Film review | Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2: Return of the A-holes

The road towards the inevitably explosion-filled conclusion in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 features an embrace of the weirder aspects of the source material • 3/5

9 May 2017, 7:30am
The a-holes return: the self-declared Guardians of the Galaxy strike a pose amid a conclusion replete with CGI noise and nonsense
The a-holes return: the self-declared Guardians of the Galaxy strike a pose amid a conclusion replete with CGI noise and nonsense
By Marco Attard

Here’s for reunions of sorts – back in August 2014 I got to guest review the first Guardians of the Galaxy. Now, nearly two years later, I get to review the sequel, the imaginatively named Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. Back then I was perhaps somewhat snobbish towards the film, describing it as essentially a Star Wars film even as I admitted its brightly coloured facade proved to be a breath of fresh air compared to the greys and browns of other superhero films.

But how does the sequel fare in the year 2017, a time where we got more and more of films in the superhero genre, but also not one but two official Star Wars films? The answer, dear reader, surprised even yours truly.

In truth, I can repeat most of my review of the first film; like its predecessor, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 remains “a space adventure cut straight from pulp cloth, if with a good lick of modern special effects paint.” However, unshackled as it is from the constraints of multiple origin stories, the sequel has been allowed to have more fun. In fact, the first two acts of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 are surprisingly low key. Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) takes Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and Drax (Dave Bautista) to meet his dad, while Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper) ends up in trouble after stealing batteries from The Sovereign, a clan of goofy gold-coloured types who, in the film’s prologue, hire the titular Guardians to hunt down a gigantic tentacled monstrosity. There’s also the business involving Gamora’s warrior sister Nebula (Karen Gillen), as well as Quill’s adoptive father, the space pirate Yondu (Michael Rooker), and Drax developing feelings for newcomer Mantis (a Pom Klementieff transformed into an alive anime character).

If you’re seeing a theme of family developing here, that’s not your imagination. A film bearing the title “Guardians of the Galaxy” is not exactly a space for subtlety. Troma alum James Gunn keeps the direction breezy, with well-timed comedy and decent action scenes bolstered by special effects which, while never truly spectacular, feature at least a measure of imagination in the design department.

Groot – the tree monster reduced to a toddler in the first film – steals the show yet again
Groot – the tree monster reduced to a toddler in the first film – steals the show yet again
The breeziness is perhaps marred in the final act, since it does as all these films are seemingly obliged to do and devolves into a spectacle of CGI noise and nonsense, with the Guardians tasked with saving, well, the Galaxy.

But the road towards the inevitably explosion-filled conclusion features an embrace of the weirder aspects of the source material, what with the revelation of Peter Quill’s father as being the gloriously named Ego the Living Planet (Kurt Russell), the extended appearances of the grizzled space pirates known as the Ravagers, multiple Howard the Duck cameos, and a post-credits scene teasing the appearance of no other than [REDACTED].

Thankfully, it’s also not bogged down with references to the wider “Marvel Cinematic Universe”; instead, most of the references made involve television and pop hits from a time before most of  the millennials making the film’s target audience were even born (by which I mean the 1980s. Are you feeling old? I sure am. SIGH). 

Ultimately, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 proved to be shockingly entertaining. Is it a genuinely good film? I honestly can’t decide, especially since this year already gave us a wealth of B-grade genre greats, such as the superlative John Wick 2 and Free Fire. As such, while I struggle to even remember what the plot to Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 was about (that could be the result of the old age I pointed out earlier, mind) I do recall the pleasure brought by, say, the sight of Ego the Living Planet –  as in the actual planet, its geography sculpted as a scowling face, in embrace of just how weird and wonderful comics can be – in full cinematic blockbuster glory. And sometimes, this guest reviewer must admit, that can be enough.