Walkmans and awesome mix tapes at the ready - Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 is out and it's even louder than the first.
This time it's a family affair for our favourite bunch of A-Holes; Quill/Starlord (Pratt), Gamora (Saldana), Drax (Bautista), Rocket (Cooper) and still cute, still Baby Groot (Vin Diesel).
Once again causing trouble on their adventures, The Guardians’ latest escapade sees them piss off a (literal) golden race called The Sovereign, led by the beautiful Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki), who takes a wonderfully ‘80s arcade game approach to warfare. It's down to the selfish behaviour of Rocket, as insecure and irresponsible as ever. Drax on the other hand seems to have lightened up a lot - laughing in nearly every scene and developing a love of practical jokes. As before, he's the source for much of the comedy. Groot is, well, Groot, in case he hasn’t already told you.
Quill, more settled in his Starlord lifestyle, pines over Gamora and his mysterious, absent father, who just happens to be (SPOILER) - Snake Plissken! (Also known as Kurt Russell to some Earth mortals). After narrowly escaping The Sovereign, 'rescuing' Nebula (Gillan) from them, and crash-landing on a nearby planet, a long overdue and awkward family reunion occurs.
Elsewhere, Yondu’s (Rooker) ‘soft’ treatment of Starlord has caused some divisions amongst the Ravagers, with his leadership being challenged. It turns out he's not popular with the rest of Reaver community either, especially Stakar (Stallone, whose brief presence manages to be surreal in an already surreal movie). Naturally it all links to Starlord's backstory.
GOTG Vol. 2 has taken what worked from the original and stuffed the sequel full of it. Almost too much of it. While most of the time this works, it backfires too. There are one too many sentimental moments that end up being dangerously cheesy, something the first film managed to escape. The soundtrack - incredible as it is - also occasionally overwhelms the film rather than supports it.
The colourful kaleidoscope of CGI remains spectacular. In a Marvel universe already becoming dangerously overcrowded, Gunn successfully squeezes in a few new cult favourites. A feat for a director who, once again, appears to be having fun with the franchise by doing something different. And, much like Iron Man - that's where Guardians greatest success lies - its originality. However, paradoxically this is difficult to maintain once it’s already been done. A few cameos at the end will be lost on non-diehard comic fans (who will also notice storylines borrowed and altered from elsewhere).
There are not one or two but FIVE post-credits scenes. Three are throwaway vignettes, one is a cameo-linked throwback (or throw forward?) for the diehards, and one introduces the antagonist in the next Guardians movie. And, of course, there's Stan Lee.
While GOTG Vol. 2 doesn't quite live up to the original (any space hipster will tell you the first album is always better man), it’s shamelessly cartoonish, operatic and Freudian.
You’ll hum “Escape and Spirit in the Sky” for days. You'll remember Pac Man. You'll remember Taserface. You'll remember one of the greatest cameos of all time. And you'll (probably) have more fun watching this than any other film this year.
GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2 / CERT: 12A / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: JAMES GUNN / STARRING: CHRIS PRATT, ZOE SALDANA, DAVE BAUTISTA, VIN DIESEL, BRADLEY COOPER, MICHAEL ROOKER, KAREN GILLAN, POM KLEMENTIEFF, KURT RUSSELL / RELEASE DATE: 28TH APRIL