Movie Review: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

The sequel has a stronger story and good work from the new cast members

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
Directed by James Gunn
With Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, Pom Klementieff, Elizabeth Debicki, Chris Sullivan, Sean Gunn, Sylvester Stallone, Kurt Russell

Comic book superhero films work best when they don't take themselves too seriously. The highly anticipated Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 brings back its group of arguing misfits who once again have to save the entire galaxy from destruction, all the backdrop of endless references to 1980s culture and music.

Some big name guest stars including Kurt Russell and to a lesser extent Sylvester Stallone keep the action fresh. From pop culture, Howard the Duck and Pac Man make brief cameos, among others.

The story is a bit stronger than in the first episode, with three parallel plotlines. The main one involves Kurt Russell's character. He is seen in a flashback on earth in the 1980, facelifted by computer back to how he looked as a young man. Lots of clues to the plot are dropped in this brief section. Russell is billed last in the credits, but features prominently in the advertising trailers, so his presence in the main part of the film shouldn't be too much of a surprise.

The main action then picks up shortly after the end of the previous film, with the Guardians hired by High Priestess Ayesha of the Sovereign to fight an interdimensional monster. From then on, the film is back in familiar territory. Star Lord (played by Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista), Rocket (voice of Bradley Cooper) and Baby Groot (voice of Vin Diesel) spend as much time arguing among themselves as fighting the monster.

The dynamics of the group are a bit closer than in the previous episode. Drax has more of a sense of humor, and often gives out awkward advice. The relationship between Star Lord and Gamora is explored a bit. Rocket has made himself the protector of Baby Groot, a walking and barely talking tree who is eager but not very bright. Rocket still says whatever is on his mind, which is usually an insult.

The dealings with the Sovereign had some complications, and the Guardians find themselves on the run from multiple groups of people, creating the opportunity for lots of space shootouts.

Much of the action is set to 1970s and 1980s songs on cassette tape called Awesome Mix Volume 2. The 1972 song “Brandy (You're a Fine Girl)” by Looking Glass features prominently in the plot. Songs by Electric Light Orchestra, Fleetwood Mac, Cheap Trick and George Harrison also pop up.

The story takes viewers to a truly beautiful planet, that is another triumph of well-used CGI in the film. But perhaps it is a bit too beautiful. Nothing in these sorts of films can be perfect for too long.

Scoring high points in their roles, aside from the main Guardians characters are Kurt Russell, in a role best left to be revealed, and Michael Rooker, who returns as the blue-faced space pirate named Yondu Udonta. They both have somewhat complex characters for a comic book film.

Gamora's sister, Nebula (played by Karen Gillan) also has a large role as someone with significant anger issues. Their interplay fits in with the themes of family relationships that is at the core of the series.

New to the series is Pom Klementieff as Mantis, an empathetic woman who grew up mainly in isolation. She helps to counterbalance some of the more emotionless characters.

Sylvester Stallone, however, is a bit more of a cameo role. Hopefully he will be back with a bit more to do.

Writer and director James Gunn, who made the previous entry and will direct the next one, keeps the mood of the film for the most part very light, even when the fighting is going on. References to 1980s pop culture are sure to please older viewers, while the antics of Baby Groot and Rocket will appeal to younger ones. The multiple plots ensure that the film never remains static for too long.

Stay through the credits for some hints of what is to come in the future.

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