Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2 Is Marvel At Its Best

More than just a worthy follow-up to Guardians of the Galaxy, Guardians Vol. 2 is arguably the most inventive movie yet to spring from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. However, there’s one major issue that’s likely to get in the way of many a fan’s enjoyment: this is a laid back yarn without the grand sense of importance that drives so many modern superhero movies.

If you’re looking for a nail-biting narrative full of dramatic twists and turns, this may not be the Marvel movie for you. But if you simply want to spend more quality time with the title characters, Vol. 2 is a refreshingly idiosyncratic film that transports viewers back to an earlier era in science fiction—when character, story, and style were given equal weight.

Shortly after we reunite with the Guardians, Rocket (Bradley Cooper) carelessly instigates a conflict with Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki), leader of the gold-skinned Sovereign race, by stealing some of the valuable batteries he was hired to protect. In response, Ayesha sends a group of remotely controlled drones in pursuit of our heroes, but they are destroyed by a mysterious aircraft. Before long, the pilot of this aircraft approaches the crash-landed Guardians and introduces himself as Peter Quill’s long-lost father Ego (Kurt Russell). As Ego gets to know his son—eventually revealing his god-like powers—Ayesha sends Yondu (Michael Rooker) to capture the Guardians, and Nebula (Karen Gillan) sets out to kill her estranged sister Gamora (Zoe Saldana). Needless to say, these threads eventually converge, resulting in an explosive and surprising finale.

As already mentioned, the story here might be slightly perplexing or underwhelming for some viewers, as several important developments never fully payoff and others are given an oddly casual treatment, but that’s all part of the fun. Rather than telegraph everything from a mile away, writer-director James Gunn keeps a whole bunch of balls in the air, leaving you guessing where (or even if) they might land. While Guardians Vol. 2 clearly follows in its predecessor’s footsteps, it’s a more overtly (and extravagantly) playful movie. As the “Vol. 2” of the title would suggest, this is a Marvel movie in a Tarantino vein, filled with pop culture savvy, retro music cues, boldly cinematic set pieces, and Kurt Russell. (The middle two go hand-in-hand—to great effect.) Rather than get bogged down in unnecessary plot intricacies, Gunn gives us standalone sequences that work with or without their placement in the narrative.

In his fourth feature, Gunn has the confidence of a skilled filmmaker coming off a massive hit, bringing his very specific and personal sensibilities (particularly his musical taste and sense of humour) to bear on every sequence. Wisely using his budget to come up with unusually elaborate visual flourishes and effects—including the irresistible Baby Groot (Vin Diesel)—he leaves us constantly curious what he might come up with next. He also revives the first film’s greatest virtue, giving every member of the ensemble a chance to shine. (Okay, maybe not Sylvester Stallone, who gets only a few minutes of screen time.)

As far as the new additions are concerned, Russell is particularly welcome, giving the film an authority and throwback charm that was less evident the first time around. Some fans would undoubtedly prefer a more derivative, formulaic product, but for anyone with a taste for irreverent, imaginative science fiction, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is a rare treat.

Guardians Vol. 2 is in theatres now. Check out the trailer below: