Guardians of the Galaxy was a surprise. Not that it was a hit that was surprising, but that it was colossal hit across the world for what it was; a relatively, little known Marvel comic is now the third most popular property in the Marvel cinematic arsenal after The Avengers and Iron Man. As such, when you have something as successful as the previous film, a case of sequelitis is even bigger. While you might be asking for more of same, but more of it, it could make you feel disappointed by the outcome that nothing has changed. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 may play the same tune as the first, riding the same coattails, but this film decides to root down on everything that made it successful the first time. It might have the same elements, but they looked inward retrospection rather than outward ambition.
Good times, good tunes, and good ol’ fun is promised, but doing the similar again is risky. People can bore easily, and certainly fatigue can make people not want to come back for more. However, unlike other sequels, this familial tv show-esque sojourn of familial troubles and explosive effects stands on its own merits, with none of the charm missing. It certainly misses that special spark the first film has, as well its focused and crisp plotting, there is enough invention and humour to cover the more drawn out and played out elements in this latest film on the Marvel assembly line.
The film, deciding to follow the direct approach by settling its biggest mystery; uncovering the mystery behind Peter ‘Star-Lord’ Quill’s (Chris Pratt) parentage. It goes back into the main theme of the first film, the emotional conflicts of being in a family of misfits, and the complications thereof. Emotions, more interesting than dry point A to B plotting (Captain America: Civil War being a victim of this boring curse) does make the film incredibly messy, leaving some of the jokes messy and making you aware of the highs points and low points more apparent in the film. We have Quill, former space pirate being caught by surprise by the materialisation of his alien father Ego (Kurt Russell, the name being on-the-nose symbolic), assassin Gamora (Zoe Saldana) is still having sister trouble with the psychotic Nebula (Karen Gillen), Groot (Vin Diesel), a big tree-like creature who died (sort of) in the last one, has been reborn as Baby Groot, and is dealing with being a child in a violent confusing world, and Rocket (Bradley Cooper/Sean Gunn), a genetically re-engineered raccoon loner, is now facing issues with being a part of a galactic family… Oh, I forgot Drax (Dave Bautista), a self-serious warrior by appearances, who seems to be along with the ride as the comic relief of all things, either his vengeance is sedated or put on hold for this adventure, where he shares in emotionally stunted banter with Mantis (Pom Klementieff), an alien with strong empathetic abilities but none of the social ones.
These stories, with less focus than the plot for the first film, loses a bit of the thematic depth that ties it into a perfect blockbuster, and has also sacrificed surprising strangeness of the first film by virtue of being a sequel. Is it to say this film has fell short of its mark? Not likely, while probably wasn’t inspiring to be anything different or purely groundbreaking, but rather, it finds worth spending time going deeper into the characters that we know and probably love (I’m personally not a fan of Baby Groot, as his dynamic is played too strongly to edict laughs). At times feeling a bit belabored in its character journey (the second act is strangely stagnant) and some of its jokes don’t hit that hard, but its lows aren’t very low and its highs are very, very high, with Yondu (Michael Rooker), space pirate extraordinaire benefiting from some revisionism in this film compared to the last film.
The best way to view this film is to use a Tarantino coined term, ‘the hang-out movie’. The ‘hang-out movie’ is where the focus, whilst still having a plot, is more relaxed and fun when it is focused on the characters, showing off the weird quirks of the planets and civilizations they visit, and its winning soundtrack (Fleetwood Mac, Electric Light Orchestra being highlights). Jack Kirby-esque imagery, some hilarious one-liners, and the genteel cast is where the strength of the film lies. That is what people will talk about and remember, whilst they put it on TV on a lazy Sunday to enjoy.
It doesn’t feel as innovative is that we know, the galaxy knows who they are already. They’re winners. It might miss out on becoming a classic of the space opera genre (or superhero if you’re inclined), but for sheer entertainment you’d be wrong to not give this installment a shot. It does not reinvent the wheel, but this strange wheel deserves another spin.
Rating: THREE AND A HALF STARS.