We all smile and cheer at the dorky little thief who calls himself Star-Lord, but we have a totally different, more comical reaction to the working class bandit with the fresh name of Taserface. I sense a double standard. Guardians of the Galaxy already won our hearts and fan club memberships, meaning what Rocket thinks is funny, we think is funny. I sure don’t want to look lame in front of the cool kids. This popular gang try very hard to discourage us from liking poor Taserface because, deep down, he’s a mutinous, murderous, mugger who puts babies in cages and turns his friends in for ransom… I’m getting off topic. Taserface is just one of many new friends we have the pleasure of meeting in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.
The whole crew is back. Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax (Dave Bautista), Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper), and Groot (“voiced” by Vin Diesel) join us on a mission to protect a platform full of batteries for the Sovereign Race. As payment, the Guardians take Gamora’s sister, Nebula (Karen Gillan), as prisoner – and Rocket slips a few batteries into his pouch for good measure. It turns out that the Sovereign Priestess and her statuesque subjects really want those batteries back, prompting them to launch the fleet and chase the Guardians across the galaxy. Just when it looks like their luck is about to run out, our favourite team is saved by a cheery and mysterious fellow with impeccable timing. His name is Ego (Kurt Russell), and he claims to be Peter’s father. Nebula escapes, Peter explores his alien heritage, and Drax finds a friend in Mantis (Pom Klementieff) while we gush over toddler Groot and his adorable little dance moves. Aw.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is all about backstory. Everybody gets a chance to share or to listen as we discuss upbringings and lost family members. Gamora and her sister talk through their rivalry, Rocket and Yondu (Michael Rooker) have a bonding moment, and Peter plays catch in the yard with his old man. Drax ropes it together with a few basic lines (“I believe in you!”) and our little gang really starts to feel like a family. It’s very touching. But where’s the big bad colourful alien? Guardians Vol. 2 is missing a bad guy and a training montage. Who scrambled the Marvel formula!? Yes, the Sovereign Race is tracking Rocket’s stolen batteries, and sure, Yondu’s gang isn’t too pleased with their captain – but there’s no Big Bad to avoid until the galaxy runs out of time and our heroes finally step up in matching uniforms. Someone wrote a fresh plot line!
The new story, however, doesn’t mean we’ve scrapped the element of galactic wonder. The green alien and the blue alien hang out on a planet that rains skittle bubbles while the celestial being makes statues out of light molecules. So pretty. Guardians Vol. 2 deserves the splurge for a 3D ticket. It makes a difference when Yondu’s arrow is flying at your face and glowing tentacles are whipping all over the room. The effects are loud and bright – like neon disco lights – and fit Guardians of the Galaxy’s retro feel.
And that includes the introduction of the alien-operated video game fleet. Why put your pilots in physical danger when they can remote-pilot drones with the Nascar Team Racing Simulator? I wouldn’t have bet my money on the Golden Girls to do very well, but there’s a lot on the line when you’re fighting for quarters and Slush Puppies.
There are many parts of Guardians Vol. 2 that would make an excellent video game – including the team’s indestructibility. Gamora falls out of not one but two spaceships and lands unharmed like a cat with a parachute and a will to live. I know Nebula is made of metal, but I’m pretty sure Gamora’s kneecaps can dislocate like the rest of us. Her technique is to laugh it off and move on – not an easy feat. Although watching Drax howl at a good injury is like watching the Road Runner bounce back from an afternoon with the Coyote.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is just as funny as the first, but is beefed up with more character history and family spats. The team has become used to each other, which means cuddling baby Groot or bringing up embarrassing drunken moments is fair game. For our benefit, Peter pulls classic pop culture references out at random, which are complete nonsense to the rest of the crew. Is Mary Poppins one cool dude? Sure, why not. Guardians Vol. 2 is a great laugh, fun action, and a gentle sad-face emoticon with a few sappy moments for good measure. I would happily go see it again tomorrow. 8/10.