Reviewed: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 (2017, James Gunn)

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Director: James Gunn

Starring: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Bradley Cooper, Dave Batista, Karen Gillan, Michael Rooker, Vin Diesel, Sylvester Stallone, Pom Klementieff, Kurt Russel

Release Date: 5th May 2017

Studio: Marvel Studios

Following the revelation that was Guardians of the Galaxy 1, director James Gunn has succeeded in not only broadening his film universe, but also in delivering perhaps the best Marvel movie so far. With a more established plot (no politics), an introduction of some worthy additions to the cast, and some key scenarios given to the first films hidden heroes (Yondu and Nebula) ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2” is every bit a worthwhile extension to the MCUs most interesting team unit.

The plot is larger with three different narrative strands, two established protagonists and one surprising revolution,  the sequel ups the ante to the maximum. Where the first film dealt with the formation of this superhero team, their establishment from the onset allows Gunn to push the characters into exciting and surprising pathways. With a roster of likeable characters, that each get their individual moment to shine, “Guardians 2” is given liberty in being fun. This sells the film as a must watch, a tentpole from which all other superhero movies should be compared, and the best bit – it is all done to a killer soundtrack that rivals the first for sheer narrative compatibility.

With a narrative that spawns multiple planets, and many action kinetic situations, Gunn allows his film to feel urgent but never forced. At its core this production is interested in some wider themes (family and belonging), but alongside it is still allowed the freedom to excite the viewer with some fast paced action.  Complimenting these faster moments, the narrative gives at least one revelation to each character – progressing their development further in the process. Yondu (the blue ravager from the first film) is easily the most compelling character within the film, and for the most part is given the largest amount of story throughout. Given multiple moments to shine, the narrative seems to be built around his character arc – which makes sense when analysed within the symbolic notion of fatherhood.

With the last film ending on the sacrifice of the humanoid tree Groot (Vin Diesel), the sequel is given its best character – Baby Groot. Immature, adorable and fun, this iteration of Groot is most definitely the MVP of the film, from the opening dance number through to his goofy end sequence, the comedic value of such a simple character plays dividend in the overall feel of the film.

Like the first film, Chris Pratt is shown to be a very likeable and charismatic lead with his performance of Star-Lord. Whether he is carrying the progression or bickering with a team mate, the arc of the narrative surrounds his character, delivering twists and turns of emotional impact. With the plot criss crossing paths, each actor is allowed moments of importance to resonate within their performances – and within these moments each depicts their characters in a fluid and believable manner.

With various new characters brought in, the film is easily able to accommodate them into proceedings. This is done so effectively that come the close, their very inclusion feels like a necessity instead of a addition. Ego (Kurt Russel enjoying another part of his resurgence) is an example of one such character. Full of mysticism and intrigue, his role (taken from the wider comic universe) drives the entirety of the plot, affecting each guardian in different manners and posing a wider question to the filmic universe that is explored. It really does deliver upon the excellent casting decisions of the entire MCU, and once again showcases how well cast the franchise is.

Where the first one established a space opera world outside of the Star Wars films that was, not only brilliant conceived, but beautifully designed, it is not surprising to find a similar level of craft within the sequel. Ego – in both humanoid and planetary form – is beautifully rendered on screen, and with such a complimentary design – both to itself and the wider film landscape – should be established as key part of this film success. Where the films space battles are done to the same quality as the first, the design of some of the ships pushes the film into a more futuristic feeling science fiction placement.

Like the first film, music is a key component of what makes the Guardians of the Galaxy feel like the Guardians of the Galaxy – differentiating these characters from the other superhero productions that are constantly released.  Luckily, Vol 2 carries the same quality and complimentary nature of the first films music, presenting some of the most widely known retro releases to come into film. Whether it is the soon to be iconic arrow sequence (played to Fleetwood Mac’s ‘The Chain’), or the dramatic close (Cat Stevens ‘Father and Son’) each moment of the film is brilliantly complimented with a veneer of 70’s music that adds an extra layer of depth to the onscreen proceedings. 

While observing the aforementioned arrow sequence that comes in the films middle confrontation, Yondu is really explored on screen. A broken man, with only his skill with an arrow to save himself, the film explores the vulnerability of one of the first films more harsher character. With a simple beauty, the editing within this sequence brings about one of the most impressive filmic scenarios to grace – not only superhero films – but also cinema in general.

Director James Gunn seems to be a perfect fit for the Guardians universe, delivering some of the most exciting moments to appear in the MCU. Through making the scale of this picture bigger, the director is able to explore larger themes, larger ideas and larger set pieces throughout. With a second sequel already green-lit, the inclusion of the director highlights how much assurance the studio holds with the work of Gunn and their confidence in bringing him back. With a style based around music, three of the films more iconic moments play out to the anthems of 80’s hits. Through decisions like this, and moments of fun used to balance out the serious nature of other aspects, Gunn creates a childlike idea of fun to resonate throughout the film. It is with this delight that Guardians 2 succeeds in surpassing the already brilliant first instalment.

Plot – 4.5

Acting – 5

Direction – 5

Retrospect – 4

Overall – 5

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