This franchise is based on a Marvel comic book superhero series which first appeared in 1969 and gained popularity right through the 1970s. In a most interesting adaptation idea, every time there is a reference to the planet Earth, Guardians of the Galaxy uses tape remixes from the old cassette recorders of the period, to give us some of the finest music of the 1970s.
The music is narrative and mood specific. Whenever Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), a leader of the ‘Guardians’, is disturbed, he switches on his recorder and listens to what the rest of the Guardians judge to be weird retro songs. Quill’s mother was from Earth, and she used to listen to these great numbers from the seventies, and handed down the remixes to him. Peter’s main concern is to find who his father is. One day, during an adventure in the Cosmos, when the Guardians are being pursued across space, their craft is rescued by a celestial being called Ego (Kurt Russell).
It turns out that Ego is Peter’s father, named appropriately as he has a king size ego and wants Peter to pay obeisance to it. He explains to his son that he has passed down his own genes of superhuman prowess to him and he must take full advantage of this very special DNA. It is at this point we listen to George Harrison’s ‘My Sweet Lord’, a song about being one with the Lord. Later in the film, after Peter realizes how monstrous this fascist father of his actually is, we hear another song from the remix – Cat Stevens’s ‘Father and Son’, both songs composed in 1970. The constant playing of numbers from this era is a fascinating juxtaposition between music and narrative text, but, unfortunately, it is not enough to hold the movie.
The first Guardians of the Galaxy was a delightfully entertaining superhero film, which refused to take itself too seriously and had characters who were genuinely funny. By far the most hilarious was the genetically engineered ‘Rocket’ (voiced by Bradley Cooper), a creature designed to look like a raccoon, but who hated being referred to by the species he most resembled – a rat or a fox. In this edition, he still reacts to the occasional taunt about his earth-animal characteristics, but the old zing to his acerbic comments is missing. The other entertainer in the last film was ‘Groot’ (Vin Diesel) a tree-like hero, the strong and silent type who would keep repeating the only line he knew – “ I am Groot” – in an astonishingly wide variety of tones. For some reason, in Volume 2, he is transformed into a little baby ‘Groot’, a cute little sapling who runs around the movie doing his thing and announcing in his baby voice – “I am Groot”. Even the villains find him too adorable to harm.
The result is that the wacky aspect of the franchise is toned down considerably, and what we have in the end is a more sober reflection of the role of the Guardians in taking care of the Cosmos. It is certainly very considerate of the makers to give us such an altruistic perspective on the essentials of a moral universe, but as entertainment the film falls short of expectation. Unfortunately, ‘Volume 2’ ends up more as eulogy than parody.