People laughed. They laughed out loud. A lot. So did I. A lot. And at one point, as Sam Cooke’s “Bring It On Home to Me” filled the cinema, a group of young Pacific Island guys to my left burst into song (in lovely harmony) to accompany the soundtrack. At the end of the movie, people clapped.
That might be all that needs saying about Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2. It sets out to entertain, and it achieves its goal with ease and panache. The humour builds on the style of the first film, combining slapstick, goofiness, delightful visuals, and well defined and well written characters. And yes, a second helping of a 70’s soundtrack works a treat.
And that means the film makers have achieved something few others do. They’ve made the second instalment at least as good, if not better, than the first. Three years ago Guardians Vol. 1 snuck up on everyone and made a whopping 770 plus million dollars at the worldwide box office with a cast of characters who many probably knew next to nothing about. But it was sassy and funny and had a great soundtrack. That element of surprise has gone and the expectations for Vol. 2 must have been colossal. I was prepared to be disappointed, but I ended up enjoying this more than the first.
It’s not without fault. Occasionally the schmaltz edges towards the cringeworthy. The romance and familial bonds among the Guardians do get cheesy, and some critics argue the plot is a bit wishy washy. All that is fair to a point. There were moments when its direction seemed a little unclear, and other moments when I did squirm a little at the tugging on the heartstrings. Mostly, I was enjoying myself too much to notice, or perhaps, to care.
It’s certainly the case that a host of characters are vying for screen time, and perhaps understandably writer director James Gunn (in his second outing at the helm of the Guardians) spends more time on relationships than on story.
The one which drives the story is that between Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) and his father Ego (yes, Ego) played by Kurt Russell. Here Vol. 2 answers the mystery of Peter’s father, left hanging at the end of Vol. 1.
But we have other relationships to consider: Peter’s romance with green skinned Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Gamora’s sisterly love/hate thing with Nebula (Karen Gillan), a bromance of sorts between Rocket (Bradley Cooper) and Yondu (the wonderfully scene chewing Michael Rooker), not to mention the odd friendship-or-is-it-more between Drax (Dave Bautista) and newcomer Mantis(Pom Klementieff). And last but not least, the small in stature but big in heart baby Groot (Vin Diesel) and well, everybody.
Add to the mix the introduction of a new swathe of characters called the Ravagers, featuring brief appearances from Sylvester Stallone, and even briefer appearances from Michelle Yeoh and Ving Rhames. We are told a third film is to come, and you’d bet we’ll see more of them in that instalment.
So there’s a lot of juggling for director Gunn to handle, and by and large he carries it off rather well. A few bumps along the way here? Maybe. Did they spoil the enjoyment of the film? Not really. The first time we see the Guardians here they battle a space monster while baby Groot dances to the tune of Electric Light Orchestra’s Mr Blue Sky. It’s a wonderfully choreographed sequence and is plain fun to watch. Don’t take this film too seriously folks, and enjoy.