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Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2

All together now.

Aah aah ah
I'm hooked on a feeling
I'm high on believing
That you're in love with me

Hooked On A Feeling by Blue Swede doesn't appear in Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2, but it is probably the first song that comes to mind when you think of the Guardians films. Hooked On A Feeling may not have been specially written or composed for Guardians of the Galaxy, but it is arguably the most iconic comic-book movie theme besides the famous 1978 Superman score. It is partly the use of that song in the first Guardians movie that made me want to see the sequel, and whilst none of the tunes in Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 quite match the heights of Hooked On A Feeling the film definitely didn't disappoint.

The second volume of Guardians of the Galaxy finds the Guardians fighting a massive space octopus creature called an Abilisk on behalf of a gold-skinned race called the Sovereign. In exchange for destroying the Abilisk they are given custody of Nebula (Karen Gillan). Relations with the Sovereign are however tarnished when Rocket Racoon (Bradley Cooper) decides to steal some valuable batteries from them, provoking a space battle between the Guardians and Sovereigns which results in the Milano crashing into the planet Berhert, where Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) meats his father Ego The Living Planet (Kurt Russell). Is Ego really the loving father he seems, or is something more sinister at play?

That synopsis showcases exactly what is great about the Guardians of the Galaxy films. Like all the best stories (Doctor Who, Ghostbusters, Elf...) its premise is completely barking mad and needs to be seen to be believed. A planet being somebody's father sounds totally ridiculous, but it makes sense within the world of the movie - plus it is addressed how a planet could make love with Peter Quill's mother. Equally it helps that these movies have a strong 'Just roll with it' tone; they never take themselves seriously, and they never expect you as the audience to either. It's good-natured fun in the spirit of 80s feel-good blockbusters.

Somehow Volume 2 manages to feel more 80s, in fact, than the first movie. There are numerous references throughout to the decade that Quill came from. Knight Rider is referenced, Pac-Man appears and
WARNING: spoilers below
David Hasselhoff makes a cameo appearance as a brief avatar form taken by Ego, wearing his iconic Knight Rider outfit and CGI'ed to look younger
. In the opening scene with the Abilisk there is even green slime, bringing to mind the Ghostbusters movies. The Sovereign's ship sees Sovereigns playing arcade machines to fire at the Milano. The 80s is obviously a clear inspiration for James Gunn, and who can blame him considering a lot of the greatest movies came from that decade?

The first Guardians Of The Galaxy was hilarious. The second is even funnier. There are an abundance of great gags, from Rocket accidentally insulting the Sovereigns ("We thought you were a bunch of arseholes, but you're actually alright,") to Drax (Dave Bautista) and Mantis (Pom Klementieff) laughing at Peter's romantic feelings towards Gamora (Zoe Saldana). My favourite scene is probably
WARNING: spoilers below
the post-credits sequence with a Teenage Groot. I cannot wait to see what Teenage Groot gets up to in the sequel. I suspect that he will be one of the highlights of Volume 3, and possibly the best direction for Groot's character they could take.

Speaking of Mantis, she is a great new addition to the cast and nicely played by Pom Kementieff. Her ability to feel others emotions by touching them is an interesting concept, whilst her naivety and inability to understand social interactions makes her a great character for James Gunn to pair with Drax. As with Drax, Mantis feels like a character that due to my autism I can really relate to. Both characters bear autistic traits. Drax takes things literally, whilst Mantis doesn't understand certain aspects of human behaviour. Both are good role models for autistic cinema-goers such as myself, and certainly more representative than The Accountant's emotionless killer.

But enough about The Accountant showing autistic people as emotionless killers, let's return to Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2. One thing that struck me about the sequel is that it is a much more human story than the first movie. And I prefer that. This film is about Peter Quill's relationship with his father, and that gives it real heart and soul than had it just been a repeat of the first volume. The best sequels do something different with the central premise whilst also maintaining enough of the central ingredients for it not to lose its identity. Men In Black 3 for instance kept the concept of a shady government organisation keeping aliens living among us a secret but added time travel into the mix. Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 maintains the central premise of a dysfunctional bunch of outlaws working together to protect the universe, but adds in Peter Quill discovering his father. The secret to a good sequel is making it different enough to feel like its own movie, but keeping enough from the previous instalment(s) for it to feel the same. Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 does this with ease.

Chris Pratt and Kurt Russell play it beautifully. They truly feel like father and son; it's a surprise that Kurt Russell isn't Chris Pratt's actual real life father. Chris Pratt has fast become one of my favourite film actors; he has the charm of Jeff Goldblum, the presence of Harrison Ford and the awkwardness of Michael J Fox as Marty McFly. It's a perfect combination, and makes him a natural lead for blockbuster films like this one. Kurt Russell has very similar mannerisms to Chris Pratt; you can see instantly why they cast him in the role.

Thank God they keep casting Stan Lee for his obligatory cameos also. Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 contains not one but two of his very best, one in the actual film and the other in a post-credits sequence. The way these cameos work hint at something that will melt your mind, potentially linking together his cameos in every Marvel movie including the Fox and Sony ones. Stan Lee's appearances are no doubt a punch the air moment for many cinema-goers, and will spark internet debates for years to come.

I think many of these same internet commentators will also agree that Volume 2 contains the best special effects of any Marvel Cinematic Universe film so far. The film is gorgeous. The planetary environment of Ego is stunning, as are all the space sequences and the opening scene with a dancing Baby Groot on the planet Sovereign. Without a doubt this film will look stunning on Blu-ray, and for those lucky enough to own a compatible disc player, 4K Blu-ray. Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 was literally made to be viewed on High-Definition screens.

My only criticism relates to the characterisation of one of the key players in the film. Whilst Karen Gillan is fantastic as always as Nebula, her motivations aren't always entirely clear and seem to stem more from plot conveniency than anything else. At one point in the movie she goes from trying to kill her sister Gamora to suddenly being on the same side as her with no explanation. I have discussed this on an internet forum and a poster suggested her to be 'lashing out in anger at everything that happened, but then when they find a worse father, it shakes Nebula out of it' but even so it feels like there's a whole scene missing between Gamora and Nebula's brawl and the pair discovering the pile of bodies on Ego.

Overall, Guardians of the Galaxy is another fun feel-good blockbuster from James Gunn, with real heart and a great sense of humour. Chris Pratt and Kurt Russell are great as father and son, and the special effects are stunning. Unfortunately the film is let down by Nebula's unclear character motivations - a shame given that Karen Gillan gives such a strong performance. Hopefully Volume 3 will see an improvement in one of the MCU's most engaging characters, but before then Karen Gillan is set to return in Avengers: Infinity War alongside Chris Pratt and Dave Bautista.