Directed and written by: James Gunn
Starring: Chris Pratt. Zoe Saldana. Dave Bautista. Vin Diesel. Bradley Cooper. Michael Rooker. Karen Gillan. Pom Klementieff. Elizabeth Debicki. Kurt Russell.
Running time: 136 minutes
In the avalanche of Marvel media, the first Guardians Of The Galaxy movie managed to stand out as the unique, creative snowflake in the mass. A great soundtrack, vastly different characters in a spectacular and far fetched setting of a extravagant, pantomime in space. Being detached from the globe and chain that is Earth, gave James Gunn freedom to set his own flavour and damn was it sweet. A human becoming an alien in a vibrant space, his retro nostalgia now a stark standout and oddity in a luxurious galactic gallery. Relentlessly colourful, exciting and trendsetting, like if a shelf of clothes collapsed on you in Bruno Mars’ walk-in wardrobe. It’s an enjoyable and stylish, sensory overload.
In this latest venture of vagabonds this story plays out in the same way Peter Quill sees the universe, centering mostly around him. It helps that Chris Pratt could be liquidised and bottle as instant likability, being the most amiable person who ever lived. Star Lord is possibly the most lovable rogue space has seen who isn’t wearing a brown coat or scruffily herding Nerfs. Quill encounters Ego, a name just begging to be trusted, and in doing so Peter learns more about his past and connection to a far away planet. In a festival of glorious special effects and more musical treats, this act also has a lot of character plates to spin. As a sequel to such a strong outing with beloved heroes it also has more expectation heaped on it, than if The Beatles had written a new national anthem live on TV.
The story is fortunately pretty brilliant, with a fast pace that steals the breath you were using for sigh of relief at another cinematic victory. Again a swashbuckling ride through space. An epic yet personable and oddly relatable tale with the style dial turned fully up to eleven. Characters are spread out but stay in careful orbit around the glowing star of a central plot. Unlike Force Awakens which seemed scared to let you and the film rest, Guardians 2 has the confidence to slow down to great effect. The time on Ego’s planet allows dynamics to breathe and mature like fine, narrative wine. It feels fresh yet oddly familiar as it resembles old science fiction pacing, like an away mission on the original Star Trek series. Together on a strange new world, unwrapping a pass the parcel of plot one layer at a time.
The characters are of course the fluffy bread and creamy butter of this success sandwich. Luckily their numerous personal arcs and the script are handle with care and affection. It also helps that this cast contains more stars than the night sky. The flurry of jokes hit far more often than the odd miss. Quill is reliable, the leader as quick to dish out quips as he is bullets. Drax has a laugh that is now my favourite noise in or out of this world, his frank honesty used for both humour and profound emotion alike. Gammorah is the fierce bad ass, her Nebula backstory almost Shakespearean depth wrapped in science fiction fun. Also they still find ways to make her accidentally funny or amusing in her gruff abruptness and eye rolling displeasure. Baby Groot is triumph for the story as much as the marketing and toy department, he really ties the team together as the family of Marvel. What the Fantastic Four should have been. This shows the almost worn out message that family are the ones you choose. Yet while other films flash this message out in panicked neon, Guardians displays it with warm, understated and meaningful glow. Rocket is hilarious but also maybe the most heartbreaking, Cooper’s voice acting skipping from fierce to vulnerable in a fractured heartbeat. His burden as the living error gnawing away at the most wooden of viewers.
Mantis is more than welcome addition, not just thrown in her powers are a fantastic plot mechanic and her struggles not ignored. Her telepathic empathy doesn’t just provide amusement but draws out depth of feelings in a more sudden but organic way that then must be confronted. Kurt Russell is a joy, he is laced in as much charisma as his is hairspray and he is light while never hamming it up. Yondu gets a much more forefront role and Rooker’s brash charms don’t disappoint delivering a charismatic performance and with two lines and one action scene to steal the show. It’s difficult to say without spoilers but for most of the film they get the villain very right indeed. Marvel have often lacked in this department with their baddies ranging from empty and hollow grimace machines to overbearing and annoyingly quirky. This outing plus Hiddlestone’s Loki in every outing, show that all you need is a great actor with a reasonably thought out character given some time and motivation.
This film is not perfect though (how dare it not be!), some of the humour is a little too ridiculous, forced or even goofy. Now it can be argued that this is for the younger viewers but when it shares scenes with swearing and fairly strong violence, it can feel like it’s trying too hard to please everyone and straddling an incredibly narrow audience fence. That just sounds painful more than anything. Sadly we now live in the era of movie villains being literal dark clouds on the horizon. Whether it’s Galactus, Dormammu in Dr Strange, whatever that was in Suicide Squad or even the Obscurus in Fantastic Beasts, a swirling nasty mass of smoke seems the easy way to go. Guardians falls into this trap late on and that of making an enemy too powerful. It seems a little silly when your under powered heroes can topple a demi-god and it means there’s nowhere to escalate rather than make the next villain even more ridiculous.
Like a muddy puddle at a music festival this film can often surprise you with it’s depth, it has spades of fearless emotion to match it’s breakneck fun! Rocket’s silent reaction to an insult will test the most watertight of tear ducts. And although this film never tops the Groot sacrifice or Drax comforting Rocket in the first movie, Guardians 2 has a damn good go and gets very close. This is a simply very enjoyable and fun film, you will not feel a single second of it’s running time pass by but you will feel the shameless thrill of the cinema again. Though it may for me be a slight degree under the soaring success of the first, the fact it’s even near to that standard is a victory.
A colourful firework display of style, media beauty, well handled characters and burning emotional intensity. A joy to simply look to the skies and watch.