“I’m gonna make some weird shit.”
Back in the naive days of 2014, everyone was sure that Guardians of the Galaxy was going to be Marvel’s first failure. After a streak of excellent films (a streak that continues to this day) they were going to mess it up with this weird film from the guy who made Slither, about a bunch of heroes that even long time comic book fans hadn’t heard of. But of course it was great and we all committed seppuku for ever doubting the great Emperor Marvel.
Now they’re back, but have they got too big for their boots? Did the millions and millions and millions in box office gross make them too cocky? Surely lighting couldn’t strike twice…
Spoilers from here on out.
Your opinion of this film will vary (I imagine) depending on your feelings for the first film. You hated it? Well you probably won’t like this one. It doubles down on everything from the first film; the humour, the ridiculous action, the songs, and the pop culture references. I get that it won’t be for everyone, but if you can’t enjoy the goofy action or laugh at a few poop jokes (“I have famously large turds.”) then you may as well go and book your room at the retirement home for humourless, crotchety, old farts. Or y’know, r/Movies on Reddit.
For those of you not looking for the next Citizen Kane, GoTG 2 is a great film. Picking up a few months after the first film, the team has been hired to guard some powerful batteries from an inter-dimensional being. From the off the team dynamic is there. Everyone has settled into the roles they established in the first film and it all gels perfectly. The opening scene sees Baby Groot dancing through the battlefield to ELO’s “Mr Blue Sky” as the rest of the Guardians battles out of focus in the background, occasionally being thrown past by the tentacled beast. I couldn’t stop smiling throughout this part and it quickly put my worries about Baby Groot at ease. He’s adorable! Maybe he’ll eventually become annoying and played out, but right now he’s brilliant.There are new and old faces in this sequel. Nebula and Yondu return, in more friendly roles this time around. Both get a fair amount of depth, Yondu in particular gets a lot of the coolest scenes too. One standout moment sees Yondu escape the Ravager ship, killing about a hundred guys with his arrow/whistle ability. It’s stylish, and you can tell director James Gunn really had fun making this scene. Also Yondu is kind of overpowered so it really shouldn’t have surprised me as much as it did that they killed him at the end.
If you’d told me in 2014 that Michael Rooker’s Yondu would be the best character in the sequel I wouldn’t have believed it. But he is, and the funeral for him at the end is really effective. Yondu was Peter’s father all along, however imperfect he was. It didn’t matter that they weren’t biological father and son. It makes you reconsider everything you know about him. Plus his scenes with Rocket are really good, especially the part where they jump through space and their faces distort to ridiculous angles.
The Ravagers are a weird bunch. With names like Taserface, they’re a very over-the-top faction in the MCU. Plus they’re headed by Sylvester Stallone. It was so awesome seeing Sly on the big screen again in a ridiculous sci-fi. It reminded me of Judge Dredd or (preferably) Demolition Man. Some people might worry that these sort of things won’t gel with the rest of the MCU but I think Marvel has earned our trust by now.
Now for the absolute best addition to this sequel; Kurt Russell. He seems to be enjoying a resurgence in recent years, from The Hateful Eight and his role in the Fast and the Furious series, to Bone Tomahawk, and I am over the moon that he’s back in Hollywood. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a bad performance from him and he’s usually the coolest thing in any movie. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is no exception, just look at his hair!
Kurt Russell plays a big part in the film, literally and to the story. He is Ego the living planet though mostly we see him through a humanoid avatar played by Russell. The opening scene sees an eerily realistic Escape From New York-era Kurt Russell romancing Peter Quill’s mother. It’s another moment of Marvel jumping over the uncanny valley and making utterly convincing young versions of our favourite actors. From the moment Ego reveals himself as Peter’s father, you sort of know something is wrong but the reveal that Ego has murdered all of his previous children is chilling.
Kurt Russell plays the role for the first two thirds of the film as a dashing hero from
the far off reaches of space. He has is own planet (or rather, he is the planet) and he has a mysterious ship. But at one awesome moment he goes from hero to utterly villainous. And sure the last fight is CGI heavy but that’s not automatically a bad thing like so many people seem so quick to think. Imagine the Dragonball Z-esque fighting from Man of Steel except it’s colourful, funny, and is between Kurt Russell and Chris Pratt’s Starlord. Sounds awesome to me.And of course, the Guardians themselves. They’re all there and as great as you remember. In fact I think they’re improved in this film, all of their different character traits are refined and worked out. I particularly liked Rocket and Drax, which is weird because they’re the two I thought would get annoying. But thanks to a funny and moving script that balances crass humour and genuine emotion, you find yourself getting really invested. Drax has some wonderful (and very funny) moments with newcomer Mantis. They have a father/daughter thing going on which means there’s some really heartbreaking references to his family. Also they don’t push the whole “Drax doesn’t get things!” joke with is a relief. It’s a new film with it’s own jokes.
Chris Pratt gets a lot to do in the story, obviously, with him finding his long lost dad. He balances the cool action hero and sort of sad guy just looking for his dad really well. His relationship with Gamora moves along in this film too, with their “Will They? Won’t They?” dynamic returning. Although it’s refreshing that they pick up on this with Peter comparing their relationship to one from an 80’s sitcom, the studio keeps them apart because if they did kiss they’d lose ratings. Sure they sort of do the old trope of him and her falling out because she knows Ego is evil and he refuses to see it etc. etc. but it never quite goes where you think it will. Ultimately, Chris Pratt is the action comedy star of the moment, like this generation’s Brendan Fraser. One moment he can be doing something really cool, the next he can be falling over and getting laughed at.
Like another action movie franchise, the most important thing in these films is family and it’s difficult not to get swept up in the bickering and the joking of the team. Out of everyone in the MCU they seem the most like friends.
Some people might complain that the soundtrack isn’t as good as the first film. And whilst I agree that the music certainly isn’t as memorable, it’s used more effectively. The scenes of ‘Mr. Blue Sky’ and ‘Father and Son’ knock Blue Suede right out of the water every day of the week.
Now I get that this film is not for everyone. It’s a bit more harsh than other Marvel films (not sure what Cap would say to all the killing) but that’s who these guys are. They’re not the Avengers. Also it definitely appeals to a certain demographic, the sort of people who will enjoy multiple references, a cameo, and an end credits song from David Hasselhoff.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is the most stylish, funny, and perhaps even the most entertaining film the MCU has offered us so far. But at the same time it stands alone. Civil War had multiple films of development leading up to their amazing climatic showdown, but this is a lot more self-contained. It’s not perfect but that’s part of the charm. It’s a triumph. Or maybe I’m just a sucker for Kurt Russell.
Also it contains the absolute BEST Stan Lee cameo.
Reviewed by Jack