Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 ★★★½

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

Missouri, 1980. With convincing digital enhancement, a younger Kurt Russell courts Peter Quill's (Chris Pratt) mother as they're enjoying a breezy drive. A nice prelude—serving as a conduit to Quill's keepsake Awesome Mix Vol. 2, yet suggesting that a redemptive and implacable father-son bond will come.

But suddenly, smash-cut to title-card!—and Vol. 2 instantly peaks with Baby Groot dancing to ELO's "Mr. Blue Sky" as the Guardians attempt to ward off a gigantic tentacled monster. Not sure if I'm likely to find a more purely joyous moment all year, but writer-director James Gunn knowingly sets the delightful irreverence.

This battle is on behalf of the conceited, gold-skinned Sovereign people (led with icy-cold sternness by High Priestess Elizabeth Debicki​). And what follows, in lots of shiny galactic whiz-bang, is an extended sequence where the Guardians vs. the Sovereign due to Rocket (Bradley Cooper) stealing their precious batteries. It's really fun to watch how the Sovereign's are cocooned in these golden simulated-control pods as the Guardians blast away and share witty quips in the nebula.

With those quips, though (and they're mostly funny!) is a sequel that also seems a bit eager to please. No doubt, Drax (Dave Bautista) had my favourite lines from the bunch. Best one's being "I have sensitive nipples" and "I have famously huge turds!" While the others are prone to constant, bickering humour. There may have been an instance when it should've dialed the almost-every-line-for-laughs routine. But these are a band of misfits who are still endearing to be around—full of wacky charm, that have now formed a surrogate family of sorts.

By this point, I felt as if Vol. 2 was going into a scattershot narrative. Yet it quickly redeems itself with the inclusion of two major characters: blue-skinned Yondu (Michael Rooker), and of course, Quill's father Ego (Kurt Russell). On the former, Yondu's role is hugely increased to the point of empathy—he's more despondent due to the Ravagers abandoning him. He also gets a highly entertaining sequence with his floating, piercing arrow. But it's his ultimate sacrifice in the adoptive paternal role for Quill that provides an emotional core. Especially when it's so movingly climaxed by Cat Stevens' "Father and Son".

As for Ego, it's his true agenda for Quill that becomes thrilling—a nefarious unity to devour other planets and increase their energy. Before that, it's as if a touchstone is made to restore any familial time. Quill desires to know his legacy. Ego wants to control that. Yet it's clear something just ain't right as Ego's protégé Mantis (Pom Klementieff​) tries to tell Drax about his evil d'oering. Which basically sets off green-skinned Gamora (Zoe Saldana) to investigate.

Most of the second half in Vol. 2 actually does what Star Trek Beyond attempted to do. In terms of "pairing off" the characters. Drax is hilariously relentless with his judgmental digs on Mantis. Quill and Gamora get their affectionate dance and unspoken bond (with the occasional "Cheers" reference!) but it's another particular duo that was further strengthened. The one between Gamora and her bionic adoptive sister Nebula (Karen Gillan). There's seething anger and barely concealed hatred—as they're both fairly candid about their unpleasant family history, while unsure if they'll make amends.

Even if the visuals look exceedingly CGI-ridden, I'll hand it to the effects team for making Ego the Living Planet a ~wonder~. Splendorous colour, sprawling landscapes and full of intricate surface detail. The other planets are also impressively conceived, but it's Ego's glistening world that stands out the most.

Ultimately, it boils down to this: somewhat hampered by another redundant tale of survival in the universe. Easily elevated by consistent laughs, big exuberance and a touching climactic farewell. They're the Guardians, alright. The kind of a-holes who swagger around in amiable drollery. The latest intergalactic screwball fun by Marvel.

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