Guardians of the Galaxy came out of nowhere, at least for me. I’d heard the name thrown around a few times in conversation with hardcore comic-book fans but didn’t really know anything about them before the film was released. I really liked it. I thought it was a great departure from the standard Marvel Cinematic Universe formula (as much of a departure as can be had while still being part of the universe, anyway) and a genuinely exciting film with fresh characters and a fun tone.
With this sequel, it feels as if the filmmakers recognised that audiences were pleasantly surprised by the first and so decided to see what else they could get away with. Something new had to be done, something that built upon the characters established by the first. Sadly, the charm of the original was lost somewhere along the way.
We begin with the Guardians seemingly earning their way by working as mercenaries. Returning are Star-Lord (Chris Pratt being Chris Pratt, which is entirely fine by me), Gamora (Zoe Saldana, who is under-utilised), Drax (Dave Bautista is hilarious, if a little one-note), Rocket (Bradley Cooper does his best with some very poor dialogue) and Groot (Fun, but would many people have even noticed if they got someone other than Vin Diesel to voice child-Groot?). After a member of this team crosses a client, they’re chased across the stars before being rescued by a powerful entity who reveals himself to be Star-Lord’s father (played by Kurt Russell, who channels Pratt and does a great job in doing so). We also get a scene of young Russell, which was probably the best implementation of digital de-aging that I’ve seen in film, and yet I still couldn’t help finding it a little weird. Until I can’t tell at all that it’s computer-generated, I don’t think I’ll like it. The ultimate unnecessity (Is that a word? Should be) of said scene didn’t help matters.
On the topic of necessity, it really is quite frustrating when filmmakers explain a joke to the audience after telling it. It’s insulting and redundant. You can understand it when Star-Lord makes a reference to Earth pop-culture and then needs to explain it to his alien friends, and you can understand where Drax, who does not understand the concept of metaphor, is concerned. Do we really need all of the other jokes to be explained to us as well, though? Ironically, the film doesn’t bother explaining things that actually have importance to the plot, especially in its third act where multiple revelations are had.
Other complaints? Lazy exposition, especially early on. Jokes taken way too far. Multiple instances of toilet-humour, and not cleverly done, either. Some weird line deliveries with emphasis in all the wrong places. Annoying illogical beats (how come space-suits can be taken off without issue, but later on a character can’t get theirs off? How come one character witnesses another pinned and uses that moment to shoot at them until they fall a few metres and are pinned again, and the character this time goes to save them? What changed in the last five seconds? The situation is identical). Also some truly cringe-worthy cheesiness towards the end of the film, some of which was supposed to be sad and some funny. It wasn’t at all earned. The “sad” stuff, specifically, was crammed so tightly into the end of the film that it barely had time to register before being capitalised upon. The worst offender, though, was a scene in which certain characters travel faster-than-light for longer than they are supposed to, resulting in what I assume was supposed to be amusing screams, facial-distortions and eye-bulges… for a while. Very Looney Tunes. And then we cut back to it, multiple times. It’s really silly, and not in a good way.
There are some fantastic elements and moments. The dynamic between Drax and new character Mantis is hilarious. Most of the dialogue, sans-toilet-humour, is great. The opening titles are excellent, and got my hopes up for the rest of the film (whoops). Performances are solid, music is fun, and there were some awesome shots in there. There was even a subtle 47-reference. When it comes down to it, Guardians 2 isn’t a bad movie. It just isn’t a good one.
Five post-credits scenes (not exaggerating) is probably a little much, too.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is in cinemas now.