220px-gotg_vol2_poster
Theatrical release poster   Director: James Gunn
Producers: Kevin Feige
Writer: James Gunn
Starring: Chris Pratt
Zoe Saldana
Dave Bautista
Vin Diesel
Bradley Cooper
Michael Rooker
Karen Gillan
Pom Klementieff
Chris Sullivan
Sean Gunn
Sylvester Stallone
Kurt Russell
Music By: Tyler Bates
Cinematographer: Henry Braham
Editors: Fred Raskin
Craig Wood

The Guardians of the Galaxy return in the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s fifteenth installment, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.  James Gunn returns as writer and director from 2014’s surprise hit Guardians of the Galaxy, taking the lovable group of “A-Holes” to new locations where they will face foes old and new.  Unlike many sequels, Vol. 2 never feels like it is recycling plot points, but instead, answers questions posed by its predecessor.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 takes place several months after the events of the first film, where the titular team are now revered heroes after defeating in Ronan the Accuser.  The group is tasked with protecting batteries for the Sovereign, a group of gold-skinned aliens who consider themselves to be the perfect race.  After a few mishaps, the Guardians meet a mysterious figure known as Ego (played by a charming Kurt Russel), who claims to be the father of Peter Quill (played by Chris Pratt), all the while avoiding conflict from the Sovereign and the Ravagers.

The film no longer has to introduce us to the Guardians as the first film did, but instead, we are able to see them assembled and interact with one another.  It’s easy to feel an intimacy among the teammates, something that Avengers: Age of Ultron failed to do.  Unfortunately though, Gunn opted for the Empire Strikes Back route and splits the team up after the first half hour.  While there are some good things to come out of this direction, such as the relationship between Yondu (played by Michael Rooker) and Rocket Raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper), it feels like there was a missed opportunity for some character interactions to shine brighter than they did in the original.

While the original was gut-busting funny, this sequel’s quips and jokes lack the charm of its predecessor, choosing instead to focus on more slapstick and lowbrow humor.  That’s not to say that there aren’t any funny moments in the film, but on the contrary, many moments are often hilarious, just not enough to surpass the unexpected hilarity of the original.

Kurt Russel’s Ego is a welcomed addition to the Marvel Universe.  He is exactly how one would expect Quill’s father to be, charming, handsome, and a smart-ass.  The relationship nship between Quill and Ego is sweet and heartfelt, and left me craving more from the two.  In addition to Ego, newcomer Pom Klementieff’s Mantis is also a great addition.  Akin to Drax (played Dave Bautista), Mantis is socially inept and does not understand the customs that the rest of the characters partake in, and the two often provide some funny moments, although they can grow tiresome at times.

Zoe Saldana and Karen Gillan return as estranged sisters Gamora and Nebula respectfully, and it manages to shed some light on their relationship as it grows throughout the film.  While Saldana’s portrayal is great, Gillan’s Nebula tends to wear a tad thin.  Her constant growly voice and talking through her teeth was a tad distracting, but it didn’t detract from the interesting dynamic between the two actresses.

The breakout character of the film is Rooker’s Yondu.  While only having a small albeit important role in the original, Yondu returns for a meatier and more emotional role in the sequel.  Much like Robert Downey Jr. in Captain America: Civil War, Rooker is given the chance to play a saddened and defeated character, which is a different take than the more arrogant portrayal of him in the last film.  It is really with Yondu that the majority of the film’s heart lays and with any luck, he will be featured even more substantially in coming films.

Vol. 2 is a perfect example of what Avengers: Age of Ultron should have been.  It managed to expand the franchise without bloating it and delivered enough surprises and funny moments to keep fans wanting more.  Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is better than most Marvel sequels, and it manages to provide a lot of fun moments along the way, despite never fully recapturing the magic of the original.

7 Pops
7 Pops