It’s no secret the first ‘GOTG’ in 2014 wasn’t something I raved about. It’s down there in the lower ranks of the wider MCU slate. But, as this forms part of the MCU tapestry, I had to see the sequel and the further exploits of our Guardians. Safe to say, after going in with low expectations, I came out enjoying it more than the first.
As a whole, it solidified Marvel as the clear leader of comic-book adaptations, with this film giving us something totally different to last years ‘Captain America: Civil War’ and ‘Doctor Strange’, but being part of the same overall story. It is fun, it is exciting, it is empathic when it needs to be and has heart. It looks good, has no expense spared and the production clearly puts so much thought into everything from the opening titles to the closing post-credit scene. For that, this film, the ones before and to follow, as well as Marvel as a whole, continue to have my respect as a film fan.
The humour still falls flat at times, and because of the up and down rides our characters take, it sometimes comes across as forced and a bit out of place. Drax, for one, plays the same comedic slant over and over again, and the fact a conversation divulged his space turds is a little…eeesh. -cooked.
Yet some moments are just so silly and dumb that it does nothing but make you laugh, and that is not a bad thing at all. The space jumps with Yondu, Rocket and Baby Groot for example – surreal, but funny. The pop-culture nods to everything from Knight Rider to Pac-Man are wonderful and inject that light-hearted moment when things get a bit too emotional and soap-opera esque.
In relation to the humour though is the way the characters are, and they are a big improvement over the original film because we get to see more of them and their layers, but many of them feel under Peter is a little tamer this time and not a big a-hole, which is a relief, but the others don’t get to do much as the main chunk of narrative belongs to his personal storyline. Everyone takes a back seat, waiting to do something, while Peter and Ego, played wonderfully by Kurt Russell, repair their broken relationship as father and son. Gamora, Drax and Mantis do little after a positive start, and don’t REALLY do much towards the end. And when they do, it is mostly with CGI body doubles.
Parallel to this family-driven story, we have a wacky space adventure with Yontu, Nebula, Rocket and Baby Groot – not bad with Michael Rooker and Karen Gillan sharing screen-time with 2 CGI characters, but who are the ones who provide most fun overall. They don’t take things too seriously but lay on the action and the dead-pan humour in spades. Rocket and Groot are dangerously close to stealing the show when they are on screen. It’s also lovely seeing Sylvester Stallone on screen in a Marvel outing, along with Michelle Yeoh and Ving Rhames in roles, hopefully, to be expanded on.
And one cameo I did NOT expect cements the Guardians films as the ones most out there in surreal humour but the Marvel most relative to audiences in not taking itself too seriously.
The soundtrack finds any reason to play more classic 70s/80s tracks in keeping things contemporary to a point, and while the opening credits plays like one long joke, kudos for an inventive opening battle sequence to the tune of ‘Mr Blue Sky’ – if that doesn’t make you smile, nothing will.
Now, the main factor I didn’t like was the CGI. Yes, that old chestnut. I accept CGI and know it has to be there – ‘Doctor Strange’ for example. And yes, a comic-book movie set across a fictional galaxy is going to be built around CGI, and most of the times I enjoyed it. The dazzling space battles, the gorgeous planet design and set enhancement works a treat to really hit home that bright and vibrant Marvel feel. Ego’s Planet is a sight to behold and looks wonderful.
But, as with most big blockbuster outings, the CGI dominates most of the action and also takes over the 3rd act for a confrontation that is nothing but head-ache inducing and a big cartoon cut-scene. We get a few seconds of respire when our characters have a moment to do something, but then it’s down to fast edits, cuts, dizzying action that goes all over the screen with CGI bodies flung left right and centre. Even our villain, who really builds to something great, becomes an eye-rollingly bland CGI creation.
I wish less could be more in some ways. Build up with CGI, but take it down a notch for the final moments to give us more than just actors in green-screen scenes. It’s hard to invest so much when there is so much nonsense going on. But, I’ll give them credit, the final minutes do try to bring the chaos down a notch and give us a rather fitting and emotive send-off which I valued with the characters leading it rather than flashy visuals and a bombastic soundtrack.
It’s a mixed bag. Things roll over from the original that I still don’t like – mainly the way some characters are played and the humour – but there is much to be enjoyed. It’s a popcorn movie at heart that doesn’t fail in setting up more for us to follow in the MCU while expanding on core ‘GOTG’ characters. Plus, keep an eye out for a fleeting cheeky glimpse at Planet Hulk, with two Hulks battling each other.
It’s daft fun, so don’t expect too much, and you should be ok. It’s not the best MCU offering by far, but it’s not quite the worst.