By Jack Dignan
Throughout all 15 films that compromise the Marvel Cinematic Universe thus far, an accomplishment in its own right, the one film people reacted the most skeptical towards, myself included, was a little known comic book brand titled ‘Guardians of the Galaxy.’ The b-grade space-set superhero team, comprised of everything from a talking tree to a raccoon, could’ve gone either way, but thanks to writer/director James Gunn’s admiration for the source material and wacky sense of humour, the film was a hit. It instantaneously slotted in as people’s favourite Marvel movie, and remains as such 3 years later. A sequel, as is the case with every Marvel brand except the Hulk because that poor green guy just can’t catch a break, was inevitable. And so here we are with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.
The ending of the first Guardians movie saw our heroes flying triumphantly away into space; free to do whatever it is they wish to do. Jump forward a few months, and our heroes are working as guns for hire for a gold-skinned alien race, led by the uptight and unexpectedly flirtatious Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki). Their team roster remains the same, compromising of the boyish and charismatic Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), ex-assassin Gamora (Zoe Saldana), muscleman Drax (Dave Bautista), a tree named Groot (Vin Diesel), and a talking raccoon named Rocket (Bradley Cooper). Maintaining their incompetent and frustratingly idiotic ways, the team find themselves in a spot of trouble, the reason of which I won’t spoil. But it’s within this trouble where the unexpected arises, arriving in the form of Ego (Kurt Russell), who claims to be Peter’s long lost father.
The father aspect of the film, while the main focus, is but one of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2’s many subplots, and to delve deep into what’s really going on in this film would ruin all the best surprises. Rest assured, however, each of the many plots work in their own right, bringing together other fan-favourite characters from the first film, on top of a handful of new ones. Yondu (Michael Rooker), Peter’s unofficial adoptive father/kidnapper, returns to the hot seat. This time around, his once loyal team of ravagers has risen up against him in a mutiny, led by the hysterically named Taserface (Chris Sullivan) and consequently causing a change of alliance for the ambiguously sided anti-hero. It’s a sequel that’s bigger in both scale and roster, with not only the new addition of Yondu, but also Mantis (Pom Klementieff), a friend of Ego’s with some interesting powers of her own.
While the first Guardians movie felt simplistic in plot, the second one just goes balls to the wall weird. The story can feel a little bloated at times. James Gunn attempts to juggle between several different stories, not all of which mash well together for quite some time. However, at its core, it works. The sequel is ramped up with more emotion and humour than you’d expect going on, delving deeper into the conflict between these characters and the effect each of their traumatised pasts have on their personality. Not one character is left without receiving a deep and meaningful look at just who it is they are. Even Nebula (Karen Gillian) is back, this time feeling more humanized and sympathetic than she did previously.
It is, essentially, these characters that make the movie as good as it is. While some of them do spend a good chunk of the movie separated, and hence the story coming across as a little all over the place, their banter and interactions managed to stir up every sort of emotion possible, frequently in places you don’t expect. James Gunn gets these characters. After two films, and a third on the way, he’s made that very clear. Mantis and Drax don’t get an awful lot to do in relation to the main plot, but rarely did this feel like a problem. I would’ve liked to see them do a little more during the final showdown, most of Drax’s action scenes implied rather than shown, although when they did get their chance to shine, the two characters had me frequently bursting with laughter.
Our central hero, much like with the first film, remains Peter Quill. This is, after all, his story. Set to the backdrop of Awesome Mix Volume 2, the songs of which are once again perfectly placed throughout the film, Peter’s story feels deep and emotionally resonant. His character goes through a much bigger arc than everyone else. Peter, in this film, attempts to come to terms with his mother’s passing, while also experiencing the joys of having a father for the first time. Chris Pratt nails every aspect of his character. Everything from the humour, he innuendos, the hard-hitting twists and turns and a shockingly dramatic finale is delivered to sheer perfection. His relation with Ego goes to unexpected places, and Pratt delivers in all regards.
Any film starring Kurt Russell is a film worth watching, but when a film stars Kurt Russell as a talking planet, you know you’re in for something special. In comic lore, the character of Ego is weird. In the film, well, it’s no different. Gunn, for the most part, handles Ego well, allowing for the father-son aspects of the plot to successfully stand out. Their relation to one another, much to my surprise, takes a while to get fully investing. As the story is chopped around between different locations and plots, and because we know so little about Ego for such a long time, there were some moments where I had my doubts about where the film was going. Once Ego is introduced, the two main villains of the film are forgotten about, reappearing closer to the third act. Most of the dramatic tension comes to a halt, only ramped back up again after an extended plot hiatus. Then, thankfully, the film returns bigger and better than ever with a finale that’s sheer perfection.
For as much as I love what was done with Ego, a lot of the important aspects of his character end up being under explained. I can’t delve into specifics when discussing what it is his character does in this movie, as the film attempts to rationalise his absence all of Peter’s life, but it’s this rationalization that lacks much needed substance. Remember in Avengers: Age of Ultron when Ultron just Google’s what’s going on in the world, hates what he sees and decides to kill everyone? Ego’s motives for everything he does, while obviously nothing like what Ultron does (did you know there’s no Google in outer space?), are just as idiotic. Still, it’s cool to think that we live in a world where Ego the Living Planet has been adapted for the big screen and is played by Kurt freaking Russell. This entire film is a comic book fan’s wildest dreams brought to life.
Okay, now that all the other aspects of this movie are out of the way, I can finally discuss the single most important thing to ever happen to cinema. Baby Groot. I went into Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 with a predetermined love for the character, even going so far as replacing my admittedly broken wallet with a brand new Baby Groot themed one. Zero regrets. Right from the opening credits, which succeed in the difficult task of topping the first film’s ‘Come and Get Your Love’ opening credits scene, it’s made abundantly clear that Baby Groot is the best thing ever. And he only improves from there. If you thought adult Groot was loveable, just you wait. His character, still voiced by Vin Diesel, is the cutest, cuddliest, deadliest little tree you’ll ever see, stealing the show time and time again.
A frequent critique of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is that each film follows a near identical structure. For both better and worse, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 strays away from this structure, allowing for further creative inventiveness and unexpected cameos, but also a story that feels way too scattered. Still, despite its flaws, this film remains one of the most entertaining experiences you can have in a movie theater, further propelling these characters from b-grade territory into a-grade territory.
Like the article? Make sure to spread the word on social media.
You May Also Like: