Written and Directed by James Gunn
UK Release Date: 28th April 2017
Feature Running Time: 136 minutes
With the first Guardians of the Galaxy being the biggest risk pulled off by Marvel Studios and surprising everyone by becoming one of the greatest entries in the MCU so far, a lot had been riding on its most anticipated sequel and reliant on director James Gunn to really live up to the high expectations of so many eagerly awaited fans to deliver all the goods again, but hopefully even bigger and better this time.
Vol. 2 takes place in 2014, just three months after the events of the first Guardians of the Galaxy which was released in 2014 also (see what they did there? There’ll be no messing about of any timelines when Marvel is involved), the audience is immediately thrown into the thick of the action in the first of many stunning action set pieces as the Guardians fight off some huge ugly-ass alien on a distant planet in the far reaches of space while still having the time to bicker in between as the unlikeliest family unit we’ve grown to quickly love from the first film. Still maintaining the same sense of fun and brilliant comical timing with the return of our favourite A-Holes or ‘the biggest idiots in the galaxy’, we can feel rest assured that Gunn knows what he’s doing when presenting to us one of the most genius opening title credit sequences that’s the best one I’ve seen since last year’s Deadpool. Seriously, it will make you smile from ear to ear and get you pumped up for the rest of the film in all it’s wackiness and crazy fun.
However, the Guardian’s continuing adventures of battling galactic monsters, looting, stealing stuff and generally saving the universe where ever their ship takes them soon comes to a bit of a standstill when Peter Quill’s (Chris Pratt) long lost father unexpectedly decides to show up after 34 years of absence. Kurt Russell plays Ego the Talking Planet aka Quill’s father and it could just very well be the best thing about Vol. 2. In fact I would even go so far as to saying that its Russell’s arguably best performance since John Carpenter’s The Thing. Bold statement, I know.
This is probably the best father and son bonding film you’ll see since The Empire Strikes Back, as it reveals some dark secrets and twists along the way as Peter begins to unravel the mystery of his true parentage as he asks some burning questions to his father after having deserting him years before and leaving his mother to die. We also get to find out more about Peter’s own origins, what makes him so unique and special, especially when finding the inner strength to have held on to an infinity stone for as long as he did.
With much of the focus being heavily laid out on Quill discovering his place in the world as he sorts out his daddy issues, this sequel builds and develops on some big themes that were already previously grounded in Vol. 1 such as family, love, relationships and tragedy. And with all this going on, there’s still remarkably plenty of room elsewhere for other principal characters to have their moments to shine brightly, a couple in particular include Baby Groot (voiced again by Vin Diesel) as its just virtually impossible for anyone to not fall in love with the little tree fella, placing him in some of the best scenes from the film as well as Yondu (Michael Rooker), a ravager slave who had a pivotal role to play from Vol. 1 who was portrayed as a kind of an anti-hero, getting his chance in this film to totally redeem himself by doing something valiantly heroic and in doing so, the character managed to elicit a real emotional response from me that I never felt in the previous film.
One thing that I’ve noticed about James Gunn as a film-maker even before he hit it big with Guardians, is his constant collaboration with the same actors – most notably with Michael Rooker. But in Vol. 2 he’s taken collaboration between actors one step further by casting Russell, Rooker and Sylvester Stallone all in the same movie: Rooker working previously with Stallone in Cliffhanger (1993), Russell appearing with Rooker in Tombstone (1993) and Russell and Stallone working alongside one another in Tango & Cash (1989) but unfortunately don’t share any scenes together here. I love noticing all these collaborations pop up and I hope Gunn keeps this trend going in his future films too.
We also get to see the introduction of a new character from the comics called Mantis, played in this film by Pom Klementieff, an intergalactic alien whom apparently was created on Ego’s planet has the power to feel people’s emotions whenever she touches them. An important part to the narrative structure of Vol. 2, she definitely grabbed my interest and I’m looking forward to finding out more about her as a character and seeing how she develops in Vol. 3.
Like Vol. 1, this sequel once again boasts another super-cool soundtrack from the 60s/70s era that had formed a great part of Gunn’s youth while growing up. Some of the songs are nowhere near as catchy or much loved as ones from the first but hey, at least they’re songs that have still been carefully chosen that have a real point and relevance to the on-going story being told here. And of course, the film’s subtitle is a nice little nod to Peter’s Awesome Mixtape Vol.1 tape, something that still has its fair share of effective use in this film as Mixtape Vol. 2.
After viewing this a second time in regular 2D after seeing it on opening night in awesome IMAX 3D, I kinda felt this film benefited being experienced in IMAX a lot more. Its still great in 2D, don’t get me wrong about that, its just that the 3D works so well in this film as it did with Doctor Strange back in October. After viewing it twice, I’ve realised this isn’t quite as fantastic as its predecessor but it comes damn close, making them both just equally as good IMO.
Marvel Studios are renowned to always have a post-credit scene in each of their films within the MCU but James Gunn decided to break the record by adding a whopping five post-credits scenes for our enjoyment. They’re all really worth watching so make sure you stick around for them.
With the recent announcement that Gunn will definitely return to direct Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, making him the first and only director to helm a trilogy within the MCU to date so far, we’ll first see our band of misfits join forces with the Avengers first when they make an appearance in Infinity War next year. Definitely be intriguing to see how they’ll fit into that story considering where each Avenger is now at following the events that took place in Age of Ultron but I can hardly wait. Roll on Thor: Ragnarok later this year!