol. 3.