The first Guardians of the Galaxy (adapted from the ‘Marvelverse’ by co-writer/director James Gunn) was a surprise hit three years ago, despite the fact that studio bods seemed to think it wouldn’t be as big as an Avengers because it didn’t feature proper (then) stars or have the pedigree of an Iron Man.
What no one seemed to understand was that audiences responded to the charming characters, loved the themes of friendship and loyalty, and it was really funny. Gunn’s solo sequel just about manages to pull it all off again, despite a little less-than-Marvellous confusion.
A 1980-set curtain-raising scene cuts to a credits sequence where the Guardians (they can call themselves that now after defeating Ronan the Accuser) take on an interdimensional monster to the tune of Electric Light Orchestra’s Mr. Blue Sky (of course!). This battle sets the tone for the group once more: Peter Quill/Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) is still a goofball and still longs for the gorgeously green Gamora (Zoe Saldana), while he’s always bickering with tactless Drax (wrestler Dave Bautista) and grumpy Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper), although they can’t live without each other, and Baby Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) is adorable on the sidelines.
This leads to their custody of the still furious Nebula (Karen Gillan), who’s (of course) Gamora’s spiteful sister, but Rocket’s indiscretions lead to their targeting by High Priestess Ayesha (Australia’s Elizabeth Debicki under golden make-up), and her easily-offended Sovereign forces chase them to a nearby planet where they crash. As luck would have it, here they find Ego, a ‘Celestial’ who turns out to be Peter’s long-lost Dad and played with much amusing gravitas by Kurt Russell. While Gamora and the others insist that Peter should be happy, he somehow isn’t (and he shouldn’t be).
There’s too much going on here, but this mostly works well anyway, and the actors are having as much fun as the audience. While Pratt and the Guardians are cool, they’re almost upstaged by Russell (who’s getting-around and is also currently in the eighth Fast And The Furious film) and Pom Klementieff as his sidekick empath Mantis, who sports some strangely sexy antennae.
Please note that as this is a Marvel epic, there are extra scenes, jokes, important lead-ins to Guardians 3 and more (including an intriguing glimpse of Jeff Goldblum in the as-yet-unreleased Thor: Ragnarok) during and after the credits, so please, once again, DO NOT leap up at the end and rush out to validate your parking.
Rated M. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is in cinemas now