Episode 1 ended on somewhat of a traditional cliffhanger scenario, and this episode opens right where we left off, with our heroes in a sticky situation and looking for an escape. As before, the show provides us with a nice mix of the aesthetics of the movie and various flavourful nods to the comic book source material.
I mentioned in the last review that the plot felt somewhat familiar to that of the movie, but in this episode it does move beyond that. This is both a good and a bad thing.
In the plus column, we get a fully realised plot which – though it still uses mostly characters and places from the movie – uses them in new ways (and in at least one case in a way that I am pretty sure even Disney Marvel’s budget would struggle to stretch to in live-action). We get an interesting new creature which interacts with Quill in an unexpected but amusing way, and we get to see a villain who’s been largely absent from the movie-verse so far. This is pure comic book brought to life in so many ways, with fast pace, snappy dialogue and improbable action sequences aplenty.
On the negative side, this means that we get a lot of stuff that doesn’t necessarily work in a televisual format. For starters, there is a fair amount of handwavium here – with convenient escapes, gizmos and a certain amount of looseness with its own rules. It’s fine that in cosmic comic book stuff we don’t concern ourselves overly much with how characters sometimes survive in space. It’s less forgiveable when you make a narrative point of them needing to hold their breath in the vacuum of space in once scene, then have one of them diving through space with no apparent issue or discomfort a few minutes later. You could argue that this is a show aimed at kids – it’s screening on Disney XD after all – and that therefore these sorts of gaps and easy solutions to issues are to be expected, but that brings me to my second issue – the technobabble.
Kids are certainly more savvy these days than they used to be, and there is one point at which a character delivers a stream of jargon only for (inevitably) Star Lord to ask for it ‘in English’. But this moment of self-awareness aside, there is a lot of pseudo-scientific mumbo jumbo being used here, in a plot which encompasses an ancient alien artefact, the origin of Knowhere itself and Quill’s own alien heritage (in which the show very much follows the comic version). It’s fairly complex stuff for a kids show, and I doubt that they will follow the nuance. There is a fair amount of action, mixed with catchphrases and banter between the characters, but I’m not sure that there is enough of it to offset the stuff that will either bore younger viewers or pass them by entirely. Similarly, I think older audiences will potentially find themselves feeling alienated by the inconsistencies and daftness, and not stick around long enough for the actual plot.
Disney have become the masters of stuff which is for everyone in the last couple of decades, with movies like Toy Story and The Incredibles delivering humour for all ages at the same time, and it feels like that was what they were aiming for here. Unfortunately, I don’t think in this opening duet of episodes that they quite hit that mark, and what we are left with is a slightly uneven show that’s aiming at both audiences but missing each by a margin.
Verdict: If, like me, you’re an older fan with a fair investment in the franchise as a whole, there is much to enjoy here. But this feels more like a show made specifically for people like me than for anyone else at this point, and if it continues in this vein, I worry that this won’t be dragging any new fans in anytime soon. And that’s a real shame. 6/10
Greg D. Smith