Chris Pratt is back with his ragtag crew of misfits in ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2.’ It’s an entertaining romp with the vintage rock music blasting from a Walkman, the snarky raccoon and an adorably cute tree sprout. From the get-go, writer-director James Gunn grabs our attention. In the opening credits, Baby Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) dances solo to the classic hit tune ‘Mr. Blue Sky.’ The plot is forgettable but Gunn’s focus on the themes of friendship and family give the story a warm sincerity. Although the sequel falls prey to the formula bigger is better, fans will be more than happy to take another ride with these oddball characters from the Marvel cinematic universe.
The gang is hired by a gold-skinned priestess Ayesha (Elisabeth Debicki) to take out a space octopus. Debicki is a wonderful addition to the cast as the snobby leader of the Sovereigns. The mission is successfully completed but then Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) steals the batteries they were supposed to protect. This turns into an epic space battle as the Sovereigns send out an armada of virtually-manned space pods to battle the Guardians. This eventually leads Peter Quill (Pratt) to meet up with his biological father Ego (Kurt Russell). They even toss a glowing ball of blue electricity around like it’s a baseball. It’s all fine and dandy but much of this father/son bonding could have been left on the cutting room floor. Another interesting addition to the cast is Mantis (Pom Klementieff) who has the power to feel other’s emotions when she touches them.
There is sexual tension between Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and Peter. He even refers to their relationship like Sam and Diane on ‘Cheers.’ Drax (David Bautista) gets more screen time when he forms a bond with Mantis. The highlight of the film is Bradley Cooper as Rocket Raccoon and Vin Diesel as Baby Groot. The comedy duo carries much of the laughs throughout the space adventure. Gunn expertly lays the foundation for more sequels. The golden Sovereigns will be back to seek revenge on the Guardians. Gamora’s emo sister Nebula (Karen Gillan) will also be back to give her sibling a hard time. And believe it or not, Sylvester Stalone makes a cameo and will play a factor in a subsequent episode. There is something endearing about this ragtag cast that sets them apart from pop-culture icons like Spider-Man and Captain America.
The story is overstuffed with subplots. Peter and Gamora’s unspoken attraction to each other. Nebula and Gamora’s sibling rivalry. Yondu (Michael Rooker) and Rocket teaming up against the mutinous Ravagers. There’s a complex relationship between Drax and Mantis. To top it off, there is Oedipal drama between Peter and Ego. Happy to report that Gunn has weaved all of the subplots together to make us want to care about them. The second film solidifies the fact that this dysfunctional group realizes that despite their differences they need each other to survive the chaotic universe. Sure they have issues but it’s those idiosyncrasies that make them so endearing. It is fun to watch them bicker with each other but they always seem to rise to the occasion when any of them are in danger.
Even when the CGI overwhelms the senses, Gunn knows when to pull back the light show and take refuge in his main characters. Although the narrative is a bit clunky, the sequel maintains the spirit of the original film. ‘Guardians of the Galaxy 2’ is not rocket science but an excellent start to the summer blockbuster season. And besides, Baby Groot is really cute and worth the price of admission.