Fresh from the film’s European premiere, Tanya Dudnikova reviews James Gunn’s highly-anticipated sequel.
When the original Guardians of the Galaxy first hit theatres almost three years ago, I’m sure I was not alone in being somewhat sceptical about the film’s success. Yes, I knew from the comics that the bizarre band of characters was equal parts cool, equal parts oddly loveable; and perhaps the film would make it purely on the basis of their quirkiness and originality. But it was an undeniable risk to stretch the Marvel universe beyond the boundaries of planet Earth, where it had largely been tethered in the past, and take it into the new and exciting setting of outer space. Yet James Gunn and co managed to pull it off, making what would become the freshest and funniest superhero movie to hit the screens in decades, and giving us the perfect antidote to the arguably-somewhat-enjoyable-yet-utterly-boring-and-forgettable mediocrity of the likes of the latest instalments in the Transformers and Fast & Furious franchises. The fact that it scored a worldwide box-office jackpot of $773 million didn’t hurt either. Above all, the film was two hours of pure fun – the sort of fun that would be difficult to match.
So how does Vol. 2 fare when compared to its predecessor?
The second instalment reunites group leader Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) with his misfit gang of intergalactic outlaws. The role seems tailor-made for Pratt, who is far stronger and more charismatic here than in Jurassic World or even Passengers. His cheeky wit never quivers, even as his chemistry with the green and mean Gamora (Zoe Saldana) seems to fade a little. Also returning are Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista), whose frankness and lack of self-awareness provides much of the film’s humour, and the troublemaking duo of foxy Rocket Racoon (voiced, as before, by Bradley Cooper) and Groot (again voiced by Vin Diesel) – here transformed into Baby Groot, a big-eyed sapling of a tree who quickly stole the limelight in the film’s advertising campaign, his sheer cuteness winning over fans. The waves of laughter that radiated across the Eventim Apollo at the European Premiere of the film on Monday pretty much every time the little sentient tree appeared on the screen certainly suggested that audiences will never tire of hearing those three simple words: “I am Groot”. The main cast is rounded off by newcomers Elizabeth Debicki, who is deliciously menacing as a golden-plated empress named Ayesha, and Kurt Russell, who portrays Ego, a bearded man with a weird name (in fact, weird names do seem to dominate this film – consider ‘Taserface’, anyone?).
It is Baby Groot who takes centre stage in the opening scene, reminiscent of the beginning of the first Guardians. As the gang takes on an octopus-like space monster, each fighting for their lives, Groot gets hold of Quill’s ever-present Sony Walkman and blissfully dances around to the sound of Electric Light Orchestra’s ‘Mr Blue Sky’ (only the beginning of a fantastic soundtrack – one that truly rivals Awesome Mix Vol. 1, a feat that once seemed almost impossible). The flashy battle is a delight to watch, if only because Gunn wants to make it clear that the sequel will be just as silly – if not more so – than the original. Space battles and typical Guardians mischief aside, however, the gears of the plot don’t really start turning until the introduction of the mysterious Ego. But who is he, and what does he want from Star Lord?
For fear of venturing into spoiler territory, I won’t say any more about the plot. To be entirely honest, it is pretty damn easy to write a spoiler free review, since the story takes the back seat in the movie anyway. This is a character piece through and through, and the arguably weak plotline is not much more than a vehicle for the protagonists to show off their quirks and to bounce jokes off each other. There is, nonetheless, one not-so-subtle overarching theme to the apparent meandering meaninglessness of it all: family. Whether it is the constant squabbling between sisters Gamora and Nebula (Karen Gillan, the cast’s one weak link), or Peter’s own soul-searching as he grapples with the lack of a father figure in his life, ideas regarding family bonds and what really ‘makes’ a family help to tie in the various plot strands of the film together very nicely. Unexpectedly, the most moving character arc of all is given to blue-skinned Ravager leader Yondu (Michael Rooker), who reveals a paternal side unseen in the previous film as he struggles to redeem himself for past mistakes. Even if it does all get a little too emotional towards the end – and you might find yourself missing the biting sarcasm and wit of the earlier scenes – the thematic cohesion does wonders in terms of overall enjoyment of the film.
All in all, Vol. 2 is just as goofy as its precursor, and that about saves it from paling in comparison. The Guardians may be heroes, but they’re dumb heroes, and their likeable charm has not worn off one bit. Gunn’s mix of heart and unfaltering spirit wins yet again.
(but still a solid 10/10 for fun)
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is out in UK cinemas from Friday. See the final trailer below: