“Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2” Movie Review


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     I’ve spoken at length many times on the unbelievable hot streak Marvel Studios has experienced since releasing the first film in the official Marvel Cinematic Universe with 2008’s “Iron Man”.  What continues to amaze is the fact Marvel and Disney have done this armed only with characters who were once obscure, but their commitment to developing these characters from the ground up has paid lucrative dividends as mainstream audiences arrive in droves.  The reason the Marvel formula has worked is actually simple, as these characters have been armed with witty dialogue which often comes across as comedic, but also indicates they are still able to focus on the problem and ultimately get the job done.  Translation, no one in a Marvel film takes themselves seriously and each and every character is more than happy to let you know that, whether they only appear in a cameo or as the lead in the story.  Perhaps there is no greater example of these concepts than 2014’s “Guardians of the Galaxy”, a science fiction film based off a little known Marvel comic book series which starred a host of character actors in the lead roles and was written and directed by James Gunn, whose previous feature credits included the 2006 horror film “Slither” and the 2010 Indie comedy “Super”.  The rest they say, is history.

     “Guardians of the Galaxy” was a worldwide hit that seemingly came out of nowhere, grossing more than $700 million and ensuring Marvel had again successfully created a new franchise within their ever expanding MCU.  The film catapulted Chris Pratt, who plays Star-Lord, to A-list status as well as making house hold names of Zoe Saldana and Dave Bautista.  In addition, Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel provided their voice talents for two of what have become some of the most beloved characters in the Marvel arsenal, Rocket and Groot, providing a continuous string of comic relief to go along with the film’s pulse pounding action packed visual style.  Now, three years later, “Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2” arrives to kick off the Summer movie season with massive blockbuster appeal and the intention of becoming one of Marvel’s biggest hits.  But does the sequel deliver and build upon what made the original feel like one of the most original science fiction films in years?

     Going back again to the first film, it should be noted “Guardians of the Galaxy”, though a fun and thoroughly enjoyable experience, borrowed heavily from many of the key characters and plot points in “Star Wars”, as well as the colorful CGI cityscapes employed in the “Star Wars” prequel trilogy (which they themselves borrowed from “Blade Runner”).  In fact, much of the fun 1980s vibe “Guardians of the Galaxy” created, took cues from a number of early 80s science fiction films including “Battle Beyond the Stars” and “The Last Starfighter”, both of which weighed heavily on my mind while viewing the first film.  That being said, “Volume 2” is, as expected, a ton of fun and delivers exactly what fans want in practically every way imaginable.

     The gang is back and Gunn has written a superb script and storyline for these colorful characters to operate within, providing for plenty of back and forth banter that will often leave you smiling and sometimes will have you laughing out loud.  The opening sequence alone is a hoot as we catch up with Star-Lord/Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax (Dave Bautista), Rocket (Bradley Cooper), and a dancing Baby Groot (Vin Diesel) as they take on a giant beast intent on acquiring valuable batteries from a race of gold colored people called the Sovereign.  After a prolonged battle, they succeed and receive payment in the form of Nebula (Karen Gillan), Gamora’s evil sister of whom the Sovereign had recently captured when she herself attempted to steal their precious resources.  Of course, with the team being comprised of members who sometimes play both sides, even if it is a joke to them, Star-Lord and company find themselves on the business end of a Sovereign attack ship fleet, as it is revealed Rocket might’ve been caught with his hand in the cookie jar.

     Clearly overmatched, the group is saved by a mysterious and powerful ship who dispatches the entire Sovereign fleet with one fatal blow and follows the crew to the site of their crash landing to reveal himself.  As you have undoubtedly seen in the film’s many trailers, the ship’s pilot is none other than Ego (Kurt Russell), who informs Peter that he is his father.  There’s plenty more there that I won’t get into, but ultimately the Guardians split up for most of the film, with Peter, Gamora, and Drax accompanying Ego to his home planet, and Rocket, Baby Groot, and the imprisoned Nebula staying to repair their ship.  This sets the stage for the entrance of Yondu (Michael Rooker), as well as an army of often hilarious characters for our protagonists to grapple with.  One in particular, Mantis (Pom Klementieff), a telepathic alien sidekick to Ego, steals every scene she’s in, competing admirably with Drax who takes his straight forward sense of humor to another level this second time around.

     Gunn’s third act might be a bit too much for easy digestion as the many characters from both sides of the aisle converge on one another, but fans of the comic will be thrilled at the introduction of new potential team members led by Stakar (Sylvester Stallone) who is sure to become a regular in Volume 3.  And for those who love the famous Marvel post credit scenes, Gunn has inserted a whopping five of them throughout the names of the many contributors on this massive production, so ensure you stay until the lights come up.  As a sequel, “Volume 2” may suffer a bit from the now absent fresh and original aspect the first film thrived on, but there is no doubt both the cast, as well as the filmmakers, have created a very satisfying and entertaining vibe which again carries the film, regardless of how convoluted the story may become at the end.  GRADE: B+