GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2 (2017) – REVIEW

When James Gunn delivered Guardians Of The Galaxy to the big screen back in 2014, he surprised almost everyone. Here was this relatively unknown director of ‘squelchy’ independent films like Slither and Super (he also penned The Belko Experiment which is currently in cinemas), jumping into the well-established Marvel Cinematic Universe with a group of characters who no-one but avid comic readers would recognize. The ingredients were there for a flop – or at least something resembling one – but this was Marvel, and their savvy at picking interesting directors to helm their valuable merchandise is seemingly endless. The fact that Gunn ended up making not only a successful movie despite the poor marketing, but arguably the most enjoyable MCU film to date was something no-one could have expected.

Thankfully, the expectation to follow that up with a film of the same caliber hasn’t hurt GOTG 2 even a little. The only thing that may hurt it is the very fact that it is the same, but we’ll get to that. Gunn has effectively quelled any pressure to give us a second installment which is just as fun and inventive as the first one, and the key was probably to not shuffle the formula too much. The film finds us pretty much where we left off last time: back amongst the bickering group of heroes as they make jokes and fight a big space monster accompanied by the first track of the Awesome Mix Vol. 2 (which is still awesome, but a bit less awesome than the last one); it’s fun, it’s silly, and we immediately know what we’re getting into. If you enjoyed the first one, you’ll certainly enjoy this.

Though that’s not to say say it does everything the same. In a similar way to Deadpool being essentially one big set-piece, GOTG 2 spends a vast portion of its running time in the same place with the same characters while it leads towards an equally explodey but somehow more contained third act. While this is may be problematic for some, I found it worked rather well as it affords the script time to breathe and significantly develop relationships between the characters it already has, rather than spend time planet-hopping and filling the film up with perhaps entertaining but mostly shallow additions which don’t leave much of an impact. The other significant difference is the addition of a decent villain with better motives and higher stakes; far more interesting than the boring, ‘world-dominating’ guy we got last time. The MCU movies have been mostly great so far, but they still haven’t figured out how to write an original baddie.

That said, I think what some people may ultimately experience is an element of been-there-done-that apathy. In the same way Age Of Ultron was still a very enjoyable movie but lacked the sheer wow factor of the first one; of seeing those characters together for the first time, GOTG 2 doesn’t have quite the same spark as its predecessor. It’s nothing to do with the film, really; it’s just the nature of expectation. It’s less exciting when a killer 80s track kicks in and less funny when Rocket Racoon snickers uncontrollably about someone losing a limb. Which is strange, because if I were to really think about it, I’d be tempted to say Vol. 2 is a better film.


Verdict:

It’s more of the same, and that’s fine. There’s a better villain this time and the characters actually have something verging on poignant emotional development, but what it really comes down to is the fact that the jokes land pretty much every time, the soundtrack is cool, and it’s just a fun way to spend two hours. Baby Groot may also be the cutest character in history.

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆