Up until the Summer of 2014 nobody really knew who the Guardians of the Galaxy were. Let’s face it, even in comic circles, they were rather an obscure team. However, this franchise was always primed for a success considering that Marvel would have to eventually bring in the cosmic side of its comics into the Cinematic Universe to prepare for the upcoming Avengers Infinity War. Many people were not incredibly excited for Guardians of the Galaxy when it first came out, but when everyone saw it, they loved it, myself included, all you have to do is read my review of it.
Guardians of the Galaxy 2 was one of the early announcements when Marvel announced the first three of its Cinematic Universe and it would be rather early into the run, presumably as further build up for Infinity War. It was also announced that writer and director James Gunn would return for the project. Now you bet I was really excited to see Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2, I thought the original was a fantastic film, it made my Top Ten Best Films of 2014 and it was generally a fun film without being insulting to its audience. However, there was always the question “could lightning strike twice” ? The trailers looked like it was going to capture the original feel of it. The difference is, though, the first Guardians of the Galaxy didn’t give us much expectation because we weren’t prepared for it. This film, on the other hand, has a lot more to live up to with the added fandom. Is Volume 2 a worthy follow-up to the original film, we all certainly hope so, but how did it really turn out?
Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2’s plot takes place not long after the first film. After a botched mission with the Cylons, the Guardians, Peter Quill aka Star-Lord, Gamora, Drax the Destroyer, Groot and Rocket Racoon (played by Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel and Bradley Cooper respectively), are stranded on an unknown planet. They are then approached by Ego (played by Kurt Russell) and Mantis (played by Pom Klementieff). Ego reveals that he is in fact Peter’s father and that he wants to take him back to his home Planet in order to get closer to him. Rocket and Groot stay behind, however they have to deal with their prisoner Nebula (played by Karen Gillan) as well as Yondu (played by Michael Rooker) and his men. Something on Planet Ego doesn’t feel quite right!
Ok, let’s get this started very quickly, I can’t go into too much detail on the plot regarding Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 without going into spoilers. But let’s just say, if you liked the original, you are going to like this one. It’s rather difficult this time around to really assess the success of the film since the first one was rather a surprise hit, whereas this one has a lot more expectation to live up to and I think that might sour it with a few fans because, let’s face it, this film does not outdo the original one! There are a couple of reasons for that. Off the back, I think there is a little too much comedy in this film. Ok, the comedy is very good and it’s all incredibly funny, however, it can be a bit too much. I know all the writers at this point are copying Joss Weedon’s style, but I stand by that opinion. I also think there is a problem that the film has a few too many characters and a couple of them feel underutilised. Mantis, for example, has very little to do in the plot except most of the exposition. Nebular fares a little better, she is in and out of the plot quite a bit, but she appears in the movie a lot more and has a lot more of a character arc to her, which is rather satisfying. I was actually rather worried by her inclusion in this film. Yondu also gets a much more expanded role than he did in the first film, presumably thanks to the Walking Dead success, however, Yondu’s part is very well written and his and Rocket’s interactions are some of the best parts of the entire movie. But, the show stealer, by far, is Baby Groot, one of the most adorable things to come out of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Bring your girlfriends to this film, they will be squealing in five minutes. I was also rather surprised that Vin Diesel came back to voice the character as well, you thought he was pushing it a bit with the first film, this time he has to have his voice amplified so you really can’t tell it’s him.
The biggest problem with the film is that I don’t think it caters to general audiences as much as the previous film, there are a lot more references to the Marvel Universe as a whole and a lot more references to future events, though strangely the Infinity Stones and Infinity War are largely absent from this. For example, without going into too much detail, several of the post-credits scenes made a lot of references and I went with three other people, who were instantly looking at me to explain something and I had to stop for about two minutes to explain what certain references meant. There is a rather pointless cameo by Sylvester Stallone, playing Stakar Ogord, who frankly feels like a waste of potential. It’s alluded that he is going to be appearing in the Marvel Cinematic Universe later, but man, does it feel wasted. I’m probably making it sound as if I hated this movie, GOD NO, I absolutely loved this film. Where Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 succeeds, it succeeds in spades. Ok Ego is kind of a weak part, anyone can tell he is going to be the villain of this film, despite the fact that his identity as Peter Quill’s father is a change from the comic, which is rather strange because I believe he could have played the character from the comic Jaysan, which is what his character is largely based on. However, he is one of the better Marvel Cinematic villains, not as good as Loki, Wilson Fisk, or Zebadia Killgrave, but he is at least better than, say, The Dark Elves from Thor the Dark World and any of the unforgettable Iron Man villains. However, the battle with him leads to a very thrilling climax. I won’t go into too much detail, but believe me, there is a plot twist further down the line that feels rather forced to say the least. I don’t think it’s a bad plot twist per se, but it felt like it was just there for shock value more than actual narrative reasoning.
The final climax is fantastic, I will go into more detail about the fight scenes in the aesthetic part of the review, but needless to say, I think the battles are very well done. Despite the fact that it has to cater a lot more to comic fans than general audiences, it does feel like it caters at least enough to general audiences to at least keep them happy and the first film’s success has led to that. My problem is that I think there are a few too many guardians this time around. I felt that last time the five man team was enough, this time we have at least eight guardians, which again reflects more the Adnett and Lanning era of the comic, especially with Mantis being a mainstay in the team, as she was a mainstay in the original comics. However, there are a lot of characters that are missing, for example, Cosmo still hasn’t made an appearance, Adam Warlock is still entirely absent from the Marvel Cinematic Universe and there is a lot of the citizens of nowhere that are also playing minor roles that have yet to make an appearance. These are not game breaking faults that ruin the movie, if anything, my best parts of the movie are when it is more restrained and more focused. While there are a few too many plots running around, the main plot is pretty solid and tight. Even though it does feel like we have seen this plot line done several times in cartoons, but the saying also goes “if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it” !! In short, the plot works for the most part, but the only thing I will say is that it feels more like a Star Lord movie than a Guardians as a whole. It’s only in the last portion of the film that it really feels like a Guardians of the Galaxy film.
As for the actors, they are all pretty dam good. Chris Pratt is making this role his own and this is one he is going to be remembered for. It’s no surprise that the character was pretty much recycled in Jurassic World and I really think he is going to be an action star in his own right. Zoe Saldana once again kicks it as Gamora. Dave Bautista is once again proving what a versatile actor he is having moved out of the world of professional wrestling to do this and what is amazing about him is that unlike most professional wrestlers who have moved into films, he has actually had acting lessons. Bradley Cooper once again makes Rocket his own and is the perfect casting for that role and while Vin Diesel is given less to do this time around, considering that he is not providing motion capture and that he, very few times, has to say, “I am Groot”, he is still doing a pretty good job in the role. Michael Rooker gives an excellent performance as Yondu and I will say that Kurt Russell is very good at playing Ego. I will say that Sylvester Stallone though, really needed to do a second take on the scene that he was in, I know he has a very distinctive voice, but I was really struggling to understand what he was saying this time. But the stand out performance in this film has to be, once again, Karen Gillan as Nebula, who, if you haven’t seen my previous review, you may recognise her as playing Amy Pond in Dr Who, who has once again shaved her head and got into some heavy make-up for the role and she really immerses herself in it, this film is her best performance to date and I wouldn’t be surprised if she gets more casting in action films on the back of it. Overall the cast is once again absolutely excellent. I have not even mentioned a lot of the side characters, they also give excellent performances.
As for the effects, well if you liked them in the previous film, you will like them here. There is very little done to the effects. I will say that as much as I think Groot is adorable, he does look more fake this time than in the first film. This just feels like a CGI cartoon that has been added in, an adorable cartoon, but still a cartoon nonetheless. Most of the fight scenes are well shot. They are not on the same level as Captain America Civil War, but then again, what action films are on that level! I was amazed by some of the practical effects that were being used, especially early on. I will say, however, when they actually get to planet Ego, you can really feel Green Screens in the background being used. There is no real attempt to make it look natural like say, planet Nova did in the first film, which is probably one of the many reasons why John C Reilly and Glenn Close aren’t in this movie. However, I actually felt the make-up effects were all fantastic especially on some of the various rangers and the Zion’s make-up was also fantastic. I would not object to this film being nominated for best hair and make-up at the Oscars.
There is a lot to also talk about in terms of the soundtrack. The soundtrack, once again, is fantastic. I was pleased that they resisted the urge to play Hooked on a Feeling, but the new song choices are all fantastic and suit the scene well, pick up the soundtrack, it will be an excellent road trip soundtrack.
I saw the film in 3D and for once, I am recommending that you do see it in 3D. This is not surprising since I recommended that you see the original Guardians in the 3D format. The 3D is occasionally a bit gimmicky, but it does blend in the environment well, so 2D audiences will not be missing out. So, if you can, pay the extra money for that. Though I am aware that if you see this film right now you are paying extra for it because of Odeon’s Blockbuster tax. If you are not aware of what this is, Watchdog have previously provided information that Odeon charge an extra £1.50 for highly popular films, which has made my job a lot harder.
Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 does not outdo the original film, but dam is it a good movie. The action scenes are well shot, the fight scenes are well choreographed, the plot, when it has a focus is a good narrative and flowing and I felt the film, once again, had a real edge to it that not many Blockbusters are doing right now. The plot is at its worse when it is not well focused and the comedy can be a bit off the ball and once again, the villain is not incredibly amazing, but better than usual. But, I still adored this film and I am loving the fact that Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3 has already been commissioned because this is an excellent secondary team to rival the Avengers. It comes highly recommended on my part, go and see it.
No mini reviews this week. I had no time between this and Sword Art Online.
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