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The galaxy sure has its share
Of foes waging cosmic warfare.
It’s a good thing that you
On the earth have no clue
That extinction is not all that rare.
It’s also a plus
Heroes do fight for us,
Though we earthlings are still unaware.

MPAA rating: PG-13

My regard for the first Guardians of the Galaxy makes me feel like I’m in the minority. I missed its theatrical run, and the hype was so positive that, when I finally got around to seeing it, it didn’t hit me the same as everyone else. Don’t get me wrong; I enjoyed it, but not like everyone who immediately fell in love with this offbeat surprise among Marvel’s roster. Seeing it again has helped me warm up to it more, but I still don’t quite think it’s one of the best Marvel movies ever like so many others out there do. So I approached Volume 2 from the viewpoint of a fan but not a zealous one, and I don’t think my expectations were too high. Given that opinion, I can say that I think I enjoyed Volume 2 more, at least on my first watch.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 has much of the appeal of the first film, first and foremost its diverse cast of misfits: roguish leader Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), skilled former assassin Gamora (Zoe Saldana), muscle-bound comic relief Drax (Dave Bautista), ornery tech genius Rocket the Raccoon (Bradley Cooper), and lovable tree Groot (voice-lightened Vin Diesel), who after being “destroyed” in the last movie has regrown as the cutest piece of dancing wood you’ll ever see. Their very first scene together is like a snapshot of their group appeal, combining action, humor, and a toe-tapping ‘70s song into one of the most fun opening credits scenes I can think of. From that high point, the film delves into further universe-building as the team manages to anger an alien empire, become a bounty target, and meet Peter’s absentee father Ego, a godlike entity who’s eager to reconnect with his son and looks a lot like Kurt Russell.

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Between Volumes 1 and 2, I’m still not decided on which Guardians film is better, but I do recognize one advantage of Volume 2, which is directly owed to its status as a sequel. Even with all the praise you can throw at the first one, you must admit it’s a heavily stuffed caper. People criticize Spider-Man 3 and Batman v. Superman for being overstuffed with plot and characters, but Guardians of the Galaxy does the same thing, throwing together five completely unknown characters and multiple exotic alien locations, with the sole reference point for the rest of the MCU being the barely seen uber-villain Thanos. Guardians blithely sidestepped the usual issues of being so jam-packed with its highly entertaining music and sense of humor, but it’s still a lot to take in, or was upon a single viewing.

Volume 2 has the benefit of building on everything the first film introduced without the potential confusion, like the discussion of getting the stone back from Ronin to save Xandar to give to Yondu while Colonel Mustard uses the wrench in the library. (It’s the same principle that makes me favor Marvel’s tactic of assembling the Avengers from heroes who already had stand-alone movies, as opposed to DC’s throwing together its Justice League characters and then giving them their own stories.) Here, we already know the main five, and they’re broken into two groups, which allows different relationships to develop and the secondary characters to get the much-needed development the first film couldn’t afford. Peter’s lawless adoptive father Yondu is given much more depth and backstory than his first appearance (as well as a stylish action centerpiece) and grows as both a captain among the Ravagers and in his relationship with Peter. Likewise, we get a telling look into the motivations of Gamora’s rival sister Nebula (Karen Gillan), who had little impact at all in the first movie but now actually seems relevant to the team. I also rather liked the naïve newest member, Mantis (Pom Klementieff), who gets some strange bonding moments with Drax. Kurt Russell does well too as Ego, and the uncertainty of his intentions is made clear with what I found to be a shocking reveal.

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One common semi-complaint I’ve seen for Guardians 2 is that it’s a little too eager to please, coming on the heels of its surprisingly successful predecessor. I suppose that’s the case, but I felt the same way about the first film, which had several jokes that I thought were trying too hard to be funny.  Volume 2 has the same ribald sense of humor, which is still hilarious more often than not. Rocket’s sense of humor is still a little off, but Baby Groot is an adorable improvement over his adult version, and Drax in particular is a reliable hoot every time he bursts into raucous laughter, even if his original misunderstanding of metaphor has been replaced by wildly inappropriate honesty.

As a follow-up to the original lark that caught everyone off-guard, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is great fun and a winning example of a summer blockbuster, complete with laughs, awe-inspiring visuals, a surprisingly emotional conclusion, and some healthy doses of ELO and Cat Stevens, though I’ll admit I didn’t recognize most of the soundtrack. (It’s still great, but maybe not quite as memorable as the first film’s.) There are still things I would do differently, especially with some of the more off-color jokes, and I am a little bothered by the huge body count of what was meant to be one of the best scenes and by the fact that Rocket, who with Groot has his own Disney XD cartoon for kids, has to be the most sociopathic and foul-mouthed of the group. Even so, I was thoroughly entertained from the awesome opening to the tearful denouement, plus the mid-credits scenes which only the most well-versed comic fans will completely understand (I didn’t). I may be the only one who enjoyed Volume 2 more, but I think most would agree that the Guardians are better developed for their inevitable meeting with the Avengers in Infinity War. That will really be something to see!

Best line: (Drax) “There are two types of beings in the universe: those who dance, and those who do not.”   (Peter) “I get it, yes. I am a dancer, Gamora is not.”   (Drax) “You need to find a woman who’s pathetic, like you.”


Rank: List-Worthy (joining the first film)


© 2017 S.G. Liput
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