Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 review can be summed up in one word: bonkers. From the opening sequence to the closing credits, James Gunn permeates the whole film with his unique and twisted sense of humour and film making, downplaying huge CGI action set piece scenes with character beats and humour, extending jokes beyond their breaking point, turning lackeys into well-rounded characters and expanding on all the Guardians in unique and interesting ways.
James Gunn’s constant subversion of sci-fi tropes reminds me of Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, particularly the new Golden Race of the Enclave and their malfunctioning red carpet equipment. To head so far away from Earth in all ways but seem so confident and at ease to consistently depict these completely alien and mostly CGI worlds through literal and consistent world building is unbelievable. This kept me connected with the storytelling however wild and wacky the ideas and visuals got. Totally bonkers but in a good way.
For me the main strength of the film is the characters. All are interesting in their own way and mash together as revelations occur and backstories are fleshed out, dictating the plot through their actions and giving a real sense of not knowing what’s going to happen next. Key for any film but so badly needed in the Marvel movies where this can be lacking.
The sense of joy and love for these characters and world are palpable and wanting to make the best film possible including action, humour, character arcs, and emotion is so ambitious it's no surprise it always hits the mark. For me this film feels like the most independent $200 million dollar film I’ve ever seen, James Gunn achieving his vision fully with this giant tool chest that Marvel have given him, throwing everything at this movie giving me the experience that the comic has walked straight out of the book and onto the screen. A real shame that he won’t be directing the Infinity Wars films as his fluid filmmaking and character beats would really accommodate so many superheroes on screen together.
To translate a character that is a sentient CGI tree which repeats the same three words into such a fully realised being is a truly amazing accomplishment. Baby Groot and Rocket Raccoon are funny, sympathetic, and as important as all the other characters and given just as much attention. The possibility of them being sidelined for the occasional site gag is blown open even in the first minutes of the film in an extraordinary sequence of mayhem and mirth.
The plot can be seen as weak but I appreciated how it was mostly focused on one planet instead of ping ponging around the galaxy, although there is some of this in a hilarious space travel sequence. To ground the story and characters in questions around family and relationship and opening these up in different ways hooked me into the narrative. These fundamentals of connection with the audience are often overlooked in blockbuster films for big spectacle. Although Guardians 2 does have many an action scene, it presents them in new, horrific, exciting, and visually interesting ways. Yondu’s mutiny for example is a gloriously beautiful and scary sequence.
Guardians 2 for me feels like a fully realised Marvel movie, offering something for everyone as well as a whole lot that you wouldn’t find in any other film. All praise to James Gunn for stamping his essence on every frame and making what could have been a by the numbers sequel into another weird and wonderful sci-fi mash up.