Without a doubt the original film was a surprise to all of us, it combined some awesome space action and amusement, something that I thought wasn’t possible in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This volume has a lot to live up to, and it really didn’t.
There’s a splashy opening battle with a giant space-faring octopus, scored to Electric Light Orchestra’s Mr Blue Sky for no reason other than the finger-snapping snazz of it. (The soundtrack also features Fleetwood Mac, Glen Campbell and David Hasselhoff, plus a recurrent use of Brandy by Looking Glass, which is deployed with all the shiny-eyed sincerity of an Ennio Morricone motif.) But the gears of the plot only begin to grind with the arrival of a benign and bearded mystic called Ego (Kurt Russell), who has big news for Peter about his earthbound origins.
The core crew returns, led by Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), essentially a buffer and be-dorked Han Solo – though the sentient tree Groot, voiced by Vin Diesel, has been pruned back to a big-eyed sapling, making the character all but indistinguishable from his own tie-in vinyl collectible figure. Not to forget the Racoon voiced by the one and only Bradley Cooper.
Along with the lean, green, mean Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and pebbledashed galoot Drax (Dave Bautista), Peter travels to Ego’s home planet, a kind of lightly stoned paradise filled with the kind of vistas and architecture rarely seen outside of prog-rock album sleeves, and faux-naîf ceramic statuary to make Jeff Koons flip his lid.
Meanwhile, Groot, Rocket Raccoon (voiced, as before, by Bradley Cooper) and Nebula (Karen Gillan) are left to tangle with a space pirate horde led by a fuming orc lookalike called Taserface (Chris Sullivan). This storyline initially seems unconnected to Peter’s adventure, and it effectively is – but it smooths the way for the return of Yondu (Michael Rooker), a blue-skinned scoundrel from the original, whom Gunn grants a more nuanced and moving arc than you’d ever imagine could shine through all that cobalt face-paint.
This is why Gunn is so ideal for this series. As a protégé of Lloyd Kaufman, the notorious schlock-auteur and founder of Troma Entertainment, he understands the imagination-sparking power of the lurid and freakish, even in a $220 million franchise-tied blockbuster. In an early sequence in a neon-drenched nightlife district, his camera gawps at the multi-coloured denizens catching snowflakes on their tongues – a shot that must have cost next to nothing in the scheme of things, but which sets the mood more effectively and sensually than any number of hectares of green-screened digiscapes. (Not that the film is short on those either).
Whilst I enjoyed the film, the mix of the laughter,yet I feel that the original was better. Still, credit is due to Chris Pratt and the rest of the actors because this film will appeal to a huge audience, and so will the box office. GOTG 2 is projected to open to $160M+ and could break the $900M barrier, continuing the success of the Guardians. It will be extremely interesting to see in Avengers: Infinity War (2018) how the Guardians will mix their humour with the Avengers, but only time will tell. Thor: Ragnarok will set up what is the most anticipated film ever in November.