The first Guardians of the Galaxy film was a big surprise that made even the lighter entries in the Marvel movie canon seem a bit too serious and this rambunctious sequel carries on the combination with mostly successful results. It is at times so over the top that any attempt at serious analysis is doomed to be dismissed by a one liner possibly issued by a raccoon! Yet there is some development though trying to inject a more emotional strand into proceedings tends to clutter the narrative with multiple but similar beats. Still it’s a fun ride and should be seen on the biggest screen you can find!
In some ways it peaks at the very start with a treat of an opening sequence involving a giant octopus like space monster, Baby Groot and ELO’s `Mr Blue Sky`. Even better than Deadpool’s irreverent opening this sets up such a good mood that the next hour and a half breezes by. Baby Groot is an incredible asset to the film and something of a triumph of visual effects too. For something that looks quite basic, the amount of different expressions and moods it can convey is astonishing and you could probably watch a whole film with just him in it. One sequence where Groot constantly brings the wrong items back is priceless. Another later on involving a series of buttons on a remote control adds vital laughs to a more serious stretch. He has no dialogue except occasionally saying `I am Groot` but he doesn’t need it!
We’re at a time when the Guardians are famous for their exploits and have been hired by a race called the Sovereign to despatch that big creature in the opening credits. However things go awry afterwards and before long the Guardians find themselves pursued across the Galaxy by droves of Sovereign craft. In one of many knowing nods to 80s culture peppered though the film, these ships turn out to be remotely controlled by the gold skinned race from what resembles a giant arcade full of electronic games. Seeing this previously calm race getting worked up about the outcome of the battle is fun too.
Our heroes (plus Nebula) are rescued by an egg -like craft from which strides a man claiming to be Peter’s long lost father. His name is Ego and he’s a self proclaimed God! Turns out that he is who he says but his hidden agenda unfurls slowly as he entertains some of the Guardians on a planet he created but which hides a nasty secret. Played by Kurt Russell who enters into the spirit of things this storyline brings out the best in several characters notably Chris Pratt’s hitherto frivolous Peter and the feuding sisters Gamora and Nebula enabling strong performances from both Zoe Saldana and Karen Gillan. Meanwhile the others are captured by Yondu, the blue faced scavenger and his gang. This bunch work their way through lots of pirate like tropes – including the film’s best running joke about their leader’s scavenger name- once Yondu is overthrown.
The film is at its best when poking fun at familiar scenarios backed up by some visual extravaganzas especially when jumping around the Galaxy or exploring the living planet. The retro music themes prevalent last time round are even more prominent here and there’s even a visual Pacman gag to savour. On a more thoughtful note there’s a sequence that puts a new spin on the familiar father / son catch scene.
However somewhere in its final hour the film’s momentum starts to become clogged up with these multiple storylines especially when matters become comparatively more serious and each is resolved in a similar manner. Whilst some material like this is essential it just stretches too far near the end hammering home the theme of family rather too much. This tend to undermine the main story of Peter and his father as well. Also having been such an enjoyably strange trip the finale is so colourfully chaotic that it loses itself in a miasma that is reminiscent of those city flattening superhero slug outs where you feel you are watching software rather than drama.
Nonetheless Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 is a hugely enjoyable and frequently laugh out loud joyride.