Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

REVIEW BY Rebecca Wynne-Walsh

Following the resounding success of the first instalment, the second Guardians of the Galaxy once again begins in medias res, with an action-packed opening sequence choreographed around ELO’s classic “Mr Blue Sky”. Volume 2 then subverts our action/superhero movie expectations by turning the camera away from the team (Peter Quill, Gamora, Drax and Rockett all return) fighting the bad guy to focus on fan favourite Baby Groot as he dances gleefully (adorably) to the song. The film as it means to continue with the music being arguably even more foregrounded the second time around. Volume 2 feels at times as much of a musical as it is a superhero movie, with both its scenes of action and of emotion, driven by a well-chosen classic song you’d forgotten you loved. Among ELO, George Harrison, Fleetwood Mac, Sam Cooke and Looking Glass all feature on Peter Quill’s “Awesome Mix: Volume 2”.

Chris Pratt returns in top comedic form as Peter Quill, the self-proclaimed master-thief Star-Lord. We get Pratt’s apparently mandatory shirtless scene within the first 15 minutes of the film. Director James Gunn is all about giving the audience what they want but not at the expense of telling the story, moments of indulgence, such as Chris Pratt shirtless or Baby Groot dancing are dispensed with at the beginning to make way for a virtuoso two-hours of character building. Most superhero movies relegate origin stories and the establishment of emotional depth to the first movie in the franchise thus leaving the sequels to deals with bigger and bigger fight scenes. If anything is bigger in Gunn’s sequel it is the heart at the centre of the story.

 Instead of trying to make the climactic exploding battle scene unbearably bigger, Gunn places his team of unlikely heroes against their true worst enemy, their own fears. Fears of being alone, of being without family, of losing those you love. The central theme of this film is not simply to further expand the Marvel Universe, it is to explore the importance of loyalty, friendship and, the family you choose. Naturally this is all played out in tandem with another unforgettable soundtrack, and an abundance of hilariously quotable one-liners. Dave Bautista’s Drax and Bradley Cooper’s Rocket in particular get a chance to flex their comedic muscles so to speak.

Perhaps the sheer ridiculousness of its premise allows Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. to have genuine fun with its characters. The playfulness seeps out of the screen with ease. At the press screening for this film, I sat in a cinema at 10 o’clock on a weekday morning, surrounded by hoards of hardened, cynical film critics, once the film began however I found myself surrounded by laughter. It is a film reminiscent of the likes of Back to the Future, the original Star Wars trilogy and indeed the Indiana Jones Trilogy (it’s still a trilogy in my eyes).  Like these films, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2is light-hearted and yet incredibly heartfelt.

 Against all odds, in a cinema culture that is saturated in superheroes, it is the film with the CGI tree and the talking racoon that is more focussed on building character relationships and emotional connections than any of the others.