Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2
It’s unclear whether Marvel expected Guardians of the Galaxy to be a monolithic blockbuster hit, given the esoteric appeal of its source material – stories about a scrappy, Buckaroo Banzai-inspired gang of space heroes, operating at a snarky remove from the core pillars of the Avengers universe, whose members included a talking tree and a pistol-snapping raccoon. Yet a monolithic blockbuster hit it was, which makes the inevitable sequels all the more difficult to get right. The first one made it on the back of its own novelty, a quirky distraction from the tiring, multi-movie sprawl of the central franchise. For round two, Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) and co would have to stand on their own two feet, and prove that the appeal of their dynamic wasn’t just a flash in the pan.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 isn’t quite up to this task, but it gives it a good try. It picks up from the end of the last film, where Star-Lord, Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax (Dave Bautista), Rocket (Bradley Cooper) and Groot (Vin Diesel) – here fashioned as the Scrappy Doo-esque Baby Groot – have agreed to form a bounty-hunting, banter-swapping, monster-slaying team of variable effectiveness. After their headless desire for shenanigans run them afoul of a gang of video game-playing golden women, they crash land on a remote planet, where Star-Lord runs into his long-lost father, Ego (Kurt Russell) – a celestial being with the power to fashion planets in his own image.
Cosmic daddy issues thus surface, but at a slower pace that one might expect. The gang is split up at an early opportunity, and characters pair off to pursue their own sideplots – sideplots that dominate for a long time, repeatedly deflated by incessant, self-deprecating jokes. Given the original’s incompetence in framing CGI action set-pieces, this shouldn’t really be a bad thing. And Vol 2 is, at least, peppered with good gags – most of which come from the emotionally insensitive Drax (still the MVP of the group), who plays off equally stunted newcomer Mantis (Pom Klementieff) to rip-roaring effect. But for every good diatribe about Kurt Russell’s wang, there’s something that drags, such as the earnest familial conflict between Gamora and her sister, Nebula (Karen Gillan), or the rushed redemption arc of Yondu (Michael Rooker).
Part of the problem is that we still barely know these characters. The women get it particularly rough – most play nanny to the goofball men – but everyone demonstrates an irritating habit of launching into their life story at the slightest prompt, to an intensely overwrought soundtrack. This series might work better as a TV show, one that dealt with alien-of-the-week issues before building to its emotional finale. Instead, Vol 2 keeps self-mythologising, repeating itself with slow-motion sequences and music needle-drops – once again, the title sequence is a highlight – that perhaps hope to distract from the fact that this refrain isn’t quite as catchy as it once was.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 is released nationwide on 28th April 2017.
Watch the trailer for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 here: