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Categories: Movie Reviews

Like the original, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is filled with endearingly wacky concepts that distract from the irritatingly predictable plot.

It’s becoming harder and harder to critique Marvel Studios films as individual pieces of work. No matter how original the film may be in tone or look it is always, itself, both an adaptation of a pre-existing intellectual property and a serialized entry into a wider story; if not also a direct sequel to another film, which almost all of them are now. Making Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2 simultaneously the second film in the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise, the third film in Marvel Studios’ Phase Three productions and the fifteenth film in the interlocking Marvel Cinematic Universe Avengers series. You can see how things can start to become a bit muddled.

Marvel Studios’ aversion to killing any main characters in their films, except the antagonists (and even then), hasn’t helped the increasing sense of confusion surrounding them. Writer and director James Gunn attempts to remedy some of these problems by taking things back to basics, story-wise, with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and mostly he succeeds. There’s a smattering of references to infinity stones and grander overarching villains, but mostly the story of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is focussed on the core ensemble and their development. The question is “how much do you really want that?”.

Though filled with the visual ingenuity and heartfelt comedy that made the original so popular, there’s an unavoidable quality of obligation and tieing up loose ends in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. Usually very successful one-offs that are spun into franchises deal with this problem by having their second part end on an unfinished note, leading into a third film, and, while it’s definitely admirable that Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 sticks to the Marvel Studios credo of only making self-contained adventures, the story is still a very clearly drawn path from point A to point B. You may find it satisfying to see the characters constantly commenting on how predictable the course of events is or you may find it annoying that this still has no effect on the predictability of the course of events.

So if you’re looking for an original kind of story focussing on new characters then no, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is probably not for you. But if you are, more likely, looking for slow but steady character development against the backdrop of some fun design work then yes, you’ll almost certainly feel like you at least got your money’s worth. Similar to a lot of Marvel Studios sequels it feels like a bit of a victory lap, and there are several visual concepts that appear to be directly lifted from franchise films made by other studios (like Star Trek Beyond and Oz the Great and Powerful), but there is the sufficient amount off-colour humour and grim visual ideas needed to call this a uniquely James Gunn film. Not to mention the sufficient cameos.

Like a great many (arguably all) of Marvel Studios’ films, the cast is the main selling point and, not only is every actor given a requisite range of scenes in order to make the film feel complete, most characters demonstrate a noticeable progression or deepening. It doesn’t always work (comedic Chris Pratt is infinitely more appealing than dramatic Chris Pratt) but it’s brought together for a satisfying and, once again, surprisingly emotional finale. The problem is that it mostly feels like it isn’t in service of a central plot, and this film does have a central plot. Which may actually be its weakest point.

No matter how unique a Marvel Studios film can appear to be it is always, first and foremost, a Marvel Studios film. It is always working off of a strict guideline and a mandatory checklist. While Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 demonstrates a lot of eccentricity in its dialogue the fundamentals of the screenplay are still clinically tested formulas. The film still comes down to a doomsday plot, a villain of the week, a continuation of a mostly flirtatious romance, teasers for a sequel and a truly colossal amount of daddy issues. It’s usually quite a prevalent theme in Marvel Studios films but Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 kicks it into overdrive. If you’re usually aware of that type of thing then it can end up contributing to this overall feeling of “too much of a good thing”.

Marvel Studios have been the masters of both procrastination and pleasant distractions in Hollywood for quite some time now and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is yet another visually fun action film that tides you over to the next Avengers, with a story of potential universal destruction that ends up feeling like the least important part of the film. Indeed, if you’re a fan, the two things you’d be the most concerned about are the soundtrack and Baby Groot; both of which are handled quite well, if dished out a little generously. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 goes hard and fast for that 80s nostalgia jugular once again; making it, at best, a joyously creative exercise in brand marketing.

A lot of people are very fond of that though and will have no qualms about Baby Groot being less of a character and more of a merchandising opportunity. Because, in the end, he’s a good one. The design and mannerisms being very reminiscent of Gizmo from the original Gremlins films. At any rate, it certainly feels like Marvel Studios have expanded their toy chest and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 makes some genuinely refreshing musical choices while showing a clear improvement in texturing their effects. It’s a well-made, rainbow striped, treat that doesn’t forget about that all-important, and elusive, thing that pundits call “heart”.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is out now in cinemas.

Mark Birrell

Mark is the editor of The Spread as well as a copywriter, and lifelong cinephile, who received his bachelors in Film and Comparative Literature from the University of London. You can follow him on Twitter @markwbirrell

Posted on May 7, 2017

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