Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 begins with a bang – literally. The guardians fight off a gigantic squid-like creature while Baby Groot dances to the Electric Light Orchestra hit ‘Mr. Blue Sky’. The sequence is filled with energy, spectacle and that signature irreverence. It’s audacious and exciting and it instantly puts a smile on your face. But then, the film gets mired in family squabbles and tedious inter-galactic theatrics. Even though some moments sparkle, it doesn’t hit this high note again.
The first Guardians of the Galaxy was scrappy and funny. It came from the Marvel empire but it wasn’t weighed down by seriousness or a compulsion to be dark or to speak to the state of the world. It had an effervescence or what the French call, a je ne sais quoi - that indefinable quality that made it charming. The characters still have some of that charm – Star-Lord Peter Quill, green beauty Gamora, the muscled and tattooed Drax, the adorable Baby Groot and of course the foul-mouthed raccoon Rocket – all of them have their signature one-liners and hero moment.
But the convoluted story weighs them down. Peter Quill’s got daddy issues – a swaggering, smiling Kurt Russell plays his birth father. His name is Ego the Living Planet so you can imagine how this will end. Meanwhile Gamora is fighting with her sister Nebula who hates her because their father constantly pitted them against each other when they were young.
The Guardians are also being chased by a gorgeous, golden queen because Rocket stole some precious batteries from her planet. There’s also the blue-skinned Yondu, the interplanetary robber who raised Peter. He’s been banished from some sort of confederacy of robbers, which is led by a character named Stakar Ogord. Stakar is played by Sylvester Stallone so I’m assuming he will be doing much more in volume 3.
Essentially, volume 2 is a filler. Writer-director James Gunn creates some eye-popping visuals – the action sequences play out like beautifully crafted music videos. But largely, the film is frantic and noisy. Some sequences are enjoyable but nothing here is memorable. You will forget it the moment you leave the theatre. And this film just doesn’t have the lightness of being that the first installment did. I hope Gunn brings that back again.