Groot Expectations. 


James Gunn is back writing and directing the sequel to his surprise 2014 summer hit. And it might be a fresh mix tape slammed into the Walkman, but it’s much of the same again. Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing.

In terms of the story, it’s almost a remake of the worst Star Trek film ever made! However, this time its all done for ‘laffs’ and so works much, much better. We join Quill (Chris Pratt, “Jurassic World“), Gamora (Zoe Saldana, “Star Trek Beyond“), Drax (Dave Bautista, “Spectre“) and Rocket (the voice of Bradley Cooper) ‘ever ready’ (LOL) to save the priceless Anulax batteries of their current employees, the Sovereigns, from the ravages of some multi-dimensional being. ‘Helping’ them is Baby Groot, a twig off the old branch from the first film, again voiced (in what must be the easiest money in Hollywood) by Vin Diesel (“Fast and Furious 8“).

Button button, who’s got the button. Baby Groot with a do or die decision.

The Sovereign’s High Priestess (Elizabeth Debicki, “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.“)  provides payment to Gamora in the form of her chained-up evil sister Nebula (a deliciously sulky Karen Gillen, “Dr Who”, “Oculus”) but is then less than impressed when the mercenary Rocket pockets a knapsack full of the batteries. So starts a chase  across the galaxy leading Quill to meet Ego (Kurt Russell, “The Hateful 8“) on the planet Ego (LOL) at the very base of his family tree.

Karen Gillan’s vengeful Nebula has a screw or two loose.

The great thing about these films is that they don’t even TRY to be realistic. Characters get towed behind crashing spaceships and – literally- dragged through a wood backwards; others fall hundreds of feet to certain death… no, sorry, a “superhero landing”; and planets and characters are painted with a garishness never ever to be found in nature. You’ll even believe Kurt Russell is 18 again – oh that these effects were available on the NHS! 

The “incredibly ugly” Mantis (Pom Klementieff) really entertaining as the alien empath.

But the other saving grace for this film is the soundtrack, put together by Tyler Bates as an ode to the 80’s, with wonderful tracks by ELO, Fleetwood Mac, Cat Stevens and a host of others. The film matches the music with the action superbly. 

I won’t bother commenting on the acting… who cares with this sort of film!  But everyone seems to have fun with Michael Rooker (“Cliffhanger”) being particularly good in reprising his role of Yondu. There are also a wealth of memorable cameos, some of them being laugh out loud moments. While some of the pop culture references might go over a younger audience’s heads, there are still enough great one-liners and comic moments to provide general appeal. Bad guys silhouetted against the moon, ET style, was particularly memorable. 

A walk in the black forest. Quill, Gamora and Drax.

One criticism I would have though is that it’s just too darn long for an “action comedy”. The original film just about scraped into my good books by coming in under the two hour curfew. The sequel however adds another 15 minutes, which should have found its way either onto the cutting room floor or onto the “Blu Ray collector’s edition”. In particular, the final never-ending showdown of CGI manicness went on too long for my liking.  

Yondu (Michael Rooker) facing off against Rocket (Bradley Cooper, never looking lovelier).

Looking back at the original 2014 review, I gave it a rather stingy FFF rating, which in retrospect I think was a bit mean given its novelty. This time the novelty has worn off, but if anything this is an even more enjoyable romp that the first outing. 

James Gunn be warned though:  I am unlikely to be so generous with “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3” (as threatened) which in my view might be a trip too far for this franchise. My advice would be to take a leaf out of Peter Kay’s “Car Share” book and quit while you’re ahead.

By the way, for those who are interested, the film had a reported budget of $200 million (an impressive “BvS quotient” of 80%!) and the end titles have four “monkeys“, with a humorous reprise of Stan Lee’s astronaut.

Fad Rating: FFFf.