Director : James Gunn
Year Of Release : 2017
Principal Cast : Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, Michael Rooker, Pom Klementieff, Elizabeth Debicki, Chris Sullivan, Sean Gunn, Sylvester Stallone, Kurt Russell, Laura Haddock, Gregg Henry, Seth Green, Evan Jones, Tommy Flannagan, Michael Rosenbaum, Ving Rhames, Michelle Yeoh.
Approx Running Time : 136 Minutes
Synopsis: The Guardians must fight to keep their newfound family together as they unravel the mystery of Peter Quill’s true parentage.
Caution: Minor plot spoilers within…..
Undeniably the breakout hit of the MCU franchises, James Gunn’s Guardians Of The Galaxy was an unknown quantity to all save a small legion of hardcore fans, and even then there was some doubt the property would translate to boffo box-office when it was announced. The fact we’re looking at a sequel to Guardians speaks volumes as to not only the resilience of Marvel in the face of naysayers, but also to the near-unstoppable juggernaut the interlinked mythology the studio is building as it leads into Infinity War. A talking tree, talking
trash panda raccoon, and a gaggle of humanoid aliens around an orphaned human outcast comprise the bulk of the Guardians’ ensemble, and James Gunn’s sparkling script delightfully works to both the strength of the cast and the assumed intelligence of the audience in understanding what’s going on; Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2 isn’t just a rehash of the original film, but a wonderful continuation that gives weight to the fantasy elements and brings a humanity and depth to the (admittedly) convoluted shenanigans that many franchise films often fail to capture.
The self-titled Guardians, led by Peter “Star Lord” Quill (Chris Pratt) and daughter of Thanos Gamora (Zoe Saldana) have been hired to protect some valuable infrastructure by the Sovereign, an arrogant class of people ruled by Ayesha (Aussie actress Elizabeth Debicki – The Great Gatsby). Accompanied by Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper), the indomitable Drax (Dave Bautista) and innocent Baby Groot (Vin Diesel), the Guardians are successful in their mission, and make off to leave with newly acquired prisoner Nebula (Karen Gillan), but are pursued by the Sovereign forces when Rocket steals several valuable batteries; the team crash on a nearby planet, but are soon located by the seemingly benevolent Celetial, Ego (Kurt Russell), who announces that he’s Peter’s long-lost father, and requests he journey to his home planet, an idyllic paradise, with his empathic servant Mantis (Pom Klementieff). Meanwhile, the outcast Ravager Yondu (Michael Rooker) is hired by Ayesha to hunt down and capture the Guardians, bringing him and his mutinous crew to Ego’s planet, at which point all hell breaks loose.
Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2 is a hell of a lot of fun. Its best feature is just how well it provides a platform for each member of the team’s roster to grow and develop strongly enough to warrant their inclusion, offering plenty of backstory to Peter Quill’s parentage, as well as a fun dynamic between Drax and newcomer Mantis (a terrific Pom Klementieff), and some out-and-out laughs to Rocket, Groot, and Michael Rooker’s Yondu, returning from the original film. There’s laughs, fun, thrills, and even tears as Gunn and his dynamic visual prowess seek to give us a film that doesn’t just retread familiar sequel ground, but offer new angles and adventures for this team and this cosmic realm. Yes, this is the first Marvel film I’ve legitimately had a tear in my eye watching, as a character’s moving sacrifice during the film’s latter stages provides weighty and solemn punctuation to what could generally be termed “hijinks”.
For an ensemble film to work, all the pieces have to move and flow in unison, and the screenplay has to feel like it’s genuinely giving us reason to invest in each character; Gunn, who wrote the script here as well as directing, accomplishes a startling balancing act in giving each character a small arc and delivering both the widescreen, cosmic, galaxy-spanning adventuring we’ve come to expect, but also the intimate, personal beats between the disparate roster of faces we encounter. From Pratt’s Quill down to the most minor of supporting roles, you get the sense that there’s a weight and realism to the film in spite of its reliance on (brilliant) CG. The makeup effects on the aliens and humanoids is superb, the set design and costuming a true highlight (did Gunn borrow liberally from Jean Paul Gautlier’s work on The Fifth Element?), and Tyler Bates’ orchestrations work magnificently with the instantly toe-tapping pop-song repertoire Gunn employs to throw us into the film’s kitschy, 80’s-era aesthetic. The film’s bright, crisp look and soft-focused sense of nostalgia, infused with that wry, often dark humour, are wonderful to watch.
The cast all look like they’re having a blast, with Chris Pratt’s cheeky Quill and Zoe Saldana’s green-skinned Gamora enjoying their tete-a-tete relationship, Kurt Russell’s cheery-yet-creepy Ego (including some sweet de-aging effects done in the film’s opening scene) and the awfully cute Baby Groot being chiefly responsible. Bautista grabs a fair amount of laughs with his slightly spectrum-y turn as Drax, while Mantis makes an interesting (if underutilised) member of the team. A surprising appearance by Sylvester Stallone, as another Ravager faction leader, and a couple of other Marvel fan-service appearances, will elicit moments of bafflement to casual fans, but for those of us invested in the franchise there’s much to savour here. Karen Gillan, of anyone, is the least serviced by the script, her role as the antagonistic Nebula (sister to Gamora) feels less fleshed out than the rest, but it’s a minor note in an otherwise brilliantly written, well acted ensemble film.
Guardians‘ second adventure is a concoction of riotous laughs, strong familial themes and a sense of broad-scope cosmic adventure that is a winning combination in Gunn’s sure hands. The obligatory end-credit stings and cut-scenes will ensure you stick around to the final frame, and the film does throw up some brilliantly executed comedic moments, despite avoiding the rest of the MCU for the majority of its running time. Mentions of the Infinity Stones and Thanos, both of which are due to become major parts of the Avengers films to come, are about all that link the Guardians’ latest adventure with those of Thor, Tony Stark and the rest. There’s style and fun to burn here, and I was grinning like an idiot most of the way through it.