featuredWhen I first watched the first Guardians of the Galaxy I was filled with a very rare excitement that few films have managed to capture. It reminded me of the films I grew up with and enjoyed watching over and over again, reenacting my favourite scenes in the playground with my friends. Ghostbusters, Back to the Future, Star Wars, Indiana Jones, to name a few of the famous ones (Monster Squad and Misfits of Science to name the not so famous). Obviously with the success of these films followed the sequels, and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 has ramped up the excitement levels to have everyone who loved the original dying to know what’s in store for these characters next. So, is GOTG Vol 2 a Temple of Doom / Ghostbusters 2, or is it an Empire Strikes Back/ Back to the Future Part 2? I hate to say it, but I do with a sense of relief, that it is neither. It doesn’t quite hit the bar set by sequels such as Empire or BTFT Part 2 but thankfully it nowhere near hits the depths that we saw in Ghostbusters 2.
The film kicks off with a flashback to Earth back in the 80’s, reminding us where the GOTG films get their inspiration; it is also the era Star-Lord/Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) has a strong bond for because it’s the last time he was on Earth. The action soon switches to present day where the Guardians are about to go head-to-head with a creature that they have been hired to defeat. Remember those gold people from the trailer? That’s who hired the Guardians. It all feels very familiar to the last film, with everyone bickering and at every opportunity telling each other how they resent having to work alongside one another. However at points it all seems very forced, as if James Gunn (Writer/Director) was trying too hard to make these characters interact with each other in a funny, quirky way with a splash of resentment. The dialogue didn’t seem to flow and this is how the overall film felt.
Where the first film was very structured in terms of plot and pacing, Vol 2 seems to plod along at its own pace. It doesn’t flow very well and at times feels disjointed, but has James Gunn been very clever in doing this on purpose? The disjointedness of Vol 2 seems to reflect how the Guardians are feeling towards themselves and as a group. Star-Lord is having Daddy issues; Gamora (Zoe Saldana) is trying to connect to her sister Nebula (Karen Gillan); and Rocket (Bradley Cooper) is trying to understand why he needs the others in his life. It’s a much more personal film than the extravagance of the original and has a completely different tone, more emotionally driven than action. Vol 2 is not a copy of success, it actually builds upon where we found these characters at the end of the last film rather than place them in a similar situation where the galaxy needs saving. With Vol 2, yes the galaxy is at stake but not as much as the Guardians personal situations and beliefs. At the start of the film it feels as though each Guardian believes they can succeed as individuals but situations would suggest otherwise.
Yondu (Michael Rooker) and Nebula return with Mantis (Pom Klementieff) making her debut. These supporting characters help to bring forward more of the established characters personalities and traits. However, I struggled to think of what Mantis actually brought to the film other than act as tool for Drax to deliver one-liners. Nebula helps build Gamora’s history as well as her own and gives a little insight into what we can expect of Thanos. However, it is Yondu who really stands out; he interacts very well with each character he shares screen time with for various reasons. Besides Star-Lord, Yondu is the character that goes on the biggest emotional journey in this film. He helps add another layer to Vol 2 and really adds more depth to the other characters, in particular Rocket and Star-Lord.
As for the original returning Guardians, each character has their moment to shine. At times the emotions and relationships between them can seem a bit forced, but it builds the characters so that they don’t become predictable. You just never know what’s going to happen. Relationships evolve and it’s clear that the Guardians are more of a family than just a team like the Avengers.
In terms of how Vol 2 sits amongst the many other Marvel films and how they connect, it is very much stand alone. Obviously we have the Stan Lee cameo that we have all come to expect (just wait until you see which famous Marvel character he’s speaking to!) but apart from that there is no other reference. Marvel studios do go into overdrive with the after credit scenes with a total of FIVE! However, only one is relevant to future Marvel films and the content will only be understood by true die-hard Marvel fans. Even I had to Google the reference.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 doesn’t quite live up to the expectation that has been set by the original, James Gunn has been very daring and brave actually crafting a film that doesn’t just copy and paste from the first film in order to guarantee success. What we have is a more emotionally driven and mature film where the characters clearly evolve as individuals and as a group. It’s a brave film to make but makes it tonally different and therefore it stands on its own two feet. Just as enjoyable as the first but for different reasons.