A sense of ecstasy followed Guardians of the Galaxy when it was released in 2014. While the film itself wasn’t ground-breaking, its fun, loveable protagonists were the undoubted highlight, and so endearing that one longed to spend more time with them. Its sequel has delivered on that desire, but once again, the script is somewhat underwhelming.
Picking up mere months after the events of the last Guardians movie, the opening act has the five-member superhero team – consisting of Peter “Star-Lord” Quill (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax (Dave Bautista), Rocket (voice of Bradley Cooper) and Baby Groot (voice of Vin Diesel) – being thanked by the gold-skinned Sovereign race for protecting their infrastructure from a ravenous beast. Upon learning that Rocket has thieved a number of their batteries, that gratitude quickly turns to anger, leading the Sovereigns to pursue the Guardians into outer space.
In escaping the wrath of the Sovereign people, Star-Lord and company are assisted by a mysterious figure in a white spacecraft, before crash-landing on a forested planet. There, the figure reveals himself to be Ego (the ever-so-handsome Kurt Russell), a human-like male claiming to be Peter’s biological father. Meanwhile, having lost the Guardians’ tail, the Sovereigns engage the services of Peter’s surrogate father Yondu (Michael Rooker) and his eccentric team of Ravagers to locate the Guardians for a handsome bounty.
Knowing full well that the central characters were the most-acclaimed aspect of his previous film, director James Gunn has made sure that they are the centre of attention for this instalment. Perhaps no scene better exemplifies this than the opening credits, which focuses on Baby Groot dancing to the tune of Electric Light Orchestra’s “Mr. Blue Sky” rather than the beastly battle happening around him. Pleasingly, the protagonists are given time to develop, and further perplexities are added to their backstories.
There are even some new faces added to the team. One is Ego’s assistant Mantis (Pom Klementioff), a socially-awkward humanoid who uses her antennae to read and manipulate another person’s emotions. Someone else joining the Guardians is Gamora’s estranged sister Nebula (Karen Gillan) who, one may recall, was an antagonist in the first picture. Nebula’s softer side is revealed in Vol. 2, with her character contrasting to the last time she appeared on-screen.
As well as the characters, plenty of other positive factors from the previous Guardians film have been carried over into Vol. 2. The computer-generated visual effects are superb, the worlds bright and imaginative, and the nostalgic pop soundtrack just as good as the original, if not better. On this occasion, the best pairing of song and scene would have to be Jay and the Americans’ “Come a Little Bit Closer” with a prison breakout.
But these levels of creativity are sorely lacking in the screenplay – every twist and revelation is predictable, sucking the joy out of the viewing experience. Adding to this issue is Vol. 2’s insistence on having morbid moments, a baffling distraction that isn’t in keeping with the colourful tone. As well as that, the characters occasionally come across as obnoxious, engaging in arguments and conflicts which really should have been resolved in the initial film.
All things considered, Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2 is no better, nor any worse, than its predecessor. Its heroes remain fun to watch, the visuals are still pretty and the soundtrack is well-crafted, with an unremarkable story being the biggest let-down. Here’s hoping Vol. 3 doesn’t repeat the same mistake.