'Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2' - Review - Chris At The Pictures

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

'Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2' - Review

★ ★ ★  

“All you do is shout at each other!” – the frustrated words of cyborg assassin Nebula (Karen Gillan) ring loud and true regarding Marvel’s dizzying and thunderous return to the stars. Following an incursion with a giant tentacle monster and gold-faced aliens, the Guardians of the Galaxy find themselves split in two. Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and Drax (Dave Bautista) head off into the unknown on the trail of the living planet, Ego (Kurt Russell), while Rocket (Bradley Cooper) and Groot (now Borrowers-scale and voiced by a squeaky Vin Diesel) are left to fend for themselves against hordes of space pirates.

To call anything that comes from the Disney-Marvel slate “risky” seems a bit much, but I at least confess my admiration for an audacious opening set piece, which places the action itself in the background and distracts us with a three-minute dance number as the titles play out. My enjoyment even stretched to the use of ‘Mr Blue Sky’, a song which I freely admit detesting, largely thanks to its association with many awful British summer time TV adverts.

Accidentally going along with things that shouldn’t work is an experience that defined my time spent in the company of James Gunn’s new film. Whether snorting at Drax’ cacophony of trouser humour or wryly noting the onslaught of 80’s pop culture references (is there really an audience crossover between Marvel and Cheers?), I had a great time with this movie, make no mistake…even if said movie itself is far, far from great. Despite its bum-numbing length, largely inconsequential roster of side characters and one moment where it turns into Man of Steel (and not in a good way), Guardians 2 is infectiously fun. The cast are engaging, the music – both the new Awesome Mix and Tyler Bates’ score – is glorious and hearty, and it leaves the audience awash with smiles.

Only occasionally does the smile falter. Constant bickering between the bunch gets a bit much, hence my sympathies with Nebula as the Guardians’ prisoner. Pratt’s delivery is the main offender, bouncing back between soft aural honey and wide-eyed barking, with Cooper’s shrieking raccoon a close second. Mercifully, they’re usually cut off mid-rant by Bautista’s pin-precise comedic timing or a relatable glower from Saldana. Even the extensively-marketed baby Groot gags take a good while to start wearing thin, stuffed to the brim as the film is.

Like a sports car stuck in traffic, the movie wants to whip-pan from scene to scene, but is reined in by sequences that take an age to pass. There’s so much going on visually and referentially (gags about Mary Poppins, Pac-Man and an allusion to Hitchcock’s North by Northwest, to name but a few), crammed into a narrative that hops from one side of the universe to the other like there’s a hedgehog in its seat.
Here, Guardians 2 goes for the whole Empire Strikes Back deal (the gang are separated after an early conflict and familial ties are revealed), but with a modicum of the depth and none of the darkness. But that’s fine: in a film with the aesthetic of a Haribo factory on fire, anything too challenging or tonally murky would set the atmosphere askance.

In terms of the wider cinematic universe this is little more than a jaunty side-step from endless avenging; the filmic equivalent of a village fireworks display. It goes on longer than anyone really needs it to, but you stay the course and suffer the repetitive whizz-bangs because there’s free candy floss, your best mates have turned up and you’re all howling with laughter because the vicar just took a Catherine wheel to the crotch.