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Updated May 12, 2017


Guardians of the Galaxy was the surprise hit of 2014, featuring a colourful cast of unlikely superheroes in space. The film evoked memories of Star Wars back when The Force Awakens hadn’t undone some of the damage George Lucas had orchestrated with the second trilogy. It was also a risk for Marvel to base a film off of a lesser-known and more unusual property, and a risk that paid off handsomely.

With Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Marvel is now earning dividends on that risk. This sequel carries the same brand of adventure, drama, charm and humour as its predecessor, though it doesn’t pack as many delightful surprises. I suppose this much was to be expected, and we can all be thankful it isn’t as by-the-numbers as some other Marvel sequels such as Iron Man 2 or Thor: The Dark World.

All in all, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is still excellent popcorn cinema, and this mostly comes down to the endearing performances, strong chemistry between the ensemble cast and some hilarious dialogue by writer/director James Gunn. Particularly funny is former WWE superstar Dave Bautista as the big warrior Drax the Destroyer, who is something of a revelation here as he had very little dialogue in the first film. In this meatier role, he kills it with some side-splitting antics and heartbreaking disclosures about his past.This brings me to the weakest aspect of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2: the monologues. There are half-a-dozen main characters and it feels as if every last one of them has an ‘Oscar moment’ where they pour their hearts out as if they are confessing to Oprah Winfrey. By the time the blue-skinned mercenary Yondu Udonta (Michael Rooker) delivers a speech to Rocket (Bradley Cooper), the racoon bounty hunter, about how the two were the same as they feared being alone, it feels as if Gunn has taken the ‘opera’ in ‘space opera’ a little too seriously. This scene also exemplifies how Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 took at times too heavy-handed an approach to the relationships. As I said, the chemistry is excellent, but some of the bonding between a few key characters isn’t nearly as subtle as it should have been.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is excellent popcorn cinema

The main story is good, though not spectacular. Alongside the characters already mentioned, Peter Quill / Star Lord (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and Baby Groot (Vin Diesel) continue their adventures as the Guardians of the Galaxy. When the film begins, an assignment goes amusingly wrong, and our heroes are rescued by a mysterious and powerful stranger (Ego) played by Kurt Russell. As it turns out, Ego is Peter’s long lost father, though there is far more to him than we realise.

The action here is fun, with some fine special effects and some gorgeous aesthetics to the scenes. Two in particular stand out: in one Rocket takes on a small army of mercenaries in the middle of the night in a beautiful-looking sequence; in another, Yondu’s deadly, glowing curve bow colourfully zips through a crowd of baddies. All of this and more makes Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 a worthy entry in the franchise, though I hope the next installment lowers the volume on the family drama, or at least handles it with more tact.

Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action, violence, language and brief suggestive content

Published in Dawn, ICON, May 14th, 2017