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Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Movie Review

Guardians of the Galaxy: Cinematic Universe Edition 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray + Digital HD cover art
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is now available on home video. Read our review of the 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray + Digital HD combo.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017) movie poster Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Theatrical Release: May 5, 2017 / Running Time: 138 Minutes / Rating: PG-13

Director: James Gunn / Writers: James Gunn (screenplay); Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning (Marvel comics)

Cast: Chris Pratt (Peter Quill/Star-Lord), Zoe Saldana (Gamora), Dave Bautista (Drax), Vin Diesel (voice of Baby Groot), Bradley Cooper (voice of Rocket), Michael Rooker (Yondu Udonta), Karen Gillan (Nebula), Pom Klementieff (Mantis), Sylvester Stallone (Stakar Ogord), Kurt Russell (Ego), Elizabeth Debicki (Ayesha), Chris Sullivan (Taserface), Sean Gunn (Kraglin, On-Set Rocket), Tommy Flanagan (Tullk), Laura Haddock (Meredith Quill), Aaron Schwartz (Young Ego Facial Reference), Seth Green (voice of Howard the Duck), Ving Rhames (Charlie-27), Michelle Yeoh (Aleta Ogord), David Hasselhoff (), Stan Lee (Astronaut - Uncredited)

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The films of Marvel Studios are consistently entertaining. They're also produced at a high rate and designed for the widest of audiences, which makes their formulas easy to see and plenty familiar. There are really two types of movies Marvel makes: origin ones and sequels. The former bestow powers upon a male hero while also introducing a mentor, an adversary, and a love interest.

The latter increasingly function as team-up movies supplementing official Avengers ones. Guardians of the Galaxy fell somewhere in between these two classes. Adapting a young comic book line not many knew or loved, the film introduced and assembled a group of unconventional antiheroes and had a blast doing so. Audiences loved the movie, making it 2014's biggest domestic hit through the end of the year.

Though the $170 million production was a significant gamble on paper, Marvel knew Guardians was going to be well-received enough to justify a sequel, which was promised and teased in the end credits. Three years later, writer-director James Gunn and the original cast return to make good on that promise with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, seemingly the most anticipated movie of the 2017 summer season it pretty much launches.

Vol. 2 opens in 1980 with a stunning recreation of a 30-year-old Used Cars-era Kurt Russell, smack between his Disney and John Carpenter phases. Russell plays the heretofore unseen father of our protagonist Peter Quill, a.k.a. Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), who was born around the time in question. We jump ahead 34 years to find Quill and his otherworldly friends engaged in battle. As you likely remember, they are green-skinned Gamora (Zoe Saldana), blue-gray muscleman Drax (Dave Bautista), and fiery raccoon-like Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper). There's also the treelike humanoid Groot, who is now, as he was when we last saw him, an adorable baby (albeit one whose 3-word vocabulary is again supplied by Vin Diesel). While the grown-ups are being thrown about and shooting their laser guns, Baby Groot is jamming out to ELO's "Mr. Blue Sky" courtesy of the second mix tape that Quill's late mother made for him when he was a child.

An expanded team experiences new adventures in "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2"

Like its predecessor, Vol. 2 leans heavily on nostalgia-inducing tunes. A little less familiar than the first film's selections, the songs are mostly from the '70s and include, most prominently, Looking Glass' "Brandy (You're a Fine Girl)", whose lyrics are the foundation of a father-son heart-to-heart. Ego (Russell) reunites with Quill and invites him and his friends to the fantastical planet that is all his. Tension over Ego's absence from his and his tumor-stricken mother's lives lingers, prompting Ego to explain his unusual nature and gifts.

Meanwhile, Rocket's theft of powerful batteries from a place called Sovereign (a gold-skinned race ruled by Elizabeth Debicki) puts heat on the trail of our heroes, which now include Quill's surrogate father, blue-skinned lead Ravager Yondu (Michael Rooker). Also, Gamora's sister Nebula (Karen Gillan) shows up again and leads a rebellion.

In the first film, the characters and the comedy were bigger than the story holding them all together. That again is the case this time around. That may concern some, but who in 2017 is approaching a Marvel Studios movie as strictly storytelling and not spectacle cinema? The personalities are again endearing and entertaining. Drax again gets the biggest laughs with his starkly different cultural background and thought process. Rocket is still a fun wild card. And, though dialed down to more of a straight man, Quill still makes for a suitably charismatic lead, dishing out more of the Earth culture references ("Cheers", Mary Poppins) that make us laugh.

Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) finally meets his father Ego (Kurt Russell) in one of the biggest narratives of this sequel.

The biggest draw of the original Guardians was the extremely fun universe that stood out from both other Marvel worlds and those of the more serious sci-fi movies evoked visually. We again enjoy that here, with new locales and some new characters. But the returns are diminished because this sequel doesn't do a single thing better than its predecessor did. The jokes aren't as fresh, the writing isn't as sharp, and the personalities aren't as novel. You don't greatly mind any of that because the characters, action, and effects still compare favorably to the majority of big new mainstream movies. It's better than Passengers, it's better than Rogue One,
it's on the order of Jurassic World. It doesn't have the first film's surprise factor and unpredictability. But it still manages to deliver strong jokes and even a bit of emotion. The biggest measure by which the proceedings fall short may be in the expectations department, simply because the first film was so good and you trusted everyone to get this right in the reasonable three years it took to follow up.

Given the original movie's good will, Guardians is not likely to disappoint commercially. Reflecting the changing marketplace, this is opening in North America having already grossed over $100 million from foreign markets. Creatively, though, it is a little disappointing that Marvel, which is not immune to the fatigue presently engulfing the long-running superhero boom, couldn't give this follow-up as much wit and joy as the original. That doesn't inspire hope for the studio's other upcoming slate of more origin movies, sequels, and team-ups.

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Reviewed May 5, 2017.



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