Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)

While I appreciated that the first Guardians of the Galaxy was trying to do something new, I didn’t particularly like it and therefore watching this sequel wasn’t a high priority for us. Still, as a good Marvel fanboy I duly trooped to the cinema and the result was pretty much in line with my expectations: passable comedic entertainment that isn’t awful but really anything notable either.

Following the events of the first film, the Guardians seem to be operating as a sort of mercenary group. They successfully protect some valuable batteries from a weird inter-dimensional monster on behalf of a faction known as the Sovereign in exchange for Nebula but Rocket Raccoon steals some in a fit of pique at the last moment. Pursued by the Sovereign’s fleet of drones, they are rescued by a powerful being who calls himself Ego and reveals himself to be Peter Quill’s father. He brings Peter, Gamorra and Drax to a planet that is actually an extension of himself while Rocket repairs the ship with Baby Groot and guards Nebula. Peter bonds with Ego at first but eventually learns of his horrific plan to make all life in the universe part of himself. Meanwhile Rocket’s group is caught by Yondu’s group of Ravagers but Yondu’s followers aren’t too happy with his lenient treatment of Peter.

As its poster suggests, this sequel goes all out with the irreverent attitude of the first film, putting all of its effort on the humor and the interactions between the main characters. The opening sequence sets the tone for this by setting up the audience for a big fight but then having the camera focus exclusively on Baby Groot dancing. One Broken Forum regular commented on how it almost feels like a series of psychotherapy sessions featuring the regular crew and that’s not wrong. Arguably those are even the best parts of the film as these are fundamentally broken people who have bonded together into a family. Unfortunately I think it goes too far and becomes overly predictable. Drax’s total lack of filters made him the comedic star of the first film and so in this sequel that is all he does, so much so that he doesn’t even contribute to the fights any more.

At the same time, it can’t ignore the fact that this is an action movie so it tries to supply the requisite quota of fights. Director James Gunn does his best to impart a sense of kinetic movement and energy to them but they fall flat with little sense of danger or tension. Even when Gamorra hefts a massive cannon onto her shoulders in what should be a crowning moment of awesome, there’s not much emotional impact in it as you know that none of her shots will connect anyway. Worse is that when the violence feels real, you get a sense how tonally at odds it feels with the lightness of the rest of the film. Yondu and Rocket absolutely massacre the mutinous Ravagers in an extended scene that should be horrifying, yet the slow-motion strutting and soundtrack accompaniment play it off as being inconsequential. I have to admit that this scene made me very uncomfortable as it feels wrong to make light of such a loss of life, especially when they were members of Yondu’s crew only moments ago.

Another problem is that the film is meant to be visually impressive with its garish colors and over the top character designs but it’s so eclectic that it just reminds you that all of it is just CGI. It doesn’t feel grounded so it doesn’t feel real. A key example is when Ego brings them to his planet and it’s obvious that Gunn meant this to be a Pandora moment similar to Avatar. The imagery, weird as it looks, simply isn’t up to scratch and you end up feeling kind of sorry for the film instead.

I will admit that the jokes are still good enough to get a chuckle out of me and I still rather like the character dynamics of the team. The plot is okay this time around and I can’t stress enough how impressed I am that they managed to bring a character as obscure as Ego the Living Planet into the MCU. As such I’d rate this a solid B. Good enough to pass muster and there’s nothing here that’s actively annoying. But there’s nothing exceptional about it and skipping it wouldn’t cause you to miss much.

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