Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (PG13)
Starring Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Kurt Russell
Directed by James Gunn
This is a spoiler-free review. Well, not really. First things first, let’s get this out of the way: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 isn’t as good as the 2014 original. It sits somewhere in the ‘Could Have Been Better’ section, just a few rows behind ‘Awesome’.
If Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax (Dave Bautista), Rocket (Bradley Cooper) and Groot (Vin Diesel) are likened to a rock band, their ‘debut album’ was badass punkish. For their sophomore adventure, however, they lean a little bit towards the progressive rock side — more out-there, out-sized and outlandish. (Even the post-credits stingers are overstuffed — there are, not one, not two, but five of them!)
But what was once fresh, now feels laboured, low on spunk and spontaneity, weighed down by its own clunkiness. As a result, some scenes, especially those involving Star-Lord, his biological father, Ego the Living Planet (a heaven-sent Kurt Russell) and adoptative pop Yondu (Michael Rooker), lack a satisfying emotional payoff.
Even some of the interactions within the team of cosmic misfits feel somewhat distant and rehearsed. But I must say Drax’s budding relationship with new Guardian Mantis, an empath, played by Pom Klementieff, is endearingly kooky — yes, they’re even cuter than Baby Groot, which is waaay too Ewok for my taste.
Elsewhere, there isn’t an effective villain to threaten the Guardians. The Sovereign, a race of genetically flawless humanoids covered in gold (led by Elizabeth Debicki) are too jokey and nowhere as petrifying as Lee Pace’s Ronan in the first movie. Then again, where’s the suspense when you already know the gang will be back in The Avengers: Infinity War and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3? As such, the sequel feels more like a filler than a through and through thrill-ride. (* * *)