Running time: 2 hours 18 minutes
Director: James Gunn
Cast: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Bradley Cooper, Michael Rooker, Vin Diesel, Karen Gillan, Dave Bautista, Sylvester Stallone, Pom Klementieff, Elizabeth Debicki, Chris Sullivan, Sean Gunn, Kurt Russell
Spoiler alert in effect.
It’s always dangerous territory for a film that is a sequel to a well-received predecessor. What’s not to like about the original Guardians of the Galaxy? It’s got a different tone and feel to the other MCU films; more wacky, eccentric, oddball kind of humour. The hero is unlikely, an old-school music-loving rebel who doesn’t feel a sense of belonging or purpose. While is name is Peter Quill, he’s known as Star-Lord, and having been abandoned by his real father and witnessing his mother die can be pretty traumatic in a kid’s life. The first film essentially establishes his story before he becomes incorporated into the ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ and proceeds to show the events leading up to the formation of the Guardians, which consists of Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Rocket (Bradley Cooper), Groot (Vin Diesel) and Drax (Dave Bautista). By the end, this oddball family of unlikely ‘heroes’ have inadvertently saved the galaxy. They also introduce some supporting characters that set up the sequel and other potential MCU films, including Avengers: Infinity War. These include Gamora’s sister Nebula, their father Thanos, and a Ravager by the name of Yondu (who plays such a big role in Vol. 2).
So Vol. 2 picks up a few months after the Guardians first saved the galaxy. It starts with this insane monster-slaying sequence that shows off the visual capacity of Marvel. The music fits it so beautifully, that it almost becomes this musical dance piece. They also used this scene to firmly showcase Baby Groot and all his cuteness (and badass-ness). I love Baby Groot so much! The plot then rambles on, with the new villains on the block being the Sovereign, this elitist class of genetically-engineered people who think they are perfection incarnate. But the real villain is really Ego (Kurt Russel), Peter’s biological father, who turns out to be a Celestial, basically an immortal God (who’s not so immortal?). The plot until the final act is somewhat simplistic (and of course unrealistic in places) but still highly enjoyable to watch nevertheless. But you can sort of guess what’s going to happen next. However, what makes this film better than the first was the ending. This has one of the most emotional endings of any MCU film, for me. [The following is huge spoiler alert, so don’t read on if you haven’t watched it. You’ve been warned!] Basically, we find out that Ego is in fact as egotistical and big-headed as his name suggests, and with his superpowers, he plans to take over every single planet in the universe. He sought after Peter because Peter also has the ability to harness this energy, and together, Ego can fulfill his plans. The Guardians figured this out late in the game, as Mantis (Pom Klementieff) (who is essentially Ego’s sleeping pill?) wouldn’t say anything earlier. They then proceeded to blow up Ego’s ‘brain’ and by they, I mean the Guardians, along with Nebula, Yondu and Kraglin (Sean Gunn), who is Yondu’s second hand man. Fast forwarding, as Ego’s planet is exploding, everyone escapes except for Peter. Yondu, wanting to make amends for his past mistakes and feeling like he has a responsibility as Peter’s ‘father’, sacrifices himself to save Peter. (My favourite quote from the film was “He may have been your father, Quill, but he wasn’t your daddy.” *sobs*). This was such a profoundly sad moment in the film. Just when everyone was starting to like Yondu and discovering that he was protecting Peter all along, by refusing to hand him over to Ego, he dies. For me, the surprise element made it harder to accept the truth, because I never expected them to kill off a main character who is a good guy. It reminded me of Snape’s death in Harry Potter. This person, who the audience thinks was a bad guy for the majority of the story, suddenly is revealed as being good all along, and right after that, dies. It just feels unjust. But it does impress me how a super hero movie manages to pull off some emotional complexity. James Gunn obviously understands the material very well. The funeral send-off by the Ravagers was also a deeply touching moment and gave some closure for the audience.
Yondu’s character development and his relationship with Peter wasn’t the only thing that impressed me about the film. They spent quite a lot of time exploring the complex relationship between Gamora and Nebula (Karen Gillan). We get a bit more of Nebula’s backstory, and we begin to understand her resentment over her ‘perfect’ sister and her heartless father. She only ever wanted a sister she could be friends with, and instead, Gamora would always make sure she would win. It’s not a straightforward rivalry and I’m glad they took the time to delve into it deeper. It’s also great to see so many female roles. We have Gamora, Nebula, Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki) and Mantis. Not as male-dominated as the first film. With DC releasing Wonder Woman in June, I’m liking this trend of women being portrayed in superhero films.
The humour is obviously the highlight of the film. The script is witty, and the comedic acting is spot-on, especially with Chris Pratt and Dave Bautista. Even the way Bradley Cooper voices Rocket is hilarious! But Baby Groot really steals the show and I was delighted that he got a lot of screen time. The part where he needs to push the button was so hilariously cute.
Overall, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 definitely delivers on humour, action and toe-tapping music. When an oddball group of clashing personalities and egos combine, it creates the perfect condition for some hilarious dialogue and some truly touching moments. The plot is simplistic and at times unrealistic, but who cares when you have a talking racoon and Baby Groot.
P.S. There are five post-credit scenes! FIVE! So don’t leave the cinema early!
Rotten Tomatoes: 81%
1. Do you think this sequel is better than the original?
2. How does this compare to the rest of the MCU films?
3. Who’s your favourite guardian?