Yesterday, because I live in the UK, and we’ve got it first, I went to see Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2. Due to the fact I live in the remote wilds of the Highlands of Scotland, this involved a 170 mile round trip and a four hour drive. I have to be pretty excited about a movie to make this sort of effort, but the first Guardians of the Galaxy was my favourite Marvel movie. And, having now seen the sequel, it remains my favourite Marvel movie – but only just.
This review will be completely spoiler free, and will reveal nothing that isn’t obvious from the trailers and marketing, so you can read on without fear of any plot reveals. Although, it must be said, there isn’t a whole lot of plot to spoil. The entire storyline is basically “Characters you love get in crazy amounts of trouble” but because it’s impossible not to love them within the first few minutes of the opening scene, you don’t really notice.
In fact, the simplistic plot proved to be a strength of the movie, rather than a weakness. It provides all the excuses required for the fast and frantic set-pieces in which many, many things get blown up, but leaves plenty of room for the characters to breathe and develop, which is where the real joy of this movie lies.
Guardians of the Galaxy (Vol 1) was the first movie I’d seen in years where I felt like I was going to miss the characters when it finished. Every character was played note-perfect, from loveable rogue, Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) to the computer generated tree-creature, Groot (Vin Diesel). Part of what made Vol 2 work for me was just having the opportunity to find out what they’d all been up to since their first outing, and within just a few seconds of seeing the group together again, I felt like I was catching up with old friends.
The opening credit sequence, around a couple of minutes into the movie, is a nod to both the opening and ending of the first movie, and had the entire audience laughing at the packed-house screening I attended. Just like with the first movie, I think I spent most of the running-time for this one grinning from ear to ear, just enjoying the sheer fun of it. Because GotG Vol 2 is pretty much non-stop fun from start to finish.
Not that your other emotions won’t get to stretch their legs, too, of course. The action is suitably thrilling, the stakes are high, and there are a couple of moments where you might just need some tissues close to hand. My concerns that new elements might detract from the experience were unfounded. Pom Klementieff shines as Mantis, Michael Rooker takes Yondu to all new levels of awesome and Kurt Russell is… well, he’s Kurt Russell, which is all anyone could ever ask.
And then there’s Baby Groot. I went into the movie thinking the mini-version of everyone’s favourite bark-faced alien would either A) steal the movie, or B) become a bit irritating in a Jar Jar Binks sort of way.
The truth is closer to A, but not at the expense of the rest of the crew. Yes, he’s adorable, and yes, I want one right now, but all the characters are given their chance to shine (special nod to Dave Bautista’s Drax).
I watched the movie in Inverness, where Karen Gillan who plays Nebula hails from. The first time she appeared on screen, there was a little whisper of excitement through the audience. Yes, she’s back for Vol 2, but this time her relentless aggression is undercut by a vulnerability that makes her character so much more than in the first movie.
With the release of Vol 2, director James Gunn has given me my second favourite Marvel movie. The first had the element of surprise to its advantage – no-one knew what to expect, and what we were given blew us all away. That surprise has been replaced by a certain weight of expectation, and I am immensely relieved that it was able to live up to it, and then some.
I loved it, my 14-year-old loved it, my 7-year-old loved it (although she disapproved of the occasional bad language, and is already asking questions about Drax’s penis/impregnation story) and even my sci-fi/superhero/blockbuster-hating wife enjoyed it, too. We were disappointed when it ended, but luckily there were five (yes, five) post-credit scenes to ease the pain.
If you’re looking for a tightly-plotted science fiction tale, this won’t scratch that itch. If you’re looking for an epic space adventure, to get to know more about the eclectic cast of outstanding characters, or just to have a whole lot of fun for a couple of hours, you really can’t go wrong. Roll on Vol 3!
Can’t wait to see Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2? Check out my own band of space-based misfits, Space Team (although you’ll have to imagine your own soundtrack).