Taking a cue from Doctor Strange, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 indulges itself with the trippy imagery and contained stories of the old comics but ties it together with a strong self-awareness and sense of humour to create an imaginative thrill ride that may even top our last adventure with Star Lord, Gamora, Drax, Rocket and Groot.
Taking a slice of life approach, the film opens as it means to go on with an over the top action sequence in-between the prominent moments of comedy. The pacing never really slows down as we move from planet to planet, creating an intense energy that keeps you entertained constantly yet can often seem cluttered and unfocused as the group is forced to split up early on. While the story beats are very formulaic and even un-cinematic at times with the level of cliché, it is the talented cast that keeps things fresh; each member getting time to shine along with an increased role for fan favourites Yondu and Nebula. Their chemistry is tested yet endures as the arrival of Kurt Russell shakes things up; Russell uses his cult status well here to create a powerful and charismatic figure who lives up to the name Ego. Inspired director James Gunn takes the creativity even further with the unlimited potential of an entire galaxy of planets and creatures; tentacle aliens with bursts of rainbow fire and a race of genetically engineered narcissists are featured in just the opening sequence. The action too ramps up, becoming increasingly high concept but always with a wink to the audience so we don’t take anything too seriously.
Though the plot can often waver with abrupt tonal shifts, Marvel have once again succeeded in making a film that is above all entertaining, everything a Marvel film should be; Gunn doesn’t try to make Guardians an overly innovative piece or poetic masterpiece – he goes all in with the absurd nature of this cinematic universe and that is where the keen interest and love for the Guardian’s films in particular comes from. The almost episodic arc and pulp design gives it the true feel of a comic book, forgiving some of the narrative clichés but not the rushed and almost cluttered pacing of the opening two acts. However, the now legendary soundtrack the Guardians are known for returns with a bang to add even more personality and laughter to the stellar battles.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is a perfect sequel to the first film, testing the bond of the characters and introducing new threats whilst giving a more personal and tense story. Though it sometimes enters the realm of cliché, Gunn never fails to ground it in a distinct sense of humour and mesmerising psychedelic visuals.