If ever you wanted a summation as to what you can expect from James Gunn’s latest, or indeed the duo of films that the director has produced for Marvel Studios, look no further than it’s huge opening credits sequence that not just sets the tone but transports you into a world of colour, adventure and downright, unabashed fun. Sweeping through a beginning that starts with our favourite Guardians of the Galaxy taking on another otherworldly being, Gunn from the off shows you his cards, just as Damien Chazelle did with starting La La Land with a musical number, you know immediately what you are getting. Don’t like it, there’s the door – but no matter your thoughts on Marvel, comic-books, and superheroes, you’ll want to stay seated for easily the most exuberant, explosive and energetic film of the year.
We’re back in the company of our favourite rag-tag group of a-holes – now a true family unit, Peter Quill/Star-Lord (Pratt), Gamora (Saldana), Rocket (Cooper), Baby Groot (Diesel) and Drax (Bautista) have made a name for themselves across the galaxy and as such have become the go-to team for anyone who wants to be rid of pesky interdimensional beings, scavengers out for the biggest loot they can find or, as with Part One, crazy collectors looking for Infinity Stones.
The opening sequence sees the team up against a multi-limbed monstrosity Abilisk, who is after some sacred batteries belonging to the Sovereign race (lead by Elizabeth Debicki’s Ayesha). In exchange for success, the race will give up their newest prisoner: Gamora’s estranged step-sister Nebula (Gillan). But before you can say “Thanos”, their plans are scuppered by Rocket, who steals some of the batteries for his own means, and are soon chased through space by thousands of Sovereign ships. That is until a strange craft destroys the chasing squadron into oblivion. The culprit? A mysterious man named Ego (Russell), who claims to be Peter’s father. Mic drop.
To tell more about the contents of the story would be a huge injustice not just to fans or you reading this review, but to its creator Gunn who deserves all the credit for such a brilliantly balanced screenplay that manages to weave a beautiful and touching story in with a rambunctious and magnetic action blockbuster, all the while still taking time to explore the characters (of which there are a lot) and delve deeper into their psychologies while the galaxy seems to be going to hell. The writer/director was always going to be under pressure to deliver again after the first film surprised many who had already written off the “off-kilter” MCU entry but he doesn’t show it: storylines weave and intersect wonderfully while the new mixtures of characters paired off together keep things fresh and engaging. Yes, some of them get a little less time than others (the Gamora/Nebula dynamic is supremely intriguing but doesn’t quite get enough time to expand here) and there a few “saggy” bits but as a whole, it all works in unison splendidly.
Indeed it’s a credit to Marvel themselves for letting Gunn make the film he wanted, even securing the rights back to Ego which they had lost, at least in part, to 20th Century Fox and shows once again that if you let a filmmaker open their imaginations enough they can take you to wondrous and surprising places that even the most ardent fan won’t see coming. See Guardians 2 blind, trust us.
Of course it helps to have such a brilliant company of actors at his disposal and, as with the first installment, each and every one of his cast are great but there are standouts: Russell and Pratt take the lion’s share of the film and together are a match-made in heaven with Russell in particular excelling (doesn’t he always?) while Bautista’s performance as Drax is also exemplary.
It’s Michael Rooker, however, as loveable rogue anti-hero Yondu who is the film’s star, which is hardly surprising given how good he was previously, but his nuanced, empathetic performance here is superb and he simply shines. And, of course, there’s little Baby Groot who as you would have already guessed is an utterly delightful creation – but like the film itself, the surprises in store are best left unsaid before your first viewing. Suffice it to say, he rocks.
Last year we were left hugely deflated by many blockbuster disappointments, but if 2017 continues the trend (so far it’s been mixed), at least we have the trusted Guardians of the Galaxy return to save the day. A sumptuous, mesmeric and kaleidoscopic extravaganza of the highest order, Vol.2 is the most deliriously entertaining film of the MCU. In other words, it’s fricking great – only we didn’t say fricking…
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2 is out in cinemas from 28th April.