Guardians of the Galaxy was a huge surprise hit in 2014, one that I enjoyed a lot but didn’t love as much as most. It was fun, quirky, referential and vibrant, with a fantastic cast that catapulted Chris Pratt to superstardom. Naturally, this made me concerned about the inevitable sequel, Vol, 2, because I knew it would be facing unreasonable expectations and must find ways to rekindle the magic of the original while also coming up with something fresh.
For the most part, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 lives up to the bare minimum of expectations without doing much more. It builds upon the mythology of the first film, giving us a new adventure with a more personal slant, further opportunities for character development and building team chemistry, and still plenty of nostalgia and irreverent humour to put a smile on our faces. Like its predecessor, Vol. 2 was a fun couple of hours, but it also did not wow me in the way the best Marvel films tend to do.
Set no long after the events of the original, the Guardians of the Galaxy — Peter Quill (Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax (Dave Bautista), Rocket (voiced by Badley Cooper) and Baby Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) — are now working together to fight an inter-dimensional monster at the behest of the Sovereign race, basically a bunch of uptight people in gold paint led by the statuesque Ayesha (Aussie Elizabeth Debicki). When the Guardians fall out of favour with the Sovereigns, Quill’s adoptive father Yondu (Michael Rooker) is hired to capture them. This leads to an encounter with Ego the living planet (Kurt Russell), a celestial being who reveals himself as having a connection to Quill. By Ego’s side is Mantis (Pom Kleentieff), a socially awkward girl with emphatic powers and antennae on her head.
Guardians has a different vibe to the other Marvel films because of its unabashed wackiness and irreverent tone. Groot and Rocket aren’t supposed to work as characters, but they do because of the superb writing and direction of James Gunn, whose talents are again on full display here. With bright colours, well-choreographed comic book space action, likable characters, fast and furious jokes, classic 80s music, and the cuteness of Baby Groot, Vol. 2 is a light and fun popcorn experience.
The cast is of course fabulous. Pratt looks very comfortable as Quill and spews out a bunch of witty wisecracks, though the majority of the comic relief this time goes to Drax, especially in his interactions with Mantis. And while cute doesn’t usually do much for me, Baby Groot does have a few nice moments. Yondu gets a bigger role this time and Rooker really shines by giving the character a lot of heart. Bradley and Saldana provide more of the emotional punch this time around with their character arcs, in particular Gamora’s relationship with her sister Nebula (Karen Gillan). That’s already a great cast, and I haven’t even mentioned legends Kurt Russell and Sylvester Stallone (who has a cameo), in their first reunion since Tango and Cash 28 years ago!
That said, I do have quite a few issues with Vol. 2. For starters, while I did laugh quite a few times at the gags, I found the humour a lot more hit and miss this time around, with some of the jokes coming across as too obvious. The biggest issue I had, however, was the actual plot, because it feels like not much actually happens. There’s a long lull after the Guardians encounter Ego, and I actually found myself a little bored by some of the slower sequences during this phase. It just didn’t feel like there was enough substance to justify a 136-minute running time.
So yeah, though I wasn’t disappointed in Vol. 2, I was hoping for a bit more. In terms of quality and entertainment value, the drop-off from its predecessor is not huge, but at the same time it felt like a somewhat safe sequel that does not go beyond to deliver what could have been a special experience. Instead, it’s just a solid albeit unspectacular continuation of the story.
Happy New Year! 2017 is shaping up to be one of the most epic years in film history with loads of blockbuster releases.
First up, these are the ones I’m not particularly interested in:
Fifty Shades Darker (Feb 10)
The first one was horrible, and this one — if the books are any measure — will be even worse.
Cars 3 (June 16)
Cars has to be one of the worst Disney animated franchises. I still haven’t been able to watch one without falling asleep. I’m pretty sure I’ll skip this.
XXX: Return of Xander Cage (Jan 20)
XXX 2 with Ice Cube was a movie experience that will probably scar me for life. This looks better because Vin Diesel is back, but I’m not expecting much.
Transformers: The Last Knight (June 23)
I have officially given up on this franchise. I’m sure it will make loads of money, but as long as Michael Bay is at the helm, there’s not much to get excited about. Even the trailer is a little meh this time.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (May 26)
I’ve never been much of a fan of this franchise either. The first one was decent, but since then Johnny Depp’s shtick has been annoying.
Baywatch (May 26)
Gosh. This looks like a disaster waiting to happen.
Saw: Legacy (Oct 27)No trailer yet, but no trailer needed. This is an absolute cash grab that does not need to be made. It will simply soil the franchise further.
Pitch Perfect 3 (Dec 22)
Not even a poster yet. I liked the first one but the second one felt like it already wore out its welcome. I doubt a third one will be any good.
Despicable Me 3 (June 30)
Another animated franchise I could never get into properly. This trailer has not changed my mind.
The Shack (March 3)
I remember being really intrigued by the book when I first saw the cover a few years ago. But then I found out it was a cleverly disguised Christian novel and saw this trailer. Sigh.
Jumanji (Dec 22)
Yet another remake that does not need to be made. Nice cast, but I will be very shocked if this does not turn out to be a shocker.
Snatched (May 12)
After the success of Trainwreck, Amy Schumer is back with Snatched, co-starringGoldie Hawn. The trailer gives away I suppose what can be called a twist? Can’t say this interests me very much.
These are the ones I’m intrigued by but missed the list:
The Fate of the Furious (April 12)
I honestly think they should have stopped after the last one given the way they gave Paul Walker the perfect send-off. But money talks and there are more ridiculous stunts waiting to happen. Must say this trailer does not particularly excite me.
A Cure for Wellness (Feb 17)
Gore Verbinski directs a psychological horror starring Dane DeHaan. Looks fascinating. Count me in.
Insidious: Chapter 4 (Oct 20)
This is a cute little meta teaser trailer. Insidious is definitely one of the better horror franchises, so I’m at least intrigued by what the fourth installment has to offer.
Flatliners (Sep 29)
The original about life-after-death experimentation was not exactly a classic, but it had a super cast (Kiefer Sutherland, Julia Roberts, Kevin Bacon, Billy Baldwin, Oliver Platt). This remake features Ellen Page, Diego Luna and Nina Dobrev, and might have some new special effects and ideas to make it worthwhile.
Annabelle 2 (Aug 11)
The first one was a disappointment, but the sequel promises to be better. The trailer suggests this to be the case.
Kingsman: The Golden Circle (Sep 29)
The first one was a pleasant surprise. Not sure if the sequel can replicate the magic, but I’m eager to find out.
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (July 21)
This is supposedly based on a legendary text that many other movies have borrowed from over the years. The trailer looks okay, I suppose. Hope it’s not another Jupiter Ascending.
Power Rangers (March 24)
I shouldn’t be interested in this, but I am. The trailer does not instill confidence but I’m willing to give it a shot.
The Dark Tower (July 28)
Never read the Stephen King novels upon which this is based, but it certainly looks promising with Matthew McConaughey and Idris Elba in the lead roles.
The Lego Batman Movie (Feb 10)
I laughed like a lunatic throughout The Lego Movie, and Batman was one of the major reasons. Hope this one can live up to the hype with Will Arnett once again reprising the voice of the caped crusader.
Get Out (Feb 24)
Not sure what to think of this strange, racially tinged horror flick, but it does seem interesting. Check out the trailer.
It (Sep 8)
The TV mini-series based on the Stephen King novel was the No. 1 thing that scared the crap out of me as a kid, so I am really looking forward to how they do a film version with Bill Skarsgard as the titular monster.
T2 Trainspotting (Jan 27)
I don’t have strong impressions of the original, so this isn’t as high on my list. And sequels that have taken more than 20 years to get made usually don’t perform well.
Beauty and the Beast (March 17)
This was in my top 15 until I realised there was another movie I had completely forgotten. I liked the animated version and I think this has the potential to be very good. Not quite sure about Emma Watson as Belle though.
And here’s my top 15!
15. The Mummy (June 9)
This could be good or bad. Still not sure what to think from the trailer. But I trust Tom Cruise and Russell Crowe and I know this needs to be great in order for the rest of the Universal monsters franchise to have a shot.
14. Thor: Ragnarok (Nov 3)
This would be higher in any other year, and especially after this hilarious “vacation trailer”. I wasn’t thrilled with Thor 2, though this has a chance to be a monster hit given that it also features the Hulk.
13. Blade Runner 2049 (Oct 6)
Oh man, I’m so excited about this long-awaited sequel to the sci-fi classic, particularly as it is directed by Denis Villeneuve. However, my fears of a sequel/reboot that has taken this long to come to fruition are also at play here. It’s the only reason why this isn’t in the top 10, possibly top 5.
12. John Wick: Chapter 2 (Feb 10)
The first one was an exhilarating surprise hit. The second one looks very promising by the looks of this trailer. Could well be the best action flick of the year.
11. World War Z 2 (June 9)
The first one went through production hell but came out gloriously on the other side. I know a lot of people didn’t like it, but I absolutely loved the World War Z. Still no news or teaser trailer or even poster with the scheduled release date just 6 months away, so we’ll have to wait and see if they push it back.
10. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (May 5)
I didn’t love the first one as much as everyone else, but upon a second viewing it’s grown on me more. Guardians is different, fun and funny, and I think this second one could be even better.
9. Wonder Woman (June 2)
DC has not hit it out of the park yet with any of their new DC Extended Universe movies, and I’m hoping Wonder Woman can be the first. I’m sure it will be good, but I’m not sure if will live up to expectations.
8. Spider-Man: Homecoming (July 7)
The new Tom Holland version of Spider-Man was one of the best things about Captain America: Civil War, so naturally everyone is excited about his first solo movie . With Michael Keaton as the villain Vulture, there’s every reason to be optimistic that Marvel will get it done once again.
7. Alien: Covenant (May 19)
I was one of the few people on the planet who really enjoyed Prometheus, flaws and all, so of course I’m looking forward to its sequel. This time, Ridley Scott has ditched any pretensions about there not being a direct link to Alien, but I just hope they don’t try to force a connection too much. The first trailer looks like we’re in for a pure horror in the vein of the original.
6. Logan (March 3)
Hugh Jackman’s last time as Wolverine, and it looks like he’s going to go out with a bang. I don’t know when or if they’re ever going to make a movie based on The Last of Us, so this could be as close as we’re going to get for a while. Best trailer of the lot?
5. Kong: Skull Island (March 10)
I’m partial to the big fella, and this movie could be setting up an epic duel soon with Godzilla. Brie Larson, Tom Hiddleston. What’s there not to like?
4. Justice League (Nov 17)
I’m almost as excited about this film as I was about The Avengers. I know the odds are stacked against it given DC’s track record, but one can only hope that Ben Affleck’s influence will push it in the right direction. It looks like a lot of fun.
3. Dunkirk (July 21)
I worship at the altar of Christopher Nolan, so it’s no surprise his new war film is up this high. The trailer looks absolutely incredible too. I know it will be fantastic.
2. Star Wars: Episode VIII (Dec 15)
The Force Awakens more or less lived up to expectations and Rogue One was great in its own right. I can’t wait to find out what Rey, Finn, Poe and Kylo have been up to, and it will be fantastic to finally see Luke Skywalker for more than a few seconds. Above all, it’s directed by Rian Johnson, so I feel like nothing can possibly go wrong. It’s almost blasphemous that I’m not putting this as No. 1.
1. War for the Planet of the Apes
What. You were expecting something else? Don’t be silly.