The fifteenth film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 follows the group’s exploits, as the truth behind Peter Quill’s (Chris Pratt) parentage is revealed.
2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy was Marvel Studios’ biggest risk to date. Based on a bizarre 1970s comic that very few had read, or even heard of, the film was tipped to be the point at which Marvel’s ambition had outmatched its ability. However, director James Gunn somehow managed to capture lighting in a bottle, as the film’s confidence, idiosyncratic characters, and strong sense of humour made it one of the studio’s biggest critical and commercial hits to date.
Gunn returns to write and direct this sequel, which is a decent successor to the first film, but doesn’t quite manage to replicate its brilliance. Whereas Guardians of the Galaxy wasted no time on extensive origin stories or world-building, instead maintaining focus on its characters and concentrated story; Vol. 2 is harmed by an expanded scope. This results in a critical loss of momentum during its rather languorous second act. Strangely lacking in plot or a serious narrative direction, the film sorely misses the impetus and urgency of its predecessor and suffers from a sense of pointlessness, as it contributes very little to the series or its characters.
"The film sorely misses the impetus and urgency of its predecessor and suffers from a sense of pointlessness"
Nevertheless, the cast are universally excellent. Chris Pratt further cements his place as one of Hollywood’s most charismatic and sharp leading men. His bickering with Rocket, superbly voiced by Bradley Cooper, supplies numerous comedic moments, while his chemistry with Gamora (Zoe Saldana) provides some emotional depth, which is complimented by the appearance of Kurt Russell as Quill’s father, Ego. Additionally, Baby Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) is frequently amusing and never jarring, but it is Dave Bautista’s Drax who is the film’s best asset once again. The former wrestler’s superb comedic timing is amplified by his character’s perennial literalness and sizeable self-confidence, providing him with many of the film’s best lines.
The action is solid, although none of the set-pieces come close to the exhilaration and style of Captain America: Civil War’s airport sequence – the zenith of Marvel action scenes. A rather generic, overblown final act provides little that has not been seen before in the studio’s blockbusters, although the ego clashes and bickering between the group does enhance their skirmishes.
The film’s aesthetic, however, is dazzling. After last year’s city-bending wonder of Doctor Strange, there was potential for the Guardians’ worlds to appear underwhelming, yet the special effects and production design are spectacular. Its appearance and tone borrows much from science-fiction lore, including a Blade Runner-inspired neon locale and a central paternal complex that invites many comparisons with Star Wars. This merges with the retro-pop soundtrack to amplify the series’ gloriously nostalgic charm.
Visually stunning and witty, but lacking in the narrative direction and efficiency of its predecessor, Guardians 2 is a middling entry in the Marvel canon that provides more amusement, but fails to reach the heights of the original.
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