Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is the latest comic book film thing about a group of stoners who are so high they have hallucinations of a talking raccoon and a walking tree. It’s the sequel to the surprisingly titled Guardians of the Galaxy, a huge hit for Marvel Studios that delivered something outrageously different to their previous superhero films, with its utilisation of songs written by other people and varied manner of making things explode.
But Vol. 2, which means two vol-au-vents, is not so similar to its predecessor, in that instead of a reasonably well-paced plot with memorable set pieces, the audience are forced into a florescent ball of face-melting plasma, where anything tangible liquefies into insignificance and the disorientating effect makes you violently sick. It’s exactly like a Freddie Mercury cocaine party.
The film opens with the Guardians fighting a giant space squid or whatever. After saving the galaxy in the first film they’ve now become bored and take on freelance jobs to fill opening credit sequences. Initially pleased with their work, their clients, a race of people covered in gold paint who should be dead from skin asphyxiation, become perturbed when the raccoon thing steals the batteries from all their TV remotes, rendering them unable to change the channel from Britain’s Got Talent or something equally horrible.
Being chased by the Ferrero Rocher people, the Guardians soon encounter Kurt Russell riding a giant egg. He introduces them to his sickly coloured Alice Through the Looking Glass planet and reveals his true identify. Thus ensues a father-son storyline between him and the supposed main character, Pratt-Lord. Pratt-Lord is forced into choosing between Kurt Russell and his friends, but apart from that there’s not much reason to think he’s the main focus of the film, even when blue energy vines penetrate his body and prop him up like a neon Jesus. He’s also boringly reliable when it comes to his sense of right and wrong, barely recognisable to his character in the first film, who would have stolen his own nan’s catheter.
The rest of the team are far more interesting, especially the infected tattoo man, who is genuinely hilarious when he talks about his “famously large turds” and takes everything literally, like you’re probably doing with this review. Fondue, the blue one with an inflamed gland on his head, is also a highlight in a role with enough girth to stop it slipping through the grating of a drain. And there’s a mildly entertaining dynamic between squabbling sisters Gamma Ray and Ebola, who exchange hair pulling and twat punching for shooting each other with spaceships.
There’s time to flesh out all these characters, including an insect woman who can sense you becoming horny when she rubs your knee, because they mostly sit around on Kurt Russell’s planet, picking their belly buttons and smelling the fluff. Considering Volleyball 2 is visually comparable to playing a high-contrast virtual reality game, while simultaneously sitting in a colourful ball pit and having an epileptic fit, the action is somewhat subdued. It only draws more attention to the plot that casually decides to turn up about 45 minutes from the end, then overcompensates by defecating last night’s paella into your eyes. Even the new soundtrack doesn’t bother to sync with any of the visuals, hoping that audiences will just compliantly nod their heads to sounds that made them happy when they were young.
It has to be said, though, that most of this is rescued by the humour. The laughs never really stop, which is slightly annoying if you hate the sound of people enjoying themselves. But the jokes keep coming to such an extent that Volunteers 2 starts to feel more like a comedy than a comic book action film. The gags are obviously far more important to director James Gunn than his monumentally predictable villain, whose master plan to solve their loneliness in the universe is to kill everything in it – by smothering worlds with dehydrated phallus produce.
Two out of five.