The future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is in good hands. James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 is a loud, colourful, hilarious and heartfelt statement of intent.
Returning to the family of misfits and mercenaries he guided to the screen in 2014, Gunn rises to the challenge and raises the stakes for the Guardians and makes a more personal and rewarding film for us. I think that’s why Guardians works so well, in both movies. The literal fate of the Galaxy is at stake, but the core of the story is about family.
So, what does Volume 2 have in store for us? More than I expected. The trailers for the movie gave away shockingly very little, the big creature battle prominently shown, is actually in the opening credits sequence, following a short prologue of a digitally de-aged Kurt Russell romancing Peter Quill’s mother and planting something rather dubious in a forest on Earth. Russell’s Ego is a welcome addition to the cast, announcing himself as Star Lord’s father early in the runtime.
There are parallels with Empire Strikes Back, the middle film of another trilogy, also one about a hero with daddy issues discovering his powers. Volume 2 however is a true ensemble film and everyone has various issues of abandonment and loss to work through. Gamora and Nebula, Rocket and Yondu, everyone has something to deal with.
Rocket steals the film for me, arguably the badass of the group (and in this group that’s saying something) yet still having so much depth and compassion. We forget how easily a CGI Raccoon and Talking Tree could be misused in other hands, but James Gunn never treats them as anything less than they deserve. Rocket and Yondu bonding after being taken prisoner by the hilarious named Taserface and a mutinous Ravager crew was probably my highlight of the film. Gamora and Nebula’s battle for respect was awesome too, packed with more father issues, Thanos forcing his daughters to compete for his affections.
You know what the absolute BEST thing about GOTG Volume 2 is? The fact it doesn’t act like a set up for any other films. This is a stand alone chapter in the Guardians story, and it’s all the better for it. We only get one mention of Infinity Stones and no appearance from Thanos. It may let some people down, but it keeps the film from being dragged into someone else’s story. That’s not to say there’s a lack of cameo’s or character appearances.
Sylvester Stallone and Michael Rosenbaum turn up early on as Stakar and Martinex, two of the original Guardians from the 70s comics while our obligatory Stan Lee cameo had some characters show up that absolutely floored me. Some of the FIVE mid and post credits scenes tease a few big things to come, but just for GOTG, making me very keen to see how Volume 3 turns out.
The soundtrack is of course fantastic, with songs from ELO, George Harrison and Parliament adding a spacey 70’s vibe. If Volume 1 was scuzzy 70’s Americana, Volume 2 lights a joint and takes us to the planetarium.
Look, it’s a Marvel movie, it’s gonna do well at the box office no matter what, but it’s just great to see how much love went into this film. These movies are often art-by-comittee and struggle for it (Hello BvS, Iron Man 2, Fant4stic) so it’s particularly excellent that such a singular vision had persisted through both of the Guardians films.
Packed full of comedy, it’s easily Marvel’s funniest film by quite some distance, with everyone getting a chance to shine, with Dave Bautista as Drax dropping his deadpan jokes more than most.
Full of retro pop-culture references, breathtaking action and genuine heart, Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 could easily end up being the biggest film of the MCU. A sequel that goes bigger and better and doesn’t lose any of the things that made us fall in love with the characters in the first place.
Don’t be a trash panda, catch it in cinemas now. Or May 5th if you’re American.