When Guardians of the Galaxy came out in 2014, it delivered exactly what the superhero genre badly needed…a dose of lightheartedness, a large dollop of levity. It was a rowdy, raucous, rollicking space-opera with a nostalgic rock soundtrack, and a bunch of oddball characters – including a wiseass raccoon and a sentient tree trunk. How could it not work!
Of course Marvel quickly announced a sequel, and you had to wonder how writer-director James Gunn intended to recapture the freshness and the novelty of the first film.
Those fears, as it turns out, were entirely justified. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 is a bloated sequel bursting with CGI excess and set-pieces that are lacking genuine suspense. The plot too is all over the place, and frankly the film overstays its welcome clocking in at a butt-numbing 2 hours and 20 minutes.
Having said that, I will admit that it’s not as if the sequel offers no joy. Characters and treatment remains the mainstay of Vol 2. Gunn delivers more of what worked the last time, namely terrific moments of irreverence, innumerable pop culture references, a killer soundtrack made up of hit 70s and 80s tunes, and crazy exchanges between the characters. Much of this is nicely captured in the film’s excellent opening sequence in which the gang is engaged in battle with an enormous tentacled monster, while Baby Groot (a miniature version of the character from the last film) plugs in the boombox and boogies to a familiar beat. The masterstroke here is that the action is relegated to the background while the little twig’s antics get centrestage.
The film is peppered with clever bits like this, most involving Rocket, the trash-talking raccoon voiced by Bradley Cooper, and the adorable Baby Groot who can still only say those three words and who’s still voiced by Vin Diesel.But the plot at the center of the film – which sees Chris Pratt’s character Peter Quill unravel the question of his true parentage – falls back on familiar themes of family and redemption.
Kurt Russell shows up in the role of Ego, a living planet (don’t even ask), and his track with Peter feels like a nod to that big moment between Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker in The Empire Strikes Back – you know which one! Zoe Saldana’s character Gamora, meanwhile, has family issues of her own to deal with; she’s negotiating her relationship with her vengeful sister Nebula.
The characters are still fun to be around, the one-liners are still sharp, and some of the action scenes are cut like glossy MTV-style music videos. But the scrappy, raggle-taggle charm of the core team of heroes has worn off this time around. It’s satisfying, but it never flies. I’m going with three out of five.
Rating: 3 / 5