Back in the endless mists of time that was 2014, geek god James Gunn emerged from the world of low budget comedy/horror to knock an interstellar home run with the surprise Marvel smash Guardians Of The Galaxy. A heartfelt tour-de-force of absurdist humor that gloriously triumphed the underdog, it ended with the massive legend that positively screamed at us “THE GUARDIANS WILL RETURN” with puffed up confidence, however history has constantly shown us that when such a suprise strikes multiplexes, the inevitable sure fire sequel can only be a disappointment – see Iron Man 2 for details…
Thankfully and surprisingly, this is wasn’t the case with this second volume of Gunn’s smash mouth space opera and the director has pulled off sequel that manages to pretty much measure up to the first film fairly nicely.
It’s been six months since the self proclaimed Guardians Of The Galaxy guarded said galaxy from the destructive machinations of a Kree fanatic and we join the dysfunctional gang of Star-Lord, Gamora, Drax, Rocket and a sapling version of Groot as they complete a mission for the stuck-up race known as the Sovereign.
Rocket, being the raccoony little prick he is, thinks it’s a smashing idea to steal from them and subsequently brings the entire plant down on everyone’s heads, but while as they flee they crash land on a nearby planet. In true Empire Strikes Back style the team separate into smaller groups and each get caught up their little side missions that conveniently help them deal with any emotional problems they may br going through. Star-Lord himself Peter Quill finally meets his father, the god like living planet, Ego (little G); Rocket is having problems adjusting to the whole family thing and finds similarities with Michael Rooker’s fan-favorite Yondu; adoptive sisters Gamora and Nebula clash over their abusive childhood under the fist of the mad Titan, Thanos; and professional scene stealer Drax forges a bizarrely touching relationship with Ego’s servant, the empathic and highly naive Mantis. Oh what’s that? Baby Groot? Why, he’s just here to dance.
However, this being a Marvel film means that no one is allowed to have a simple relationship with their fathers and so Ego obviously has a few trillion skeletons in his closet and the Guardians have to pull their shit together in order to save the galaxy once more, but to do so they have to continue to avoid the murderous attempts of the Sovereign, not to mention a mutiny within the depths of Yondu’s Ravager faction which causes a sizable schism which complicates matters even more…
Even with the adictively foot tapping sounds of Star-Lord’s Awesome Mix Tape Vol 2 playing at any given opportunity, how on earth can our bickering heroes possibly hope to best the godlike might of a Celestial?
Given the unimaginable freedom one must get when you know that your bizarre movie and odd cast of characters WORK, James Gunn is free to go full-on, hyper-weird with his own little corner of the Marvel Cinematic Universe with precious little strands connecting it to the rest of the MCU save some minor lip service paid to Thanos and The Infinity Stones. Having the responsibility to set up a future endeavor like Thor: Ragnarok or Avengers: Infinity War taken off his shoulders, Gunn makes sure almost every aspect of the original has been beefed up to the max. However, this ends up being something of a mixed blessing; the visuals are devastatingly lush, the easy-going camaraderie is far breezier and the action is huge (an ostentatious massacre to the tune of Come A Little Bit Closer by Jay & The Americans is sublime) while pulling together numerous threads into a huge storyline that somehow stands on the right side of bloated – but on the other hand, some things that were perfectly fine in the original are somewhat unbalanced here. Take Drax for example: his inability to decipher metaphors due to him being completely literal made him a comedy secret weapon but here it’s morphed into some sort of a cartoonish mental illness that merges with Mantis’ childlike nature to create a fair few scenes that end with Dave Bautista laughing hysterically that gets progressively less funny the more it happens. Plus some off the 80’s references seem a little been there, done that – come on Marvel, David Hasselhoff cameos have been done to death thanks to The SpongeBob Movie and Piranha 3DD, surely you’re better that that?
However, if some of the good things have got worse, that also means that that some of the other good things have gotten even better and Kurt Russell’s villain turn as Ego is clean and crisp and the genius casting that essential makes the man who played idiot/hero Jack Burton the father of Chris Pratt raises another rather basic Marvel antagonist into something much more memorable (a de-aged pre-credits Russell wooing Star-Lord’s mum with flowing locks and a sports car is fantastic). James Gunn’s boost in confidence is evident in a credits sequence that literally shoves the usual massive opening action sequence into the background in favour of an oblivious Groot dancing through the carnage but he really nails the hugely emotional ending which turns out to be an incredibly ballsy and emotional way to end a comedy that features a vomiting baby tree. Christ, there’s even Sylvester Stallone’s small role as a rival Ravager faction that gives us a neat little Cliffhanger reunion with Michael Rooker and five (fucking five!) post credit sequences that close the film (3 jokey, 2 plot based if you must know), GOTGV2 gets better with a second viewing.
It’s obvious that Gunn is now the chief architect to all things cosmic in the MCU, with Taika Waititi following in his wacky comedic footsteps for Ragnarok, while featuring the team in the upcoming fourth Thor film and Captain Marvel borrowing a fair few visual cues and characters.
Wherever a third volume goes is anyones guess but in a previous review I once described the first Guardians as like pouring pure joy into each of your eyeballs – keeping in line with this theme I suppose Vol 2 is tantamount to swallowing a condom full of joy and trying to smuggle it into another country only to have the condom burst in your stomach and having a joy overdose right in the middle of the airport. Or something… fuck knows what my analogy will be for the third film… Whatever… What I’m trying to say here is that I genuinely believe that this is a sequel that’s nicely on par with it’s predecessor.
All hail the A-holes. Or should that be A+ holes?