by Alan Yudman
James Gunn is some kind of wizard. A god-like being who can make a sequel to a unique movie and lose none of the chache, charm or tone that made us love the original.
The original Guardians of the Galaxy was an outlier in the Marvel canon. It was funny, filled with action and did not possess any of the self-importance of the Avengers movies. So the question and/or dilemma Gunn found himself facing was could he do it again. The answer is a mostly unqualified YES!
GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, VOL. 2 is 2 hours and 15 minutes of fun, laughs, and action. Since Gunn wrote and directed both movies, it’s not hard to fathom that the transition from Vol. 1 to Vol 2 is nearly seamless. The Guardians are now problem solvers for hire. Saving the Galaxy from whatever threat is coming. Oh, and they are coming.
Once again, Gunn weaves ’70’s pop songs with action in a pleasing non-sequitor of treacle and crazy set pieces. The opening sequence sets us up for that by showing the Guardians battling an inter-dimensional creature in the background while we watch Baby Groot dance to ELO’s “Mr. Blue Sky”. They defeat the beast. Their payment from a society known as The Sovereign is Nebula, Gamora’s sister. They turn her over so the Guardian can hand her to Nova Squad on Xandar. But, Rocket steals some batteries and the Sovereign are not happy. They chase the gang and they only escape thanks to the help of a being who destroys the Sovereign fleet. That being is Ego (Kurt Russell), a name that is a bit too on the nose for reasons I won’t spoil here.
Aside from the humor and the fantastically inventive set pieces there is something more here. There is stuff about family and fathers and sons. Is your family determined by genetics or circumstance? Are your father and your dad the same person? It’s a bit heavy handed, but goes down with several spoonfuls of sugar thanks to the fabulous writing and wonderful cast.
Chris Pratt’s Peter Quill is once again the reckless outlaw with a heat in search of some family connection (hint: he finds it for good or bad). The voice work of Bradley Cooper is beyond fantastic. Dave Bautista, Zoe Saldana, Michael Rooker and Vin Diesel as Baby Groot all bring their best to the party. The addition of Russell is welcome and the smart-aleck superiority he displays as Mr. Nobody in Fate of the Furious is at full volume here. It is necessary for his character and the story, There’s even a cameo from Sylvester Stallone. I mean, what more do you want?
Guardians Vol. 2 is sure to be a huge hit for Marvel. It should be. It is a wonderful sequel in that it continues the journey and honors the characters we all grew to adore in the first film. I stuck around for the Arclight Stories feature after the film. In it, Pratt lavishes praise on Gunn and semi-seriously says he should be nominated for Best Director. It’s not hard to agree, given how well GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, VOL. 2 continues the franchise that may be better than anything else Marvel is doing right now.