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Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Let's take a short break from what is going to swiftly become a small deluge of television reviews, and talk about a film currently out in cinemas: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, the long awaited sequel to Guardians of the Galaxy and the latest entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Long-time readers of this blog, or really just anyone who has talked to me about the MCU, will know that Guardians of the Galaxy is my favourite film in the Marvel canon of live-action films: It was a lively, fun space opera that its creators were clearly passionate about, with a cool modernised-80s aesthetic, enough comedy and action to keep me hooked, and an at least halfway decent (if not especially groundbreaking) plot. Chris Pratt -- who has now seemingly committed himself to turning audiences against him by making baffling remarks about how white men are under-represented in films -- was the surprise breakout actor of 2014, and it wasn't difficult to see why.

In spite of all that, I wasn't really planning to see Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 in cinemas: I'm not a big cinema-goer, and with The Last Jedi, Thor: Ragnarok, and Wonder Woman all potentially vying for my attention over the course of the year (and I almost never visit the cinema more than twice in a year), Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 had been bumped to the bottom of the list, on account of how I'd seen almost no marketing for it to ratchet up my interest. Honestly, I've never entered a cinema so completely clueless about what was going to happen in a film before, it was actually somewhat disconcerting. It was, instead, other people's reviews that swayed me into seeing it, as the reactions of my friends varied between thinking it was the best thing ever, and saying that it was basically more of the same.

Peter and Rocket.

Set some time after the first film, Vol. 2 sees the Guardians on the run from the Sovereigns and their queen, Ayesha, after stealing a set of powerful batteries from them. Before long, the group has encountered Peter's father, a Celestial named Ego, and they split into two -- Peter, Gamora, and Drax going with Ego to visit his planet (which is also him), and Rocket, Groot, and the captured Nebula staying behind. As Rocket and company are captured by Ravagers and find themselves with Yondu in the middle of a mutiny, Peter explores his heritage with his father -- not realising that Ego has a destructive, galaxy-spanning plan that he needs Peter for.

So, the verdict? This is, indeed, more of the same, except not because it's not quite as good as the first film. On its own merits, it's a solid film, with a slightly paint-by-numbers but still very entertaining space opera plot -- but the sections with Peter, which constitute the film's A-plot, are surprisingly slow-paced compared to the first film, and the film only really feels like the Guardians of the Galaxy I know and adore during Rocket's B-plot sections, and when the two groups reunite near the end of the film.

Ayesha, who is very gold.

It very much feels like this could be an episode -- well, a two-parter -- in a space opera like Farscape or somesuch, to the point where it's basically structured entirely like a two-part season finale for a television show, just on a much bigger scale. That's not necessarily a bad thing, especially when Farscape, Star Trek, and the like are clearly what Guardians of the Galaxy is attempting to emulate, but it is a slightly odd thing to find oneself saying about a film.

The big theme of the film is family -- Peter as both Ego's biological son and Yondu's adopted son, Gamora and Nebula's relationship as sisters, Yondu's estranged family in the form of the other Ravager captains, the family-less Sovereigns, and the Guardians as a family in their own right -- and it's an effectively utilised theme even if, again, it's never exactly stunningly original. I'm sure if asked the writers of the film would say that that's intentional, and they're trying to call back to old B-movies with it, but ultimately it's just because that's what this entire film is: Effective, but not hugely original.

Groot, who is tiny.

Which is fine, actually. It's a lot of fun, and I certainly didn't regret the £8 price of admission. 

The film ends on a very open note, with one of the five (five? Really?) post-credits scenes suggesting that Vol. 3, scheduled for some time around 2020, will have Adam Warlock and the Sovereigns as the main villains. That's not for a while, however, and for this year, we have Spider-man: Homecoming showing up (not on my list of films to see in the cinema) and Thor: Ragnarok also on its way (possibly on my list), so those should be fun.

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