Review: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
3.5out of 5

Director: James Gunn

Starring: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper and Kurt Russell

In 2014, Guardians of the Galaxy catapulted relatively unheard of superheroes into the hearts of millions of Marvel Cinematic Universe fans worldwide. Three years later and looking to jack up their prices as two-time galaxy savers, the Guardians make a triumph return with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. Eschewing the need to outdo the first in terms of spectacle, the sequel offers a more mature and deeper look into the ragtag group of loveable miscreants. The characters once again prove to be the highlight of the show, and by putting the spotlight firmly on them and their relationship with each other, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 delivers a satisfying sequel despite the uneven storytelling.

Opening with another memorable credits sequence, we reunite with the Galactic heroes on a new assignment. Hired by a gold-skinned race called the Sovereign to take down a giant inter-dimensional monster eating their planet’s power, it’s business as usual for the crew. That is until Rocket steals the power that they were meant to be protecting and the crew swiftly find themselves on the run from the Sovereign’s fleet of drones. Old habits die-hard after all.

Except the chase doesn’t last long before the Guardians crash land on a nearby planet. Stranded, they are aided by a mysterious stranger who, if the trailers hadn’t already spoilt the surprise, is revealed to be Peter’s dad, Ego (Kurt Russell). The father-son reunion forms the crux of the story, and with the group left with few options, they split into two. Ego invites Peter to his home planet, and he follows along with Gamora and Drax, while Rocket and Groot stay to tend to the ship. As the characters break up, the story also splinters into a tangled web of subplots, and there’s not much pulling them all together. Each character is given their own arc and we learn a little more about each of them, especially Peter and his relationship with his father, but there’s nothing really pushing the story forward. There’s no real villain, no imminent threat and only hints of something nefarious bubbling under the surface which lends a decidedly lack of urgency to the centre of the film.

Having said that, even when the story does slumber, there’s always something to distract your senses. The film’s presentation is once again stellar and it not only elevates the film but at times it feels like the film gets by solely because of it. The bright, fluorescent colour palette nails the trippy, free spirited 70’s aesthetic and locations such as Ego’s beautifully, CGI rendered home planet are a feast for the eyes. Much like the first, the film is a marvel (pun intended) to look at.

Your ears are also in for a treat as the film’s new mix tape (aptly titled Awesome Mix Vol 2.) is another killer. The soundtrack has been carefully curated as an integral part of the film and the inspired song choices reflect that. Drawing once again on classic tunes, the soundtrack is populated by the likes of Fleetwood Mac and Cat Stevens, who perfectly compliment the film’s eclectic mix of drama, action and comedy. Even the bizarre addition of an original song called ‘Guardians Inferno’ sung by David Hasselhoff feels inspired and is likely to be stuck in your head for days after.

Despite the mid-film lull, the story does recover, and a late game twist pulls it back into top-form. It’s a dark revelation that threatens to pull the group apart but instead serves to bring them closer together. It highlights the strength of the film, that even amidst all the action and razzle-dazzle special effects, it’s the characters which standout and endure. Their resolve to stick together as a family, through thick and thin, is what makes the characters so great to follow and the film’s heartfelt coda encapsulates this perfectly.

It should be noted, however, that those expecting for the film to pave the way for Avengers 3 are going to leave the theatre somewhat disappointed, as the narrative is surprisingly self-contained for this stage of Marvel’s Phase 3. While it has been confirmed that the Guardians will appear in the third Avengers film, there’s nothing in Vol.2, not even in one of the five (yes FIVE) end-credits sequences, which remotely hints at the Guardians involvement with the Avengers.

For that matter, very little at all of what happens seems to have an impact on the overarching MCU universe. While that’s not exactly a complaint, given Marvel’s penchant for constantly teasing of bigger to come, there’s a slight disappointing feeling to Vol 2 that it acts mostly as filler. In the end, however, it’s hard to complain when the film is as enjoyable and well made as this. While not exactly the breathe of fresh air that the first one was, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2’s winning combination of infectious energy, gorgeous aesthetic and laugh out loud humour more than makeup for the uneven storytelling.

Review by Dominic Kwaczynski