There’s a lot of stupendous mayhem in this second outing for the Guardians Of The Galaxy – and you’ll hold to those precious moments through the hard times.
For while the sophomore adventure of those impish guns-for-hire, has Marvel on the tin (and Stan Lee in the B-roll) the film has Disney at its heart.
Evidence for the mouse-ification of the bickering rogues comes upfront in the title sequence (the best thing in the film). Baby Groot dances Christopher Walken style to Mr Blue Sky, oblivious to the carnage around him as the gang try to bring down a resilient, thick-skinned octo-dragon-shark type thing.
As Groot skips, sidles and slides, he avoids danger with the naive aptitude of a cartoon child in a sawmill. Those big eyes, those natty steps, that wispy baby voice – this is Bambi-meets-kindling. Too cute.
The second evidence of Disney’s malign influence is OK, we’ll come to that later.
First of all, a catch-up. Much has happened off-screen since 2014 and the first film that saw Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax (Dave Bautista), Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) and Groot came together to put a laugh-out-loud twist on the usually earnest Marvel canon.
The biggest thing in the meantime was probably Deadpool. What GOTG wanted to do – break free and let rip – that’s what Deadpool did.
Ryan Reynolds landed that gig and Chris Pratt drifts through Vol 2 giving the impression he knows he’s missed out and he’s sore.
Pratt is not helped by a story that suffers from the Superman flaw – he’s not too good to be true as such, but too good to be interesting.
He was pitched as a funky rascal but now he’s become the archetypal hero, coming to terms with his true parentage (Kurt Russell has something to offer on this subject) and the awesome responsibility of his special destiny (There are more than occasional nods to Star Wars).
That puts the off-colour comedy firmly in the hands of Rocket and, especially, Drax, who has the best one liners as he negs pretty Mantis (Pom Klemenentieff) relentlessly and with great glee.
So while Quill grapples with his quirky genealogy on the planet Ego (the clue’s in the name, people) the big-bucks space fun is to be had with the battle to retrieve some of Rocket’s loot by Quill’s whistling step-dad Yondu (Michael Rooker) and his pizza-faced pirates, who are not above a spot of mutiny.
And here’s where you see the money.
For director James Gunn has compiled some of the most colourful and inventive CGI since Avatar.
Indeed, on the hand-made planet of Ego, with Quill traversing a picture perfect landscape to the sounds of My Sweet Lord, the film takes on the trippy visual poetry of Yellow Submarine.
The space sequences are thumping, epic and big-screen-worthy and just when you’re settling down to a nourishing blend of improbable violence and mindless chaos along comes Disney with a Dear Diary moment.
Turns out that inside every bad guy is a child that never got hugged. Every marauding psychopath robot killing machine (eg, Karen Gillan’s nutty Nebula) just needs to locate their hurt and share.
The film settles into the pattern. Set-piece, epiphany, set-piece, epiphany till you’re ticking off the baddies hoping we’re done. The sentimentality undermines what is otherwise a splendidly spectacular and deliciously pompous space romp.
GOTG Vol 3 is coming soon (the fleeting presence of Sly Stallone indicates as much) and, note to Gunn, the Guardians should be The Lannisters, not The Brady Bunch.