Warning: full spoilers below!
With a rag-tag group of space misfits, a jukebox-heavy soundtrack, and plenty of verve, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 pushes a little further into Marvel mythology while introducing Peter Quill/Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) to his mysterious father, the celestial being known as Ego (Kurt Russell). Quill is, of course, still accompanied by his mercenary troupe of Guardians—Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax (Dave Bautista), Rocket (Bradley Cooper), and baby Groot (Vin Diesel). They are brought into contact with Ego and his servant Mantis (Pom Klementieff) while being chased by a gold-skinned alien race led by the High Priestess Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki), who is furious over the theft of some powerful batteries. Outliers Yondu (Michael Rooker) and Nebula (Karen Gillan) also insert themselves into the fray, and, along the way, friendships and familial bonds among the Guardians are tested and defined.
As the intergalactic adventures of the Guardians exist far away from the action down on Earth with Marvel’s other superheroes, Vol. 2’s plot is not hampered by having to refer to the Avengers and their continuity. Instead, the story is self-contained, focusing on the relationships between the members of the Guardians and on the wacky beings and planets they encounter in the furthest reaches of the universe. Even with a physically larger scope, the stakes feel a lot less serious until the almost galaxy-devastating end when Ego reveals his long-gestating plan.
Although the situations, characters, and tone are light-hearted (a precedent set down by the previous Guardians movie), the humour and relationships don’t gel together as well this time around. The jokes are stale, dialogue is simplistic, and familial themes feel very forced. Plus, there are a lot of character pairings that the film rushedly cycles through: Quill and Ego’s father-son relationship; Quill and Gamora’s not-quite romance; Quill and Rocket’s alpha-male head-butting; Quill and Yondu’s surrogate father-son history; and Gamora and Nebula’s animosity-filled sisterhood. Luckily, baby Groot is the panacea for all ills.
In terms of visuals, which is where the film really goes wild, reaching almost Doctor Strange-levels of CGI excellence, Ego’s planet is perhaps the biggest set-piece. His hippie tendencies result in a Seussian paradise of green hills, bubble fountains, and a Gaudi-inspired castle. Ego himself also receives the CG treatment; Kurt Russell is made young, his skin is grotesquely peeled off, and he is finally pixelated and blown up. And as the leader of supremely beautiful golden beings, Ayesha cuts a dramatic figure while coated in metallic paint. Her subjects, who are too valuable to risk their lives flying actual spacecrafts, pilot their ships remotely through an ‘80s-throwback, arcade-inspired system. Their swarms of ship seem to reference classic games such as Space Invaders and Galaga. Quill even mentions Pac-Man at one point, before transforming himself into the yellow figure later on. There are other ‘80s references, I’m sure, so let me know which ones I missed by commenting below!
Ratings (out of 5):
Overall Average: 3.3