Marvel’s oddball group of heroes unite once more to save the galaxy, in a quirky yet muddled film, held together by the strength of its central cast and the introduction of the undeniably adorable Baby Groot.
The surprise hit of 2014 “Guardians of the Galaxy” laid the groundwork in uniting an unlikely team of cosmic outsiders. While they acted as a unit for a fair amount of the film’s run-time, volume 2 picks up with their dynamic firmly established and fully formed. This is undeniably the heart of the sequel’s success.
Every member of the central team is served well by Gunn’s script. They all have their own distinct voices and characteristics which play against each other to great comic effect. Chris Pratt’s “Peter Quill” may to some effect appear the team’s leader, but really all have equal billing. If you had to pick a star of the show, it may have to be “Baby Groot” despite having little to do but pop up for silly and cute antics at regular intervals. It feels as though Gunn has earned the right to do this after the first film, and even the harshest skeptics will surely find themselves on board (particularly after the film’s opening scene which uses E.L.O’s song “Mr. Blue Sky” in a wildly entertaining way.)
Along for the ride, Kurt Russell is an interesting addition to the cast and Michael Rooker receives a surprisingly much larger role as the toothy blue ravager “Yondu”. While the film’s other blue star, Karen Gillan as “Nebula” gets an expanded role, she feels somewhat under-served despite a snarling performance.
As fresh and exciting as the titular characters themselves is the world in which they inhabit. “Guardians” explores very different territory than most of the expanded collection of Marvel films, with the bright and colourful alien planets and the creatures that inhabit them providing a visually stunning backdrop.
The issues with the film lie in its narrative structure. A lot of plot threads are set into motion, many of which seem to fizzle out in the final act. There’s a certain element of filling time until the final conflict, a problem often faced by Marvel films. It’s easier to be forgiving due to the well-realised main characters and having a genuine desire to spend time with them.
The central plot thread (which I won’t spoil) revolves heavily around the ideas of family and loyalty, and on the whole this works. It sometimes feels like certain plot points are dragged out and others are rushed far too quickly. The film could maybe use a few sight tweaks in the editing room, but it mostly holds together.
On the whole, the film provides a hugely entertaining ride across space with a cast of extremely funny and likable anti-heroes. There’s not much it can do to spoil people’s enjoyment of these aspects, especially with the action interspersed with a thrilling nostalgic soundtrack of 70’s and 80’s hits.
The second time around proves “Guardians” is one of the most exciting cogs in the Marvel machine, and though it falls just short of the thrill of the original there’s promising signs of much more fun to come.