Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Film Review
Not the game-changer Logan was, but fun enough to pass the time.
Is Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 the Marvel movie for people who don’t like Marvel movies? In short, no. That would be James Mangold’s Logan. Blending a tale about mortality and an odd-couple road trip with an old-school Western, it seemed to be the first time a superhero comic book franchise movie was interested in expanding the cinematic possibilities of the genre, instead of increasing the profits of an empire which looks poised to consume the movie business altogether. Guardians 2, the Marvel instalment after Logan, is a reminder that the studio is still doing what we all know it knows how to do, and that we might have to wait a few more years for another creative, genre-breaking attempt. That said, the movie passes the time admirably: it’s funny, stylish and the leads are an odd, charming bunch.
Following on from the first film, we first flash back to the Earth, 1980s. Kurt Russel appears with thick, windswept hair and makeup intended to convince us he’s not in his 60s. Alongside him in their car is his girlfriend played by Laura Haddock, roughly 35 years his junior. He shows her an extra-terrestrial object that’s apparently going to grow until it takes over the entire planet, clearly a precursor to an evil plan. She’s doe-eyed and just can’t believe how lucky she is to have married a spaceman. Flash forward to another planet and our Guardians are doing some mercenary work, about to fight a giant space creature. Rocket (Bradley Cooper) steals some batteries which lands them in some hot water with the Sovereign people, a race of golden people led by Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki). In addition to this, the team meets Kurt Russel again, a planet-god named Ego who eventually wants to take over the entire galaxy (he has a big ego).
The plot hardly matters. It’s coherent enough you won’t be lost but it’s really engineered to show off explosively colourful set pieces and to further explore the relationships between the main characters. Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) is still the wise-cracking Han Solo-wannabe he was in the first film, except this time he’s struggling with his affections for Gamora, the swordswoman played by Zoe Saldana. Drax (Dave Bautista), having expanded beyond his irony-free persona, is uproariously funny in some scenes. He tells a story about the first time he saw his wife, likening her to a corpse, and each of his lines is still delivered with the deadpan naivety of a space alien struggling to understand the nuances of human interaction. Groot is now baby Groot, and Vin Diesel is again doing what he does best: playing something wooden and with few lines. The contrasting and conflicting personalities of the characters, as well as the two films’ excellent soundtracks, are what won over audiences in the first place. Writer and director James Gunn knows this. He includes plenty of these moments, some of which are so entertaining that the space opera plot feels like a nuisance, distracting us from the fun stuff.
Gunn is an accomplished director. The opening scene featuring a baby Groot shows his control over a swooping camera and his ability to creatively film an otherwise familiar sequence. Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 is a fine example of this, a creative and entertaining (if overlong) addition to a franchise whose many instalments seem to blend into one another sometimes. It’s just not going to impress anyone thirsty for something cinematically different after Logan. If you’re wrapped up in the franchise, you’ve likely seen it already. If you’re not, this one will give you a few laughs but it won’t convince you Marvel is intent on shaking up the formula.