In rural Missouri in 1980, a pretty girl lived an ordinary life until she met a handsome guy, who was quite literally out of this world. He had to leave, they had a son whom she loved and shared her favourite music with until the day she died. But the end of the story for Meredith Quill was only the beginning of the story for Peter Quill.
Strange as it may seem in retrospect but when it was released in 2014, Guardians of the Galaxywas the riskiest film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, a relatively unknown group of characters without any of the established major players on hand to launch them in a more outlandish setting and whose approach was the antithesis of the bold, selfless heroics which were the hallmark of the previous films.
Yet three years later, here they are again headlining the fifteenth film of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and rather than reining them in to be more compatible with the somewhat fractured Avengers the intention of writer/director James Gunn seems to be to simply offer more of the same, and when Baby Groot dances to the Electric Light Orchestra’s Mr Blue Sky over the opening titles it’s plain that everything is going to be okay.
On the planet of the Sovereign, Ayesha (The Man from U.N.C.L.E.‘s imperious Elizabeth Debicki) has engaged the Guardians to protect their power source from a rampaging multi-tentacled space beast; Gamora has a big gun, Rocket has the sound system, Drax has sensitive nipples and Star-Lord has a tendency to flirt inappropriately. Obviously.
The reward for their efforts: a prisoner held by the Sovereign is handed over, Nebula, daughter of Thanos, sister of Gamora, who had previously attempted to steal the power source which the light paws of Rocket also finds difficult to resist, and with a satchel of batteries the Milano is pursued by the Sovereign’s drones, vastly outnumbered and taking heavy damage…
Guardians of the Galaxy may have widened the scope of the Marvel films to outer space but the door to the weirdness of other dimensions was opened by Doctor Strange and now Star-Lord and his less than merry band of rogues are more than happy to walk through, leaping through space portals to planets diverse and dynamic, strange new worlds which pay as much attention to the laws of physics as did the artists of Yellow Submarine, one arrival serenaded by the unmistakable voice and guitar of George Harrison.
Noticeably lighter on plot, even if Volume 2 is just an excuse to spend time in the company of these people it never fails to be massive fun throughout its two and a quarter hour running time, Gunn even going so far as to build a scene around playing video games, Gamora asking “Can we put the bickering aside until after we survive this massive space battle?” as Rocket and Star-Lord fight over the controls of the Milano.
Where their first adventure had been about bringing the team together here they spend much of the time apart, but Rocket (the voice of Limitless‘ Bradley Cooper) is agile, adaptable and very much capable of taking care of himself and his freshly foliaged friend Baby Groot (the voice of Riddick‘s Vin Diesel), yet for all the presumption that the audience already knows these characters, they do not.
The frosty family reunion of Gamora and Nebula (Star Trek Beyond‘s Zoë Saldana and Doctor Who‘s Karen Gillan sealing their standing as the serving first ladies of science fiction) offering an insight into their hellish childhood under Thanos from which Gamora escaped but Nebula did not, while the origin of Peter “Star-Lord” Quinn (Jurassic World‘s Chris Pratt as infuriatingly charismatic as ever) comes into focus with the arrival of the enigmatic Celestial Ego (Sky High‘s Kurt Russell) and his empathic “pet” Mantis (Oldboy‘s Pom Klementieff).
An open book as incapable of deceit though considerably more delicate in her expression than the blunt Drax (Riddick‘s Dave Bautista), their ostensibly one-note characters come together in a surprising friendship of sometimes forceful honesty. “When you’re ugly and someone loves you, you know they love you for who you are,” Drax says of his late wife, killed by Thanos. “Beautiful people never know who to trust.”
While the scale of the sets and locations are more expansive than the first film, atypical among the Marvel films and certainly in contrast to the overwhelming power of Ronan the Accuser, Volume 2 suffers from the lack of a central antagonist to push against, the rushed relationship which borders on sentimental between Ego and Star-Lord as they walk through the endlessly lush gardens of the planet named after him a somewhat passive placeholder for the expected action.
Instead it is the ostracised Ravager Yondu Udonta (Slither‘s Michael Rooker) whose role is most developed and given unforeseen shade, in particular his guardianship of Peter and in regards to his second-in-command Kraglin (The Belko Experiment‘s Sean Gunn), also benefiting from a vastly expanded role. Though perhaps not quite the match of their debut, Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2 does not disappoint, still measuring up as very nearly Mary Poppins.
Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2 is now on general release and also screening in IMAX 3D