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Here’s what we thought of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Director James Gunn leaps back into his galaxy with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, after introducing a new breed of hero with his first film that became a global hit in 2014. With the sequel bringing in a few new characters into the fold and new tunes to sing along to, it’s a shame this one isn’t as fun of a time.

Star-Lord, Gamora, Drax, Yondu, Nebula and Rocket are back in familiar roles, but this film introduces us to Baby Groot (Vin Diesel) who unlike his earlier rendition is more like a rambunctious music loving punk rather than an adorable, misunderstood tree monster. Joining our familiar heroes along the way are Kurt Russel’s Ego the Living Planet, and Mantis (Pom Klementieff), his assistant who has the ability to dive into our character’s deepest thoughts and emotions. The film starts with Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki), the leader of the Sovereign race hiring the Guardians and when they inevitably screw up, they have the entire race hot on their tail which throws our heroes into their new adventure. Both women play their parts very well, which helps illustrate the rising stakes the team is up against.

On the other side of things, we have Yondu (Michael Rooker) and his team which feels that he has gone soft on not only the Guardians, but the Ravagers way of living. It’s one of these men in specific that feels he would be a better leader and starts these rumors. We are also introduced into a bit of Yondu’s backstory with Stakar Ogord aka Starhawk (Sylvester Stallone) confronting him about a past event that broke up the original team. This original team he’s referring to is the original Guardians of the Galaxy from the 1969 run in Marvel Comics, which Yondu was apart of along with Starhawk.

When Ego (Kurt Russell) helps the Milano, Star-Lord’s spaceship escape from the Sovereign, the team is confronted with the idea that Ego is Star-Lord’s Dad. This revelation splits up the team as Gamora, Drax and Star-Lord go with him to get some more answers while Baby Groot, Nebula and Rocket stay back to keep the Sovereign from attacking them. Kurt Russell shines in this role and appears to be having a lot of fun with it. He’s the perfect fit into our gang of misfits and while we are always wary about his intentions, we want Star-Lord to have a Dad and for this guy to be it.

Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) and Gamora (Zoe Saldana) once again have great chemistry, but the script doesn’t do much to progress their relationship beyond flirting around it with quips and pop culture references. It feels a bit stagnant at this point, where has growth in any form would have been welcomed.

While being captured and part of a mutiny, Yondu and Rocket (Bradley Cooper) are taken prisoner by Taserface (Chris Sullivan), a man who chose that name without irony. This leads into a wonderful scene where the two of them have to explain to Baby Groot, how to break them out. The music selection here really adds to the comedy.

Mantis has the most screen time when she is playing off of Drax (Dave Bautista), and while you think their chemistry would be a fun play on how Drax interacted with the Guardians in the first, this character dynamic is much more mean spirited. You don’t have childlike innocence to hide behind here because the name calling is just too harsh.

Sometimes you feel like this film is dealing with the same issues the characters had in the first film without anymore resolve, and then there’s Gamora and Nebula (Karen Gillan). The daughters of Thanos and sisters who grew up under his rule. We actually get growth in this relationship and both actors kill their roles respectively. Karen especially brings deeper emotion to the feud than we’ve seen before and it only enhances the final moments with her and her sister even more.

While there are great songs from Vol. 2 of the Awesome Mix, the first soundtrack has it beat in spades. Having become accustom to hearing Jackson 5 or David Bowie in space, not hearing them is just weird. I enjoyed Fleetwood Mac and Sam Cooke in this one, but those moments don’t have the emotional power the original mix had.

The visuals are the highlight of this film. The colors are wide in range and Gunn is using every shade and hue in his palette. It’s wonderful to see how the colors pop off the screen and how the characters interact within those settings, especially when you are on Ego’s Planet. The lush expansive nature and the color filled bubbles, heighten any viewing experience of this film.

The film meanders a lot of the time and while we are given character centric moments, the dialogue and violent actions between the characters make everything less fun and more muddled. You want to like these characters because of how you felt about them after the first film, but this one doesn’t do them any services.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is in theaters May 5th!

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Jonathan Graves

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