It’s been almost ten years since Marvel Studios premiered Ironman. Since then, cinemagoers have become accustomed to the annual spectacle of Marvel’s films. 2017 is no exception with three releases due on the big screen this year.
First up is the sequel to 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy. This film featured some of Marvel’s lesser known characters. With each new film, Marvel has been adding another layer to its cinematic universe (known as the MCU). The first Guardians was a hard sell because it had to appeal to fans of the comic books and the casual cinema goer.
The approach was different and it created a story that felt independent from the main sequence of films. Guardians didn’t take itself too seriously, in a film that mixed quirky humour with action. The gamble paid off. Grossing over 750 million dollars at the international box office, a sequel was inevitable.
Subtitled ‘Volume Two’, the follow-up picks up several months after the events of the first film. Without giving too much away, if the previous film was about finding a family then the second looks at the compromises and squabbles that bind one together. This time round, Peter Quill/Starlord (Chris Pratt) meets his father Ego (Kurt Russell) while the rest of the Guardians wrestle with the challenges of minding Baby Groot.
Quill, Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista), Rocket the Raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper) and Baby Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) are all here, along with some of the supporting cast from the first film and a few new characters.
James Gunn returns to the director’s chair and wisely sticks with what worked from the first film. Here, the action sequences are bigger with some impressive CGI effects. The 3D works well and for the most part, doesn’t feel like an afterthought.
The comedy of the first film isn’t pushed aside in favour of a more serious tone. There are slapstick routines and quirky sight gags. Two of the funniest sequences feature Baby Groot, who has been given plenty of screen-time to be adorable.
And of course, Quill’s Walkman and mixtapes are back. This time, the soundtrack features classics from the likes of Fleetwood Mac, Yusuf/Cat Stephens and George Harrison. There’s no ‘Hooked on a Feeling’ but the selection is blended through the narrative in a way that complements the onscreen action.
However, it does take a little bit of time to get going. The opening sequence set to ELO’s ‘Mr Blue Sky’ is fantastic. However, the film wanders off a bit. The diversion is entertaining but the structure could have been tighter and the running time reduced. Some of the cameos are all too brief. It’s a case of blink and you’ll miss them. Hopefully, these roles will feature more prominently in the third film.
Unfortunately, the sequel suffers from the same flaw as the first film and other recent Marvel films. The villains are forgettable with underdeveloped motivations. This is a shame because it means that we never feel that the heroes are in real jeopardy. And the film lacks something important as a result.
Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume Two is the 15th film from Marvel in the last nine years. The studio has had an amazing run of entertaining blockbusters that have helped them to dominate popular cinema. They have developed a reputation for producing films that can bring well-loved comic book characters to the screen in ways that satisfy fans and the wider cinema-going audience.
However, success brings higher expectations. With each film, there’s the risk of over-hype. This isn’t a great film but it is a good one that won’t disappoint. Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume Two is one blockbuster to see if you fancy a break from study.