Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 **1/2

The fun, action and great visuals of the first “Guardians” all return, but the story makes this sequel a bit of a letdown.

Is it worth $10? Yes

“Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” starts great, has inspired moments, teeters with lulls, and then ends with a planet-sized bang. The great start comes with Baby Groot (voice of Vin Diesel) cutely dancing to the tune of ELO’s “Mr. Blue Sky” as the rest of the Guardians – Peter Quill/Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax (Dave Bautista) and Rocket (voice of Bradley Cooper) – fight a nefarious beast. The humor and one-liners are on point, the visual effects dazzle in IMAX 3D, and the grandeur of it all reminds us why we love summer movie season.

Then the story kicks into gear, and we’re reminded why we hate summer movie season. The Guardians divide, and when they do the story splinters and doesn’t recover until the end. Writer/director James Gunn seems intent on exploring family dynamics, as seen in Peter’s connection with Ego (Kurt Russell), who claims to be his father, and Gamora’s strained relationship with her sister Nebula (Karen Gillan). Add in Peter’s complex dealings with Yondu (Michael Rooker), who is the only father figure Peter’s ever known, and you have a few too many personal issues for a zany space adventure. 

Still, this is a sequel full of unique characters, dazzling visual effects, Sylvester Stallone, and perhaps most importantly, actors who’re growing comfortable in their characters’ clothes. In particular, Bautista showcases Drax’s dry sense of humor with nimble and deadpan comic timing. Upon sensing that Peter is down due to unrequited emotions for Gamora, Drax assures him “you just need to find a woman who’s pathetic, like you,” and means every word of it, but (importantly) doesn’t mean it as an insult. If nothing else, “Vol. 2” has plenty of moments that will make you smile.

The superior “Guardians of the Galaxy” (2014) earned $333 million at the domestic box office, a surprising number for a relatively unknown comic book property. It turned out to be an essential success, though, as it proved that audiences will flock to anything the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) offers up, something that “Ant-Man” (2015) and “Doctor Strange” (2016) have further verified.

It’s kind of odd, then, that “Vol. 2” has such a disconnect from the greater MCU. There’s no reference to other characters such as Captain America, Iron Man or Thor, nor do any of the five(!) scenes interspersed throughout the credits give much indication of what’s to come for the Guardians. The only thing we really glean from “Vol. 2” is Peter’s understanding of his powers, which is valuable but not enough of a takeaway for a 136-minute movie.

And so it is that “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” is just so-so. It delivers well enough in terms of a fun pop soundtrack, humor and action, and because that’s what many will expect when they pay their hard-earned money, it warrants a moderate recommendation. It’s just never a satisfying feeling to walk out of a sequel thinking about how much better the original was.

Did you know?
Up next in the MCU: “Spider-Man: Homecoming” July 7, “Thor: Ragnarok” Nov. 3, “Black Panther” Feb. 16, 2018, and “Avengers: Infinity War” May 4, 2018.

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