Nobody could have anticipated the colossal hit that was 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy. Managing to inject his distinctive flair and establish a largely unknown property as a future franchise, director James Gunn created the gem in Marvel’s over-familiar, bloated universe.
Gunn returns for Vol 2, which opens in the same vein as its predecessor with a flashback. We’re then thrown straight into the action with returning Guardians Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax (Dave Bautista), Rocket (Bradley Cooper) and a now pint-sized Baby Groot (Vin Diesel). With their new found fame the group are hired by Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki), the leader of a sovereign race, to protect valuable batteries in exchange for Gamora’s sister Nebula (Karen Gillan). Completing the job only to find that Rocket’s antics have landed them in trouble, they must out-run a furious Ayesha, who proceeds to hire Yondu (Michael Rooker) to apprehend the group. Whilst avoiding capture, the Guardians crash-land on a planet where they’re introduced to Ego (Kurt Russell) and his companion Mantis (Pom Klementieff), who begin revealing Peter’s origins.
It’s a joy to be back in the company of the Guardians. They may be aliens, a racoon and even a tree, but the dysfunctional family they form is more relatable than their human, avenging counterparts. Family is intensely intertwined within Vol 2, discovering Peter’s parentage and posing the question, are we born into a family or do we find our own tribe in life? Filling in the blanks from the previous film, Gamora and Nebula’s turbulent relationship as sisters is explored and of course, Baby Groot holds everybody together, bringing out their nurturing side with his child-like needs. Even during the jam-packed final act, which is slightly cluttered, we’re taken right back to ground level in the nick of time, delving into fragile bonds and troubled pasts.
For all its emotional weight, Guardians retains its signature brand of humour, with even more laugh-out-loud moments than its predecessor. With other Marvel films, there’s a tendency to haphazardly hand out quips, resulting in characters with interchangeable personalities. Gunn knows his characters inside out, writing tailor-made gags that hit far more than they miss. Amongst the laughter, there are small, pinches of darkness sprinkled in. Bold, definitive decisions which Marvel usually avoids.
Retaining their unmistakable chemistry, the returning cast meshes brilliantly with the new additions. Klementieff’s Mantis is lovably innocent, striking up an amusing friendship with Drax (Bautista almost steals the entire show once more). As Ego, Russell brings his usual bucket-load of charisma, oozing charm as he explains himself. As with the previous film, we’re once again treated to an incredibly catchy, memorable soundtrack courtesy of Peter’s Awesome Mix Vol 2, which is seamlessly woven into the film, even more so than the first mixtape. Unlike many imitators, the rousing soundtrack is meaningful to the plot and truly has its place in the film.
Not as streamlined as its predecessor, however, Vol 2 remains an absolute blast that’s brimming with cosmic charm.