By Thomas Simpson
Detractors like to bemoan the weight of superhero fatigue that bores down on today’s cinema schedule. Someone forget to tell audiences that they’re getting sick of superhero films as even those panned by critics are cleaning up at the box office.
Every so often a comic book movie arrives that appears to break the mold, and this didn’t end with Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Returns. Deadpool was a breath of fresh air amongst the serious tone of others being released at that time while Logan’s R-rated contemporary Western brought a certain gravitas to the cartoon world of tights and capes.
Now, Marvel Studios are here to remind everyone else who is king with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.
The first Guardians of the Galaxy was viewed with curiosity from the casual comic book fan and cinema goer. Characters like Peter Quill aka Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and Drax (Dave Bautista) weren’t exactly household names. Nevertheless, director James Gunn won over audiences with his comedic space opera that filled a lovely little pre-Episode VII hole.
Vol. 2 kicks off brilliantly as we’ve already vaulted that awkward origin hurdle. We’re familiar with the team – also made up of Rocket (Bradley Cooper) and Baby Groot (Vin Diesel) – and they’re equally acquainted with each other. It allows events to kick off from the start and throws us straight into the plot. Quill is reunited with his father, Ego (Kurt Russell), a mysterious being who looks to make amends with his son for the time they’ve lost. Gamora is suspicious of Ego which causes rifts between her and Peter while the Guardians are hunted by a race of people they’ve offended. Cue hijinks.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is everything that a sequel should be. Gunn takes everything that made the first one brilliant and turns it up to 11. The stakes are higher, the set-pieces are more elaborate, and the jokes are funnier. Much funnier.
The first one was humorous but it’s nothing to the laugh out loud reaction that Vol. 2 will evoke. At times silly, others clever, Gunn balances the script on a very slim tightrope ensuring that it doesn’t fall into parody territory even if some of the gags are ridiculous. Ridiculous they may be, but they’re also side-splitting.
Vin Diesel’s three-word catchphrase of “I am Groot” was as infectious as it was brilliant first time round. This time it emanates from the adorable Baby Groot which promises a show stealing performance in every scene. Thankfully Gunn doesn’t shove Baby Groot done our throat in the way Captain Jack Sparrow was in the Pirates of the Caribbean sequels. He gives us enough to satisfy our thirst but always leaves us wanting more.
As hilarious as the film is the script gives wonderful depth to the characters and their relationships. We invest in their family bond and as such Gunn pulls the trigger at the right moments to have us sobbing into our popcorn. It’s a well paced plot that doesn’t panic and rush towards the end although I feared that may have been the case as we entered the third act as their seemed to be a lot still to tie up.
The action is inventive and off the wall backed up once again by a killer soundtrack in Awesome Mix Vol 2. The opening credits sequence will have you grinning like a maniac and sets the tone of the film right from the off.
You’ll laugh and cry for what is 136 minutes of sheer enjoyment. Even if you are suffering from superhero fatigue, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 has a cure for what ails ya.
Thomas is a writer and filmmaker based in Glasgow, U.K. Find him on Twitter: @Simmy41.