Director: James Gunn
Cast: Chris Pratt, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Karen Gillan, Kurt Russell, Zoe Saldana
Running time: 136 minutes
Release date: April 28th
Guardians of the Galaxy was, to put it mildly, an unexpected hit. Director James Gunn took one of the more obscure stories from the Marvel Comics and created a fresh, hilarious and heartfelt space opera that was drastically different from any of the previous Marvel Cinematic Universe offerings. With Guardians making such a powerful impact on the MCU, it’s understandable that the expectations for Vol. II are high. The question is, can Vol. II retain the elements that made the first film so well-received without becoming repetitive? It’s a difficult task, and one that Gunn navigates deftly, though not flawlessly. Gunn does not just go bigger with Vol. II – he goes deeper, delving into the complex relationships of each character and how each relates to their fellow Guardians. Vol. II utilises the best elements of the first film extremely well – the stunning visuals and action sequences, the humour, the heartfelt moments, while adding layers to the characters and their relationships.
These films cannot be discussed without mentioning their soundtracks. ‘Awesome Mix Vol I’ was as much a character as any of the Guardians. The soundtrack helped emphasise the sense of nostalgia that underpinned the futuristic adventure and to impact on the unique aesthetic of the film as a whole. Vol II. is aware of this impact, perhaps too aware at times. The characters themselves frequently refer to Quill’s music within the film, and though it is effective, occasionally the film relies heavily on the soundtrack to make its thematic point. The soundtrack is best experienced in the context of the film – I would advise that you don’t listen to it beforehand.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. II may be an exciting, visually dazzling space opera but ultimately its emphasis is on family. If the first film revolved around the core five being brought together, Vol. II pulls them apart to examine the impact that the formation of the team has had on each individual. They invoke the wrath of an alien race called the Sovereign as a result of Rocket stealing precious batteries that the Guardians had been hired by the Sovereign to protect. After this, the team splits, with Quill, Gamora and Drax going to the home planet of Quill’s father Ego (Kurt Russell) while Rocket and Baby Groot stay behind to fix the Milano. I won’t give any more plot detail than that – this film is best seen with as little foreknowledge as possible. Each character has their own arc and while this can make the film feel slightly disjointed at times it allows more character development on an individual level.
The previously underused Gamora (Zoe Saldana) is given more depth. While she is often still the sensible foil to the other character’s theatrics, her relationship with her sister Nebula (Karen Gillan) adds historical and emotional context to their dynamic, as well as allowing her to fully display her capabilities as an elite assassin in exciting action sequences. Chris Pratt once again mixes cocky confidence with vulnerability as Peter Quill. Rocket, voiced by Bradley Cooper, is a mixture of sardonic humour and repressed emotion and has a powerful emotional impact as well as some of the best lines. Baby Groot steals any scene that he’s in. If there is a weak link, it is Drax (Dave Bautista), whose humour becomes grating as the film progresses. Yondu (Michael Rooker) is the standout performance in this film, adding pathos and humour to the narrative. The villains are perhaps the least defined characters, who exist more as a catalyst for the Guardians’ personal journeys and to further the plot than as characters in their own right.
Guardians of the Galaxy was a delightful surprise. While Vol. II is unable to have the same shock impact as we know what to expect, it is still an exciting and hilarious film that combines action sequences with humour and genuine heart. It is a worthy successor to the first film and sets the stage for the upcoming films involving the Guardians (we know they will appear in Avengers: Infinity War and it was announced that Gunn will direct Guardians of the Galaxy III recently). Don’t listen to the soundtrack before you go. Don’t read any articles that discuss the plot in detail. There are many great moments in this film, (special mention to the opening credit sequence) and the best thing that you can do is go into it knowing as little as possible about what is to come. It is an exciting and entertaining blockbuster, and sure to be a much loved addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.