Marvel’s latest blockbuster superhero romp works so hard for epic spectacle. But between the shininess, the explosions and the calmer, gentler character arcs, what are the best bits?

By Abdulkareem Baba Aminu

Marvel movies, for many years now, have become mainstays for cinemagoers. Perhaps it’s because of the seeming effortlessness of the solid quality they mostly have. The first ‘Guardians Of The Galaxy’ actually veered off the usual backdrops, as it took place mostly in space, introducing a part of that universe where the more cosmic characters dwell. The writing, too, was snappy, full of life and made the characters oh-so-real. It was also obvious that the main influence behind it was the original ‘Star Wars’ (1977). It was a really good film, which is where the sequel’s chief problem lay. The problem is also underscored by how clear it is that director James Gunn (who wrote the script this time) tried very hard — too hard, maybe — to top the first one.

However, that is not to say ‘Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol.2’ isn’t a good movie. Far from that, as it’s even acceptable to declare it a very good one. It’s just not as excellent, as the first instalment was. We begin this year’s adventure with Kurt Russell’s character (the actor has been digitally enhanced to look younger) and his lady-love, who will be Peter Quill’s mother. It later became clear that this will be a movie showcasing Chris Pratt’s character’s daddy issues. Which isn’t even remotely bad, as that’s the stuff many compelling movies are made of.

Speaking of themes, while the first movie was all about how the would-be heroes teamed up and saved the galaxy, this one has them navel-gazing (in a Marvel blockbuster, yes!) and getting all mushy, talking about how they’re now a family. That would have been good and fine, if earlier-released megahit ‘Fast And Furious 8’ didn’t already fly that kite. But hey, in a world as bleak as one we live in today, there can’t be too much emphasis on the importance of family. Especially if Peter Quill (Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax (Dave Bautista) and Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper) are the ones doing it. I admit, it was cringe-inducing at first, but it grew on me.

Not too long after the movie begins, the Guardians enrage the Golden High Princess called Ayesha, by stealing a handful of precious batteries belonging to the genetically perfect people of the Sovereigns (okay, Rocket did the stealing, but hey, they’re family, right?). She goes after our heroes and there’s battle after battle, with everything becoming clearer that this is a middle film of sorts, in preparation for the sequel, after which the director’s trilogy would be complete. If only Gunn spent some time making it not be so obvious.

Many faves from the first film are all here, including Michael Rooker’s roguish, blue-skinned Yondu, who totally shines in a spectacular fight scene. Sylvester Stallone, basically acting as Sylvester Stallone, is Stakar, a Ravager leader who turns against Yondu.

As the movie progresses, Quill gets to his dad’s planet, with Kurt Russell, who is perfect as Ego. Breath-taking visuals, explosions and stunning design are all here, but the littler bits are what stick most. Quill and dad Ego, Gamora and sister Nebula, and even new character Mantis and Drax, all show us many sides to themselves we were not shown before. And that proves the biggest deal.

If character is king, then this movie is positively royal. For instance, Pratt is still the likeable rascal here, even as he remains in charge, while Gamora remains her green ice queen self even after we see hints of her softer side, so fleeting that one can’t help but wonder if it happened.  Then there’s Drax’s literal-mindedness taken up a notch higher, and Rocket’s hostile hilarity. Baby Groot does not, however, steal the show as I thought he would, but he still proves to be a solid presence even at his new — or lack of — size. But they all remind fans that they’re home, as soon as they recover from laughing out loud and feeling emotional from all the feelings shared — and crushed.

Now that the Guardians are seasoned — jaded, even — the story itself is not as meaty as in the first movie, as it is mostly character-driven. Of course, assisted by truly funny laughs. Acidic retorts and acerbic conversations abound, between the main cast and supporting characters, too. It is an organic laugh-fest, and the viewer at some point would even feel like some of the jokes are private ones, only that he would get them. That is what works most with director Gunn’s script most, and it’s enough to distract from the lack of grounded-ness which saw the original film succeed so much. But who cares? The little bits work so well that not much is required of the bigger deals.

‘Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2’ is showing in cinemas now

Follow Abdulkareem Baba Aminu on Twitter: @KareemReal