Ever since its inception with Iron Man in 2008, Marvel Studios has not just gone on to revolutionise the comic book genre with its then unique idea of a shared universe but over the years, little by little, with one film at a time, it has also shaped itself into a formidable brand that’s well ahead of its competitors at the moment. For the first few years or so, Marvel played it safe by bringing its biggest names to cinematic life that helped pave the strong foundation of Marvel Cinematic Universe. And then with its 2014 summer release, it threw an unexpected curveball.
Guardians of the Galaxy was, at its time of release, Marvel Studios’ biggest gamble to date, for it was a relatively unknown entity when compared to their most famous works plus its almost standalone existence also deviated from Marvel’s established formula. However, the risky endeavour paid off immensely well in their favour as this crazy mixture of an oddball cast & eccentric crew didn’t just strike gold for the studio in both critical & commercial departments but it still remains one of their best entries to date, not to mention that it’s certainly the funniest of them all.
To no one’s surprise, the resounding success of Guardians of the Galaxy warranted a sequel and three years later, it is finally here. The fifteenth instalment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is bigger in both scale & scope, just like a sequel should be, and continues the journey of this wicked team of extra-terrestrial misfits in their latest roles as Guardians while also bringing more figures from their past into the spotlight. Its vibrant use of colour palette and another tightly curated soundtrack is a notable highlight but the film as a whole lacks the freshness of the original.
The story of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 finds Peter Quill, Gamora, Drax, Rocket & Baby Groot on another exciting adventure as they are hired by a galactic race to kill an inter-dimensional monster that feeds on their precious machinery. Successful in their endeavour, the Guardians get their hands on Gamora’s estranged sister Nebula in exchange for their services but when Rocket steals some of the very components the team just fought to protect, they are attacked by a fleet of drones and crash-land on a nearby planet where they encounter a mysterious figure who happens to have the answer to Quill’s true parentage.
Written & directed by James Gunn, the film opens with a flashback sequence set in 1980 that introduces the viewers to Peter Quill’s father but Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 truly commences when Baby Groot starts jamming out to “Mr. Blue Sky” on speakers in the forefront while the rest of the Guardians fight the aforementioned inter-dimensional beast in the background. It’s a nicely choreographed segment that wholeheartedly evokes the pleasant delights of the original and although there are more flashes of it down the line as plot progresses, Gunn’s writing & direction falls little short of achieving the same feat twice.
Unlike the first film, not all attempts at humour hit the right spot but the ones that do manage to, leave a mark of their own. Apart from Quill’s paternity question, the film also sheds little light on the tragic past of Nebula, Gamora & Yondu while Drax the Destroyer is mostly used for comic relief, a welcome gesture by all means, and Baby Groot brings a childlike innocence & cuteness that works for the most part but there are also moments when his presence becomes a slight distraction and tries to mask the various shortcomings in the script or peripherals. At its core, the plot follows the same path as the rest of Marvel features but it rarely feels dull because of that.
The set pieces are more extravagant than last time and they are beautifully designed & gorgeously rendered in the final print. Cinematography makes vivid use of all the colours in existence and the resulting frames flourish with radiant hues from start to finish. Operating with an energetic flair, the camera also benefits from some clever placements & smart manoeuvring. Pacing isn’t an issue but the way its events unfold do lack the smoothness of its predecessor. Every scene in the movie relies heavily on visual effects and the VFX team leaves no stone unturned to make sure that there is nothing to complain about, whether it’s the celestial bodies or CGI characters or any set piece.
Coming to the performances, Guardians of the Galaxies Vol. 2 features Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Michael Rooker & Karen Gillan in their reprising roles while the new additions include Kurt Russell as Ego & Pom Klementieff as Mantis. The chemistry between the returning characters retains all its original magic and some of those bonds are further strengthened & explored. Of all the big names, it’s Rooker who impresses the most and his character of Yondu easily stands out as a show-stealer. One of the best things about the first film was its eclectic soundtrack and this sequel delivers in that particular department yet again with another fitting soundtrack that seamlessly blends into the narrative.
On an overall scale, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 may not be a better film than its predecessor but it is still a worthy follow-up chapter that offers its own set of thrills & amusement, and happens to be just as much fun & entertaining an experience, if not more. In all honesty, James Gunn’s decision to go big and stretch the horizons of this space opera wasn’t a bad idea at all but in an effort to match the consistent vibe & free-flowing wit of the original, he ends up trying a tad too hard and much of it is reflected in the resulting picture. Nevertheless, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 earns its spot in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and its colourful images, dazzling visuals & first-rate soundtrack, in addition to its interesting plot & adequate characterisation, puts it right up there with Marvel Studios’ better feature films. Definitely recommended.