CinemazlowskiMovie Review: "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2"

galaxy Official movie poster for "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2" / / Walt Disney Studios

Ever since "Iron Man" exploded at the box office in 2008, a non-stop parade of Marvel Comics-based superhero films have taken over Hollywood. While most of these flicks have centered on traditional superstar heroes like Thor, Captain America and The Hulk, the series took a sharp left turn in 2014 by focusing on a lesser-known band of misfits who save the universe with a sharply comedic undertone in "Guardians of the Galaxy."

That film featured plenty of quirky alien characters, including a wisecracking genetically-engineered raccoon bounty hunter named Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) and his tree-like humanoid sidekick named Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel), a green beauty named Gamora (Zoe Saldana) who's seeking redemption for her evil past.  But amid all the galactic goofiness, the film's heart was an earthling named Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), who was abducted by a spaceship as a boy and raised to become a smuggler in space, building this oddball team by accident while chasing an orb that holds the key to creating – and potentially destroying – the universe.

The film was tremendous fun and a huge hit, but it did have to deal with a convoluted setup in establishing its universe, while leaving open the intriguing question of Peter's quest to learn the identity of the father he never met. That personal quest becomes the center of its sequel "Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2," as Peter comes face to face with a self-professed god named Ego (Kurt Russell) who claims to be his dad, and has to decide if he can trust this wise-cracking mystery figure to really be who he claims.

Free from the constraints of introducing its oddball coterie, "Vol. 2" kicks off in whiz-bang style with the team battling a huge space beast that has stolen super-powered batteries from a race of gold-colored aliens called the Sovereign. The fight sets the action-packed battle royale in which Peter, Gamora, Rocket and Drax use everything from swords to machine guns to ELO's bouncy '70s pop hit "Mr. Blue Sky," while the now-tiny Baby Groot dances obliviously amid the mayhem.

This mix of catchy pop classics counterpointing comically insane action was key to the first film's success, and writer-director James Gunn shows that he's got the swagger of greater confidence on his side in the new film. Things turn hairier quickly for the Guardians when Rocket sneaks some of the batteries out with him as the gang departs, even though they had collected their reward: Gamora's evil sister Nebula (Karen Gillan), whom they plan to collect a big bounty on from the planet Xandar for her destructive behavior in the first film.

Chased by Sovereign spaceships as their queen seeks to regain the batteries, Peter's ship is severely damaged and crash-lands on an obscure planet. Moments later, another ship arrives, with Ego descending to tell Peter he's his father and inviting him to get to know him on his own planet – taking Drax and Gamora along for the ride as they are also hosted by Ego's female servant Mantis (Pom Klementieff).

While Peter is eager to find his roots, Gamora is concerned to find that a lot of things don't seem to add up about Ego. Meanwhile, Rocket and Groot were left amid the wreckage to oversee Nebula, only to find themselves under attack by a team of scavengers led by Yondu (Michael Rooker), one of the prime villains in the first film. When Nebula tricks Groot into setting her free to help them fight, she winds up being an even greater evil, and sets off in a ship to kill Gamora once and for all after a lifetime of rivalry.

Thus, the stage is set for a hearty dose of action that is set against a surprisingly strong theme of family, and how much one can trust and even forgive those who should be closest to you but have betrayed you. These aspects lend a greater emotional weight to the sequel that is impressive, considering that Gunn and his cast have managed to amp up the fun stuff as well.

While these are positive values, and the relationship between Ego and Peter touches on the vital need for a good father, there are some things to be aware of morally, including over 30 swear words (particularly the "S" word and "B" word), and it also features more sexual innuendos than the first, including some pretty direct lines about male anatomy. Parents should definitely take those into consideration for kids younger than teens.

There are also a couple of scenes that border on grisly, including a scene where numerous people are forced into space without protective suits and result in very unpleasant deaths. And the idea of a god named Ego discussing his creation of the universe, and the questions that arise about him, could also be seen as having some satirically critical undertones about our real God and His creation.

Russell and the rest of the cast are clearly having a blast, and their infectious sense of fun should leave fans grinning the entire time. Overall, alongside "Beauty and the Beast," "Vol. 2" might just be the most fun to be found in a movie theatre thus far this year. It's a great sign that there's plenty of inventive life left to be found in the saturated superhero genre.  

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