Director: James Gunn
Cast: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper
As Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 was playing, I realised with some consternation that its best scenes were those I’d already seen in the trailer. And I’m not just talking about flashes, but entire scenes—like that whole sequence involving Baby Groot and the detonation device. There’s surprisingly very little in the film that works otherwise, both in terms of entertainment and emotional resonance. The film’s as vacantly enjoyable as its opening sequence, in which the Guardians are taking on a non-descript monster, and Baby Groot, oblivious to the carnage, hops along merrily to one of those tracks from the Awesome Mix Vol. 2 mix-tape. It’s a riot of sound and colour with not too much of any significance happening, but the psychedelic dance of the hues on display—electric blues, emerald greens, striking yellows—almost make up for it throughout the film. It’s a visual carnival.
The first film had all of this too, along with some refreshingly irreverent humour and some moving heroic moments. There’s a bit of that here too, even if some of the surprise value of such humour has reduced on account of familiarity. Drax, the Destroyer (Dave Bautista) is a hoot in the film, with his constant guffawing, not least when he reacts so to Mantis (a Guardians member with empathic powers) revealing that Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) feels sexual love for Gamora (Zoe Saldana). You probably know this scene already, considering it’s almost completely shown in the trailer. See what I mean?
The original was an almost exaggerated premise of of a bunch of criminals (well, mostly) uniting in order to save the galaxy. The characters themselves were fresh, but now that we are all too familiar with the thieving ways of Rocket (Bradley Cooper), the assassinating ways of Gamora, and the cutesy ways of Baby Groot, the sequel needed to have stronger—perhaps more emotional?— material to keep these characters buzzing. Simply adding a character whose power is detecting other people’s emotions doesn’t quite cut it. Perhaps the film’s central theme of fatherhood could well have done the trick, if it weren’t so superficially treated. An inquiry into Quill’s parenthood is launched very early into the film when Ayesha, the High Priestess, questions him about it. It’s no surprise though, if you’ve watched the trailer. Running parallelly is the Gamora-Nebula sibling rivalry track, which also stems from issues with their father. And best of all, even if it’s not saying too much, are the portions about the relationship of Quill and Yondu, whose sizzling arrow provides for the best action setpiece of the film. And yet, none of this resonates as emotionally as it should, perhaps on account of Quill’s biological father being rather stony in portrayal, pun intended. He isn’t as much as a threat as he’s a nuisance in the plot. And that’s why the final portions only stay in your head as a hazy blur of some unmemorable action sequences involving dazzling white energy streaks.
This sequel isn’t as heroic, as funny, as entertaining as the original. The characters needed a better threat, or at least one of a more intriguing/charming variety. Perhaps the film’s chief impact is to make sure that the next time I’m blown away by the events in a trailer, I’ll first consider the possibility that perhaps those are the only striking ones in the film.