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Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)

Been pretty lax with Philhelm Scream recently, but I'm looking to put that right this week.  I recently started a four week course on Alfred Hitchcock that included a screening of one of my favourites: The Birds (1963) at Home, Manchester.  I'm hoping to write something about both when I can, but for the time being Charlotte and I went to see Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 the other day.  Appreciate this has been out for a while now, but as the original was one of the few Marvel films to really catch my imagination I'm still keen to pen a few words on it's follow up even though many will have seen this already.  I've never really succumbed to Marvel Studios' takeover of the cinematic galaxy.  I've really enjoyed all of the Spiderman films (apart from no. 3... what the hell?), and Deadpool blew me away (the fact it laughed in the face of other Marvel franchises helped), but James Gunn's under the radar success story, Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) can be compared to either.

Oddly, as Charlotte and I were walking to the cinema, we tried to recall the plot of the first film... and really struggled.  We last saw it a couple of years ago (the first DVD we put on in our flat in Manchester), and other than the obvious - Peter Quill aka Star-Lord (ripped Chris Pratt) is abducted by a spacecraft after the death of his mother to live the life of a smuggler and thief until he eventually joins forces with a gang of other alien misfits - we really struggled to recall the finer details.  Although I'm sure they come together as you sit down to watch it, I don't think that the finer details of plot matter all that much when you stop and think about the film.  What comes to mind for me, is brilliant, dry humour, memorable characters, stunning action set pieces, and a soundtrack I couldn't stop listening to for days after.  Much of the success of the first hinged on it's surprise factor - nobody, not even Marvel expected much from this film, but it went on to become the highest grossing superhero film of the year.  Although the sequel was released to high expectations, so long as it ticked each of the four boxes (non-stop wise cracks, great characters, fun action and killer songs) I was always going to walk away happy.  Thankfully, Vol. 2 does just that.  Although I found the story itself utter jibberish again, and the pacing a little wonky, it was just as fun a ride as the first, and all with added character depth to boot.
 marvel wink guardians of the galaxy winking guardians of the galaxy 2 GIF
Not that I was at all worried this was ever going to be anything less than a fun 2 hours though.  I was so confident the soundtrack was going to be great that I had it already downloaded on my phone ready for the car journey home (just like when I went in to see La La Land).  Whereas Suicide Squad seemed to press shuffle on a tired jukebox, there's a lot of thought put in to this film's song selections in both Guardians volumes.  Chris Pratt even said that the songs are picked during writing, and that many were played where possible over the top of scenes being filmed.  Nothing ever feels out of place, and each song sounds just as good as you watch the film as it does in the car after.  The film makes use of a brilliant song choice in what is an absolutely hilarious opening action sequence that sets the film's stall out immediately.  It's a great introduction to Baby Groot too - I really should stop taking Charlotte to see films with adorable characters with readily available soft toy replicas.

The story largely revolves around Kurt Russel's character, and his relationship with Chris Pratt's Peter Quill.  I'm a Kurt Russel fan purely because of The Thing (1982) and Death Proof (2007), and I feel that any fans of his will enjoy him doing his thing again here.  Unfortunately he's left with a lot of long, expository scenes that drag our and slow the pace of the film which is a shame.  His character is the best example of the film taking a brave decision to up the ante with regards to backstory and character depth for it's characters, and it makes for a weightier moment when the film reaches it finale.  Normally the rule for sequels is: bigger and better.  With Vol. 2, it is bigger and better characters.  Starting with Quill, the film takes the time to add story and reasoning for why each of the guardians are as they are.  Only Drax's (Dave Bautista) story feels a little half arsed, but that he has all of the best lines and jokes made up for this.  Bautista's henchman role in Spectre (2015) was pretty underwhelming but he's clearly got a great eye for comedy and steals the scenes in Vol. 2 - I'm intrigued to see how he gets on in this year's Blade Runner: 2049.
 guardians of the galaxy guardians of the galaxy 2 drax guardians of the galaxy vol 2 guardians of the galaxy volume 2 GIF
I've never really succumbed to the Marvel juggernaut, and that may be due to my lack of comic book knowledge, but I'll always get excited for another Guardians of the Galaxy outing.  As confusing as it's been to switch between him in this, and fat Andy Dwyer in Parks and Rec, Pratt's was an inspired choice as a leading man.  He's backed up by a great ensemble that each rightly get a fair share of screen time.  If ever I'm after a film that's just a hell of a lot of fun, either of the Guardians volumes will be pretty high on my list.  The first might just edge it still for me (as with the soundtracks), but the sequel's format still doesn't feel tired and I was impressed with that decision not to rely on that, and to explore the guardian's backstories instead.


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