When the first Guardians Of The Galaxy film hit cinemas three summers ago, it benefited from the element of surprise. No Marvel Studios blockbuster is ever an underdog, but few movie fans expected one featuring a talking raccoon and a dancing tree to be so funny and visually stunning. But this sequel’s title suggests we won’t be wrong-footed again; Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2 is here to give us more of the same.
It opens with the motley superhero crew pissing off a pompous high priestess called Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki), but the story really begins when Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) meets Ego (Kurt Russell), a charismatic god-like being who claims to be his father. Ego takes Quill and the gang to a sublime but somewhat sterile planet he says he created from scratch. Soon father and son begin to bond, but the naturally cautious Gamora (Zoe Saldana) suspects that something about Ego is too good to be true.
Right from the start, Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2 crackles with the same waggish energy that defined the original. Director James Gunn supplies more impressive visuals and the way he juxtaposes state-of-the- art CGI with classic dad-rock bangers remains strangely entertaining. A massive action sequence is soundtracked by Fleetwood Mac’s ‘The Chain’, while a key emotional moment wrings the sentiment from Cat Stevens’ ‘Father And Son’. Gunn’s script is frequently hilarious, too, packing in ’80s pop culture references to Pac-Man and David Hasselhoff and more scene-stealing moments for crotchety Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) and super-cute Baby Groot (Vin Diesel). In fact, Gunn’s ability to juggle LOLs and thrills only really slips with a misguided recurring joke that involves a privileged male character telling a subservient female one that she’s “ugly”.
Yet despite its infectious sense of fun, the film is dimmed a little by over-familiarity and a lack of urgency: the film’s main threat only really materialises in the final third of its 135-minute runtime. This doesn’t prevent it from being another very watchable comic book romp, but it does make Vol. 2 feel less vital than it should be.