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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 September 2018

Film review: Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol 2 is bigger but not necessarily better

The movie does not quite reach the giddy heights of its predecessor, but that was always going to be a tall order.
Chris Pratt as Star-Lord in Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol 2. Courtesy Disney-Marvel via AP Photo
Chris Pratt as Star-Lord in Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol 2. Courtesy Disney-Marvel via AP Photo

Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol 2

Director: James Gunn

Starring: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan

Three stars

The Guardians of the Galaxy, Marvel’s flawed team of intergalactic heroes, are back for more of the irreverent action that helped turn one of Marvel’s more obscure properties into a massive box-office hit in 2014.

They are, in a way, anti-Marvel – sometimes dishonest, often objectionable and constantly trying to one-up each other in word, deed or quip.

There’s no butter-wouldn’t-melt-in-his-mouth Captain America-style blue-eyed boys (or girls) or noble thunder gods among this motley crew of mercenaries – and we love them all the more for that.

The movie picks where the first left off, and wastes no time in diving straight into all guns-blazing action, as the team takes on a kind of giant inter-dimensional squid.

If director James Gunn’s first instalment was a riotous feast for the senses, this time, having proved himself, he seems to have been let completely off the leash and given even greater freedom to let loose.

As such, the movie is reminiscent of what might happen if you gave a nursery full of sugar-rushing toddlers an unlimited supply of neon paint and told them to design a film set. That is meant as a compliment to Gunn for his determination to make his movie one of the most overblown meditations on the garish idiocy of the genre to date.

For all the silliness, though, Guardians does also make an effort to give us a greater understanding of the characters than we gained in the first film, in particular “leader” Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), aka Star-Lord. We feel some surprisingly nuanced empathy with his isolation, caused by growing up without a father. Mind you, when dad suddenly pops up out of nowhere calling himself Ego (Kurt Russell) and claiming to be a god, he should have perhaps twigged a little sooner that there might be trouble ahead.

Meanwhile, fellow Guardian Gomora (Zoe Saldana) is working through complex sisterhood issues with her sibling, Nebula (Karen Gillan), while Dave Bautista’s Drax the Destroyer remains as blissfully lacking in self or social awareness as ever, providing many of the film’s best comic moments.

Rounding out the team is returning Ravager – and surrogate father figure to Quill – Yondu (Michael Rooker), and Rocket Racoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper), who is still a thieving scoundrel, but with a winning personality. Last but not least, we have Baby Groot, “grown” from a cutting taken from the monosyllabic tree giant, who could easily have been annoying but is simply too loveable to grow tiresome.

The supporting cast includes the aforementioned Russell, in a digitally de-aged mode, plus cameos from Sly Stallone and a comically self-deprecating David Hasselhoff.

The movie does not quite reach the giddy heights of its predecessor, but that was always going to be a tall order.

The jokes do get a little repetitive (and in the gap between the films, Ryan Reynold’s Deadpool has stolen much of the Guardians thunder in the wisecracking antihero stakes). In addition, the plot is wafer-thin and it is hard to shake the suspicion that Baby Groot was more of a marketing creation than an artistic decision.

For all that, the film is a rollicking romp full of demented fun.

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