It’s always a bit tricky following a film that was such a success. The first Guardians film was an unknown quantity for cinema audiences and represented a major gamble in terms of the brand recognition for Marvel studios. The characters were classed a minor players within the Marvel universe which explained the way the film was initially marketed. Of course the critical and commercial reception changed everything. The anticipation for the second instalment is justifiably higher, a fact that has been heightened by the very impressive marketing campaign. Safe to say the film more than lives up to the hype.
The tone is set in the opening scene. Rather than just have an action scene where the audience get a chance to catch up with the characters and their traits we Baby Groot’s point of view. The monster fighting is going on in the background as we follow the little dancing tree as he grooves along to ELO’s Mr Blue Sky. A film couldn’t really ask for a better starting point. The comedy is the thing that flows from that point on. Even in the semi serious moments that follows there is always a sense of playfulness and fun. This is Marvel’s trump card. Keeping the proceedings light and entertaining gives the more dramatic elements more emphasis and tension. It’s a lesson that DC would do well to heed.
This time the story takes the team on a journey of discovery. Peter gets a visit from his father who turns out to be a planet called Ego (Kurt Russell). He offers all the answers to Peter’s past which is incentive enough for him to travel to the planet Ego with Gamora and Drax. The planet and the lifestyle offered seems too good to be true to Gamora and it isn’t long before the truth behind Ego’s search for his son is out in the open.
As with any franchise the sequel is expected to go bigger and more action packed. This movie bucks that trend somewhat. Yes there are spectacular and massively entertaining set pieces but it is the character’s interactions that drive the story forward. Essentially the film set in two major locations which allows more time for the relationships to develop.
The primary focus may be on Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) and his father but there is a lot of attention on some of the other characters. The dynamic and history between Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and Nebula (Karen Gillan) is brought to the fore. Their relationship is not a black and white as previously imagined but is in fact complex with neither of the sisters truly good or truly evil. Nebula is a great character and Gillan portrays her with a great deal of depth. There is some discussion regarding the way the character might go forward within the MCU. Director James Gunn has hinted that she may play an important part in the forthcoming Avengers: Infinity War movie.
In a film with great performances all round was good to see Drax getting the majority of the best lines. He could have been a bit of a one note character but with the combination of great writing, excellent direction and a career best performance from Dave Bautista it is a stand-out. There is even time for Drax to show some depth as he remembers his long dead family.
A sign of a successful movie is the calibre of guest star it attracts. Here Sylvester Stallone pops up for a brief cameo as Staker Ogord, the leader of the Ravagers. It’s a bit of a short appearance but it is there for a reason. Completing the Tango & Cash reunion is the superb Kurt Russell. He has had something of a career renaissance in the last five years and this film reinforces just what a talent he still is. Looking rather grand with a mane of silver hair and matching beard he fits in easily with the cast and he may in fact be the reason why everyone else brought their A game to the production. Look out for some seamless CG work as well where we are treated to motion capture version of a thirty year old Russell in a flash back scene. It is wholly realistic and very impressive.
I can’t stress enough just how good this film is. For me it will be one of the best films of the year. Highly recommended.