Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 begins with a tough act to follow. It’s predecessor broke out in the best way possible. Space opera had been done before, superhero flick had been done before, irreverent comedy had been done before, but the three hadn’t been blended together, and who would have known the final result would be so tasty? Maybe the success of this first film harmed what came later, because unfortunately Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 lacks the charisma and sense of awesome adventure that its predecessor so brilliantly displayed.
The under-cooked and messy script lacks the plot direction that one has come to expect in superhero movies. Fair, this may be no ordinary superhero movie, and recent Marvel films have been more bold and inventive in their storytelling structures (to positive effects), but there was a sense of loss in the whole movie: loss in the plot and loss in what the film was meant to be about.
“Unsurprisingly, it’s visually pleasing to the eye”
The whole thing was, well, underwhelming. I spent the entire time waiting to be amazed. Maybe this is because, like another recent film (Kong: Skull Island), we’d seen the best part of the film in the first act, and nothing later on could match that. In the first 15-20 minutes (and I don’t count this as a spoiler), we’re shown a pretty cool slow-mo action scene complete with all members of the team set to the tune of ELO’s ‘Mr Blue Sky’, as well as a pretty stunning space battle reminiscent of a certain sequence from Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back.
The checklist for what to include, at this point, was pretty much complete. The spectacle had happened, and any lower form of spectacle after this felt like a shadow of what we’d already seen.
The battles later on in the film, now that the story had “progressed”, were meant to be more tense, with more to play for. At this point it was no longer that… fun. We were told the stakes were high, but speaking for myself at least, I did not feel it. Maybe this is because the stakes had gone, in not much time, from being rather low to unbelievably high, with no credible progression and little foreshadowing.
The film feels like two films in one or, rather, like two episodes of a series in the vain of Doctor Who stuck back-to-back. Each “episode” has its own villains (one serving as a clear maguffin to get us to the more important villain) and its own approach to our hero characters. The first half undercuts moments of heart with humour, and when the film reaches for sentimentality in the latter stages, it feels rushed and undeserved, like it was making up for the time wasted. Constantly being told about the character’s emotions, rather than actually seeing it, undermines the central theme of the Guardians coming together as a family. That part of the film, at least, just does not work.
“If you are yet to see the film, lower your expectations a notch”
perhaps almost certainly I am being too harsh. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is not a trainwreck of a movie, and maybe the trick is to judge it by its own merits irrespective of its predecessor (which clearly I have failed to do). Unsurprisingly, it’s visually pleasing to the eye with a number of arresting images. Its humour is at times clever and there are enough jokes to warrant its presence in the comedy genre.
There is enough in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 to stop it from being an objectively bad movie. Though the brain and the heart of the film move in opposite directions, they both have enough to offer. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 did have a lot to live up to, and maybe I was naive to expect it to match or surpass the original. If you are yet to see the film, lower your expectations a notch, and I sincerely hope you will enjoy it far more than I did (and I really mean that).