Here there be spoilers, so if you haven’t seen it go away now.
It was never going to be easy for James Gunn to top the first film, a smallish space opera which blew everyone away and singe-handedly launched Chris Pratt’s career into the stratosphere.
The weight of expectation was heavy and so it pains me to say, that he couldn’t do it. Possibly Marvel is losing their magic touch, possibly they rushed this knowing how well the first one did. It’s a fun, okay movie and that’s it.
I don’t know how closely it hews to the actual comic, but the plot was borderline nonsensical, Starlord is reunited with his father Ego (Kurt Russell!) who takes him back to his home planet, where his nefarious plan is to use his son as a human battery to destroy the universe (there is no real explanation as to why he wants to destroy the universe other than some vague meaning of life reasoning). On top of that, Ego isn’t actually a human at all, he’s some sort of divinity.. he’s the home planet disguised as a man (this is not explained that well). Plus you have the Ravagers and the Sovereigns chasing the team for kicks.
It was nice to have the old gang back together again, everyone is well settled into their roles. Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Bradley Cooper and Dave Bautista are fine, fine, fine. They’re the same. Still bickering and still making each other crazy. They have a nice chemistry together as we knew from the first film.
On the other hand, everyone else was barely clearing the bar for woefully miscast. Eliza Debicki as Ayesha was not great, completely overacting – and in one particular scene, she goes into a rage at her console panel that took me completely out of the movie. I had to stop and consider whether it was an acting choice, maybe Sovereigns are more prone to rage spirals than their human counterparts? Sylvester Stallone was mumbly, more mumbly than usual. I don’t even want to talk about what Sean Gunn was doing as the comic foil. Kurt Russell was fine, he could have been played by anybody – however he and Chris Pratt do share some resemblance. I really missed the talents of Glenn Close, Lee Pace and John C Reilly.
The other outstanding thing about this movie is the complete lack of stakes, you just knew that no-one was going to die. Our heroes were bouncing around like Wile E Coyote and no-one was ever really hurt. I counted the times that Gamora should have died on impact, but she never did.
I don’t mean to sound like a complete downer on this movie, it was a lot of fun, it looked pretty – almost everyone had spot-on comic timing. The theatre I was in, enjoyed it a lot. And it goes without saying, that it’s going to make a fork-ton of money, guaranteed until vol 15. If you love Marvel, go and see it, otherwise I’m not sure that I would consider this essential viewing.