In an explosive comeback, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 reunites everyone’s favourite “a-holes”, crass and vicious as ever – perhaps even more so. Amped up by intensely vibrant, gorgeous cinematography and possibly an even better soundtrack, it’s a wonderful introduction to 2017’s superhero season.
James Gunn’s vision for the Guardians series has always been strong, but Vol. 2 felt like it was kicked up several notches. I imagine each shot to be storyboarded to perfection, because there is nothing in this film that isn’t visually beautiful. Gunn and Co. clearly wanted to make use of the never-ending possibilities for ridicule and hilarity when it comes to setting a ragtag crew in outer space, and stretched the limits of space travel in the Marvel Cinematic Universe even further than we’ve been used to.
Of course, the film’s flashy rainbow colours and otherworldly imagery still juxtapose the darkness lying beneath the surface of all the characters in this particular MCU property. The film has plenty going for it in terms of character development; it’s much more character-focused than the first film was. In Vol. 2, we see much more from prior minor characters such as Nebula and Yondu, and of course it wouldn’t be a Marvel film without some intense protagonist manpain. And that’s fine, it’s the brand and I’ve grown to accept that. It’s not as though the Guardians films do it badly anyway.
Chris Pratt, in all his douchey glory as Peter Quill / Star-Lord, returns with much more than charisma when it comes to this character. His interactions with both Kurt Russell and Michael Rooker show a sense of his range that at least I wasn’t always fully aware of. But what I enjoyed the most is that it wasn’t just about his origin story. Gamora and Nebula’s relationship is explored with truly surprising depth, and the emotionality that Zoe Saldana and Karen Gillan are allowed to express in this film is probably my favourite part about it. These were definitely my favourite dynamic.
I also wished for more baby Groot because why not! He’s a great character, and the film makes it inordinately obvious how much it banks on that innate cuteness. There’s a self-awareness to how much Groot is used for comic relief or as the unadulterated heart and soul of the team, and that’s awesome.
That said, it’s not a perfect experience. As with Vol. 1, there are jokes that just don’t sail for me. Those that are just too mean to excuse, and those that feel super uncomfortable because they feel forced or dragged out. Vol. 2 is a longer film, and I personally feel it would have worked even better without some of the “jokes” at all because they felt unnecessary. Especially the ones targeted at Mantis, who is an interesting character on her own. Or perhaps it just would’ve been better if she had interacted with more of the team.
And I can’t talk about this film without once mentioning the accompanying soundtrack. It’s become such a treat to expect good music and to have it deliver? Exceptional. Just as infectious as the first film’s soundtrack, with the added bonus of being more cohesive.
If I’m being honest, I was wary of throwing myself head-first into loving Vol. 2 before I saw it. I’ve become a bit of a cynic when it comes to the superhero genre – as much as I don’t want to. So to have my guard up so high and still find the film so entertaining and heartfelt is the biggest relief, and the only thing I could ask for in films like these now. Through the imperfections, it was a genuine experience that combines what I adore about genre films and more mainstream superhero fare.