Sequel to the hit 2014 Marvel blockbuster that proved the company could make money out of any back-door comic book, can the team of space jerks survive beyond their surprising maiden voyage? Lee, Aisling and Lawrence review.
How long before we can untangle Guardians of the Galaxy from each and every Star Wars-related unthink-piece? When Mission: Impossible finally goes to space to revel in Star-Lord’s shadow, will the Jedi get jealous? By the time the collective consciousness of the next generations grant this series its place in history unopposed it will already be too late, for pop culture is the fickle lightsabre the Guardians team have chosen to fall on.
And we’ll turn and thank Star Wars once again for its timeless appeal and asexual approach to filmmaking, for only art that survives can be art that surpasses. There’ll be another Guardians of the Galaxy, in some form, because that form is cheaper and easier to seduce and use. Choppy action, predictable sentiments, uneven pacing, transparent arc-work, slapdash “romantic” elements – we can do better, let’s all agree.
But if sentiment is a tired sentiment, our definition of art is outdated and cold. Elitism comes inherent with exposure – Marvel knows this well, and their boisterous and pettiest fans wear that unknowing fact proudly, particularly but not yet definitively in 2017. To combat themselves, here is a film that values cheapness within their own episodic ranks; a testament to ever-fading fads and an accessible one at that. Big budget caps on low budget ideas: it’s the classic Spielbergian conundrum.
Does it give the film more value? Not especially, it’s just worth keeping in mind that dumb, loud fun can be just that and still be meaningful. Not every kid in the world knows yet that their parents might not always have had the best intentions, or that their siblings hate them for a reason. Not every adult knows that Zune doesn’t exist anymore. Practically nobody will pick up on that Frasier reference until they know to look for it. There are shades to these things, and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 does a damn fine job playing the odds so that those who watch it are going to come out in a good mood, even if it does so by playing the fence.
Shut up about Star Wars, is all I’m saying.
Back in 2014, Star Lord, Gamora, Groot, Drax and Rocket became a surprise hit in the Box Office. Rather than acting as a bridge for a seemingly never-ending onslaught of upcoming, formulaic Marvel movies, Guardians of the Galaxy was something off-beat and quirky – and it paid off.
Unsurprisingly, director James Gunn replicates that winning formula for Volume 2, with a fantastic soundtrack and more laugh-out-loud moments. It does suffer the sequel curse, as it’s let down by its questionably slow plot and plethora of stories it wants to tell. Volume 1 ended on the question who was Peter Quill’s father? Well, instead of focusing on that thread, or even Gamora’s continuing saga with bitter sister Nebula, the movie attempts to focus on just a few too many characters and stories, and it doesn’t quite work.
Plot issues aside, the heart of Guardians has always been the bond between its core cast, something the movie is so confident in even from the beginning with the fantastic opening sequence featuring ELO’s Mr Blue Sky and an adorable Baby Groot. Favourite: Dave Bautista’s Drax, who steals every scene and provides the majority of laugh-out-loud moments.
Most of Volume 1’s charm lay within its soundtrack, which blended seamlessly with the film. Whilst Mixtape Volume 2 is a worthy contender to its predecessor, it does at times feel like the script was written around the songs. Whether that’s blatant Marvel workshopping or a brilliant storytelling challenge, who can tell.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is never going to win awards, but it proves to be a fun journey. Distracted and lumbersome though it can be, it is nevertheless well worth the view!
A fantastic sequel to Marvel’s best!
[Lee and Aisling’s reviews were originally published on Wednesday 3rd May]
Guardians of the Galaxy was a gamble in many ways: a former Troma director, an Avengers-sized budget, and a cast that almost seemed to revel in its own obscurity, one of whom is a cartoon raccoon; to say nothing of their moral ambiguity. Getting greenlit must have been a feat, but it paid off. Guardians of the Galaxy is now a household name. A sequel, it seemed, was inevitable.
Fast forward three years and here we are: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 has arrived on the scene, all flared trousers and lasers. We may have been taken by surprise before, but we were ready this time, our expectations are high; can the sequel deliver?
Make no mistake, it’s a sequel alright. Higher stakes, bigger fights, unlikely team-ups and all that you’ve grown to love, but more more more! For the most part, this is not a problem, and is even quite welcome. By all means, go nuts. Yet, there are some worrisome sequel symptoms present; early scenes relying just a little too much on material from the original. Yes, Groot dancing is very endearing, but it wears very thin very quickly, and Drax’s uproarious laughter is infectious at first, but is done just one too many times to avoid becoming grating. In addition, the movie is very busy, with information both visual and plot-related flying fast and loose. Not to the point of sensory overload, but restroom runs are not recommended.
Perhaps I’m presumptuous in saying so, but if you’re reading this I’ll take it you are familiar with the original, so here’s the set-up for Volume 2: The Guardians attract the (admittedly deserved) wrath of a powerful alien race but right as things start to look hairy they’re rescued by a powerful but mysterious figure calling himself “Ego” (Kurt Russell), who claims to be Peter Quill (Chris Pratt)’s long-lost father, he then invites the Guardians to stay on his personal planet while he reconnects with his son. But! Is there more to Ego and his claims of paternity than meets the eye? Yes. The answer is always yes. Of course there is.
It’s difficult to discuss what my problems are with the Ego character without dropping considerable spoilers, but taken in the broadest sense, when there are considerable discrepancies with his actions compared to his abilities and circumstances, why would an ancient being with such incredible power and infinite time be making so many hasty mistakes? Honestly, it seems like some of the decisions he makes are contrived purely to serve the story. He also suffers a little from that classic Green Lantern lack-of-imagination; you have the ability to take any shape and you always settle for the human form? I get you want to put the mortals at ease and you have a fondness for the little monkeys but why are you still doing it when the shit hits the fan? Surely there’s a more effective form for combat. And why does your planet have a big angry human face on it? Who knows, perhaps that’s just all of the cheesy charm of these things.
Guardians has a fondness of staying edgy, the fun & goofy kind of edgy, but edgy nonetheless. They strike a fine balance and it works for the most part, but at times there’s an almost tangible strain against the elastic upper boundaries of that 12A rating. I won’t pretend to have read the comics, I cannot speak for their tone, but Rocket’s inability to swear effectively is surprisingly distracting; it’s a miracle he doesn’t burst at the seams.
It certainly feels like the most self-indulgent Marvel film so far. This is not necessarily a bad thing; if any of them are going to be self-indulgent it should be Guardians and I’d take basking in its own silliness over the occasional slip into a safe generic mush any day. This is no better demonstrated than with the whopping five credits stingers. One thing it does pull off is, depending on your perspective, either the best or the worst product placement scene put to film in a long time. You’ll know it when you see it, this is some Wayne’s World shit we’re talking about.
There’s very little more to be said, really. If you liked the first one, you’ll like this one. If you didn’t like it, you won’t like this either. It ticks along at a fairly consistent pace, even if it is let down in places by clunky expository dialogue. That being said, a lot of it is mitigated by stellar performances across the board. Pratt’s Star Lord and Dave Bautista’s Drax continue to be the stars of the show, as far as I’m concerned. However, Michael Rooker’s Yondu and Kurt Russell’s Ego put in an equally strong showing.
His performance as Ego is pretty good too.
“We have all these great ideas for stingers, Mr. Gunn! Which ones do you want us to use?” “All of them.” “Huh? What do you mean, al-“ “ALL OF THEM”.
(Note to Editor: Boy can I not wait for every “Fleetwood Mac – The Chain” YouTube video to have every halfwit and their mothers spewing quotes and letting us know what brought them there. My God, is this what age feels like? Maybe Ego knew what he was talking about! Clearly omnicide is the answer.
Also despite what my desperate attempt at a pithy ending may imply I think Kurt Russell is a cool guy and I have no idea what his ego is like.)
(Ed:- Oh I see what you’re doing. Multiple stingers, right. Consider this the production mandated continuity stinger then. THESE CRITICS WILL RETURN.)(