Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 ★★★

Satisfying when it zeroes in on small, emotional beats, not so much when it plays things broadly. The meandering nature of the film has it feeling like something people label a "filler" episode of television, only because narrative precision takes a back seat to character. Its plotlessness is not a bad thing, but it would be more fascinating if the film was stripped of its obligatory brand elements; the quips fail too frequently and the galaxy-ending threat is a disappointing solution to a more micro story. Even Star-Lord's new mixtape leaves no impact. I'm left wishing this was more committed to being self-contained and heavy.

Admittedly, that was my expectation. But I was surprised by the experimentation with framing; moments where the film contrasts tones by shifting between the foreground and background. Like the opening credits, for example, which mixes sci-fi/action in the background and animated comedy in the foreground. Fun touches like these distract from the retrodden blockbuster ground: the Star-Lord/Gamora thing (which I have no word for other than 'annoying'), a superhero climax emotionally hinged on dead mothers, and criminals uniting as "family".

For every cursory reference to the Guardians as a makeshift "family", there's also an undercurrent of misanthropy – sequences such as Yondu, Rocket and Groot's escape, which we're supposed to find compelling ('look, anti-heroes!'), but seem to have a disregard for life that I can't look past. I've already read a lot on the mean-spirited treatment of Mantis and I can't help but agree; all that, just for a few more empty laughs? Bautista's laugh is fun, I'll give you that. Largely indifferent to the main five Guardians but intrigued (and touched!) by the new characters, as well as the ones that've returned with more expansion (Yondu and Nebula). Kurt Russell's Ego is saddled with tough material, but he comes out on top for his beard/hair combo alone. I'd love to have that look.

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