★★★★★ – “Guardians Vol. 2 continues Gunn’s energetic, fun & emotional formula.”

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is written & directed by James Gunn and stars Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Pom Klementieff, Michael Rooker, Sean Gunn and Kurt Russell. 

Set to the backdrop of Awesome Mixtape #2, ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2’ continues the team’s adventures as they unravel the mystery of Peter Quill’s true parentage.

Where to start? After the huge success of Gunn’s first instalment in the trilogy and the incredible praise it received, Guardians Vol. 2 had expectations set pretty high. The story was written beautifully and each character felt important. It was hilarious & action-packed but still left room for one of the most vital ingredients in any film; emotion. When the first film cut to black, the fans felt like they’d experienced something truly unique. It made us happy, sad, filled with adrenaline. Gunn had us hooked on these feelings. The bar was set.

Which is why I’m so happy that Guardians Vol. 2 hits every single one of those notes once again. There’s a surprise ingredient in this instalment, however, and you’ll know it when you see it. 

Let’s start with the characters. ‘The 5’ are back. It pretty much picks up from where the first film left off, but our characters have evolved significantly and it’s evident from the first 10 minutes; which is one of the most incredibly fun sequel openers I’ve ever seen (again, you’ll understand when you see it). Peter Quill / Star-Lord, played effortlessly by Chris Pratt has some of the funniest lines, but also hits the emotional core splendidly. Bautista’s Drax is one of the most amusing characters in the line-up. He delivers each line with great comedic timing and had the theatre laughing from line to line. Rocket is brilliant, Bradley Cooper is casting at its best. Gamora and Nebula are given some more development, we hear about their past and even at times feel a little sympathy for Nebula. Both Saldana and Gillan play their respective roles with strength. Even Baby Groot has some chances to shine, which is awesome.

There’s a new addition with Klementieff’s Mantis, providing a nice back-and-fourth between herself and Drax. Stallone’s casting didn’t work with me, it’s one of the very minor things I disliked about the film, however we never get a chance to explore his character. Michael Rooker returns as Yondu and he is a badass with so many crazy scenes, a truly superb performance. Alongside Rooker is Sean Gunn, brother of James, returning as Kraglin. He has some really cool moments and definitely develops more as a character towards the end of this film. Finally, Kurt Russell. Yes, it’s no spoiler that he plays the father of Quill. In fact, it would be impossible to avoid. That’s why the ‘reveal’ is in the trailers. Gunn personally chose to have that scene included. There’s so much more to Kurt’s character, which I will not discuss here. Though a little exaggerated, Kurt is great.

Moving the focus towards something that most of the time goes unnoticed, or at least under-appreciated, is the costume design. Judianna Makovsky pays close attention to detail and everything looks beautiful. These films wouldn’t be as brilliantly convincing as they are without her. The same goes for the cinematography, editing, visual effects, make-up, production design, art decoration, set decoration, stunts, sound department, and of course, the music.

As an exception, I had listened to the entire score by Tyler Bates before seeing the film. I think it worked out better this way; I had a vision in my mind of how these themes were going to be used, but then hearing them within the context of the film really surprised me. Tyler has created a wonderful score that, with Gunn’s love and appreciation for his work, has been utilised perfectly. There’s some Williams-esque writing in the percussion during the opening battle, creating a fierce introduction which then progresses into a psychological examination of our leads, most notably Peter Quill. Not only is it an enjoyable listen compositionally, it’s as vitally important as the characters.

One of many fans’ favourite ‘characters’ from the first Guardians was the Awesome Mix, gifted to Quill by his mother. In the final act of the first film, Quill opens a second gift with another tape inside, Awesome Mix Vol. 2. This continues to complement the picture wonderfully from start to finish. Personal favourites are Electric Light Orchestra’s “Mr. Blue Sky” & Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain,” but a perfect use of Cat Stevens’ “Father And Son” may just cap it off.

Finally, Gunn’s writing feels as grounded and as human as it did before. He writes humour very well, but also provides intricate detail within characters that move the viewers. It creeps up on you and it’s tremendously touching. Not only that, but Guardians Vol. 2, like the first, never once feels as if it’s just setting up the next big thing. Although taking place within the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), it sticks with our characters and only very minor nods to the MCU are used, creating its own ‘Cosmic Universe’ which breathes a lot of fresh air into the genre.

I could go on and on, but that would ruin the experience. This film showcases some serious talent, in front of the camera and behind the scenes. Support these incredible individuals by heading to your nearest cinema and seeing this film. If you enjoyed the first Guardians, you’re gonna love this. I think it’s better on almost all levels.

Verdict; Action-packed, hilarious and an emotional ride. Welcome to the frickin’ Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 – ★★★★★ (9/10)

PS: James, if you’re reading this; thank you. I can’t wait to see what’s to come in Vol. 3. Until then, I’m gonna go watch Vol. 2 a few more times.

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