The sequel to the 2014 surprise, “Guardians of the Galaxy” strays away from its roguish roots to plant itself firmly in Marvel fanboy territory. It indulges in cutesy Baby Groot (Vin Diesel), Drax’s (Bautista) literal and comical interpretation of life, the inevitable romance between Star-Lord (Pratt) and Gamora (Saldana), and makes Rocket (Bradley Cooper) even more tragically flawed and relatable. “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” is more of the same, but that’s not a bad thing.
For fans hoping for a bold new directions, “Vol. 2” is a disappointment, but that’s just one of a very few problems that James Gunn’s movie suffers from. It’s not enough to hold back fans from enjoying its retro soundtrack, 80’s winks, neon rainbow visuals, slow motion music video action and its wide range of endearing characters. While it’s certainly feels like bloated whale on the beach in retrospect, the experience never feels overwhelming in terms of fresh exposition, new and old characters, and converging storylines.
Star-Lord takes up the bulk of the story, finally meeting his long lost father, Ego (Kurt Russell). While the crux of plot development rests on Star-Lord and Ego’s shoulders, the real emotional impact is found elsewhere. Rocket remains just as confrontational as ever, but only to keep those who care about him at bay. Gamora struggles to reconnect with her sister, Nebula (Karen Gillan), who’s still bitter and hateful, but not for the same reasons from the first film. Yondu (Michael Rooker) makes a much welcome return to help bring it altogether and show that there’s a soft core behind every hard-edged anti-hero.
As for Drax, he provides the comic relief of the film and a lot more than you’d expect. He seems to have lightened up since the first film, accepting his place on the crew and being the only character to fully realize the importance of friendship and family. As for Baby Groot, he’s used sparingly, to avoid sappy sickness, which comes as a relief on my end. I also haven’t even begun to scratch the surface of new characters, like an alien with empathic powers, the elitist Sovereign people of the Sovereign planet, a group of mutinous Ravagers, and Sylvester Stallone’s universe expanding cameo.
Gunn’s inner child is constantly at play, dropping Easter eggs throughout the film that combine wonderment and pop-culture references. Gunn establishes character idiosyncrasies at a lightning fast rate, that shows he’s allowing on-set shenanigans to infect his movie in a positive way, or that he has a profound respect for the film’s comic book source material. That sense of camaraderie keeps fans hungry for more, but doesn’t stretch out the creative palette he started three years ago. Because “Vol. 2” entertains more than it subverts comic book tropes, but there’s just enough entertainment by the movie’s end to make the second “Guardians of the Galaxy” film a step ahead of the Marvel films