Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2: Visually striking, sporadically funny, but little else

As Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 was playing, I realised with some consternation that its best scenes were those we have all already seen in the trailer. And I’m not just talking about flashes, but entire scenes—like that whole stretch 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. Say what you will about the film, but there’s no question that it’s a visual carnival for the digital age.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
Genre: Superhero
Director: James Gunn
Cast: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper
Story: The Guardians unite again, this time, to fight a rather boring adversary

The first film had all of this, along with some refreshingly irreverent humour and some 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, 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 about the trailer?

The original was an almost exaggerated premise of a few criminals (well, mostly) uniting in order to save the galaxy. The characters were fresh, but now that we are 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. Simply adding a character whose power is detecting other people’s emotions doesn’t 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 in 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 set piece 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 a threat as he’s a nuisance in the story. And that’s why the final portions only stay in your head as a hazy blur of some unmemorable action sequences involving dazzlingly white energy streaks.

This sequel isn’t as heroic, as funny, as entertaining as the original. The characters needed a stronger threat, or at least someone of a more intriguing/charming variety. Ultimately, this sequel’s chief impact is making sure that the next time I’m blown away by events in a trailer, I’ll first consider the possibility that perhaps those are the only such in the film.

This review was written for The New Indian Express. All copyrights belong to the organisation. Do link to this page if you’d like to share this review.

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