Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2

Review by David Jenkins @daveyjenkins

Directed by

James Gunn

Starring

Chris Pratt Dave Bautista Zoe Saldana

Anticipation.

The first one managed to defy all critical and commercial expectations.

Enjoyment.

It’s… fine. But the underdog element is missing this time around.

In Retrospect.

Expect to be hanging with the Guardians for at least the next decade.

This big shiny superhero sequel delivers on expectation, but never threatens to do anything more than that.

In the spirt of James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2, here’s a little playlist to slap on for when you’re slouched on the sofa and aligning your thoughts on the film:

1. ‘Brilliant Trees’ by David Sylvian
2. ‘It’s the Same Old Song’ by The Four Tops
3. ‘Razzle Dazzle’ by Bill Haley & His Comets
4. ‘Too Long’ by Daft Punk
5. ‘What’s the Point’ by Bill Wyman
6. ‘God & Guns’ by Lynyrd Skynyrd
7. ‘Brain Damage’ by Pink Floyd
8. ‘No Action’ by Elvis Costello
9. ‘Painted Face’ by Bad Company
10. ‘Sweary Raccoon with a Shotgun’ by Stig Bjørnebye’s Eight Gallon Blues Band

There is a lot of music in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2. Any small moment where it’s possible to slide some AM radio rock underneath the action, it damn well is. Yet it would be a stretch to call this Marvel’s first honest-to-goodness musical, as it’s rare that the tunes and the visuals sync up in any meaningful way.

The songs which make up the ‘Awesome Mix Tape Vol 2’ soundtrack work as background toe-tappers that are often employed with irony – ‘Oh gee, they’re landing their giant white sperm-craft on that paradise planet with George Harrison’s ‘My Sweet Lord’ playing on the stereo…’ Later, the Big Final Fight occurs to the strains of a ’70s coke-rock classic. It forces you to question whether you’re enjoying the film, or just the opportunity to listen to a memorable melodic song with an added visual accompaniment. It’s a hard call to make.

Beyond that, there is nothing musical about the film in terms of its pacing and editing. There’s no rhythm to the story. It’s a bunch of short episodes – sketches – which culminate in the galaxy being placed in peril, and a bunch of slick-ass bickering guardians swooping in to save the day once more.

We join Chris Pratt’s Peter Quill (aka Star-Lord) and his team as they set about defending some batteries(!) from a battery-eating killer space squid(!). Yes, that’s just about the extent of the ideas this time around – lot’s of wacky happenstance, literal visual symbolism and P-L-O-T. As the team gather their marbles and continue to bicker, Quill is confronted by a mysterious good-ol’-boy-with-a-beard named Ego (Kurt Russell), who has been circumnavigating the universe in search of the fruit of his loins.

And so the film’s theme of fatherhood is introduced. What we learn: some fathers seem good, but are in fact bad. Some fathers seem bad, but are in fact good. Some fathers seem bad, and actually are extremely bad, to the point where you should attempt to murder them at the closest opportunity. But there are unfortunately no fathers who seem good, and are just straight-up good people. It’s always more complicated than that.

Pratt himself is, by some margin, the film’s weak link. The ultra-endearing scamp we first met in TV’s Parks and Rec is back in a version of the character that’s so watered down as to almost be unrecognisable. Gunn’s script avoids turning Star-Lord into a complex, fragile human being, instead just running with the idea that he’s the boy who never grew up. His sense of moral right and wrong is boringly on point, and you can always rely on him to see through any nefarious bullshit that comes his way (even if the audience can see it a long time before him).

Poor Zoe Saldana as Gamora. She has a subplot involving a galaxy-spanning death match with her wrathful, semi-robotic sister, Nebula (Karen Gillan). This is by far the film’s most interesting and fresh idea. Unfortunately, it’s all kept in the small print while the men get to have their chest-bumping fun with the guns, lasers and the clanking spaceships. More time is spent looking into the emotional tribulations of a talking racoon than Gamora’s fascinating Freudian squabble. Maybe next time, she’ll be shuffled to the fore now that Star-Lord’s daddy issues are all wrapped up.

Yes, the film is a florid mess, but one thing that Gunn does have going for him is that he knows how to time a gag. Dave Bautista as Drax is a highlight, his bellowing laugh is much more of an aural delight than all the soft rock stompers on the soundtrack. And yes, you can expect a Minions-style Baby Groot spin-off imminently.

Though it just about favours character comedy over the usual eye-abusing set pieces, there’s a bit of a fan dance going on with regard to the film’s intended street cred. There’s some very light swearing, but nothing that would actually make you flinch. There are a few random gore effects which, again, translate as superfluous film references rather than visuals that are carefully knitted into the Guardians world.

This is the film equivalent of when your uncle walks into the room with a Sonic Youth t-shirt on, and then under bemused interrogation, he admits to having no idea they were even a band – he just likes the design.

Published 25 Apr 2017

Tags: Chris Pratt James Gunn Marvel Zoe Saldana

Anticipation.

The first one managed to defy all critical and commercial expectations.

Enjoyment.

It’s… fine. But the underdog element is missing this time around.

In Retrospect.

Expect to be hanging with the Guardians for at least the next decade.

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