I loved GotG V1. It was a risk by Marvel to introduce a gang of characters that 98% of the viewing audience didn't know, but the risk paid off big time. This time around, we knew the characters, we knew the personalities, and we knew the overall feel the movie would have - but I still got my expectations exceeded. I tried to temper my expectations leading up to this, because I enjoyed the first movie so much. I actually feel like everything went beyond what I even thought; the jokes were funnier than I expected, the drama was heavier, and the heart-break was sadder.

This time around, the Guardians are doing a lot of in-fighting, which leads to a separation of the group. Star Lord, Drax, and Gamora go off with an alien/god who says he is Peter's long-lost father. Rocket and Groot (and Nebula) stay behind, and end up battling against the Ravagers (who are in the middle of their own mutinous in-fighting). The whole group is also battling against the Sovereigns, another alien race who are determined to make the Guardians pay for insulting and stealing from them. It's a whole lot of jumping around, and the pacing of the movie suffered a bit from it, but in the end it all swirls together.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe has always relied on humor to break up the comic-book action. Iron Man is a wise-ass, Thor throws out lots of winks and nods, and even Captain America can bring a few laughs. With the Guardians though, this movie almost felt like a comedy disguised as an action flick. The whole crew has a passive-aggressive antagonistic thing working, leading to tons of burns aimed at and delivered by each member. They also throw digs at pretty much everyone else they come in contact with. The first act really had the most comedy, before the serious parts of the plot came in, but the jokes were present the whole time.

On the flip-side of the jokes was the surprisingly heavy drama between Peter Quill, his space-father played by Kurt Russell, and his alien father figure Yondu (Michael Rooker). I can't really get into it without giving away some key points, but the drama of these daddy issues kicked me in the gut.

I can't go without discussing the soundtrack. Like the first movie, the soundtrack is based around a mixtape that Peter's mother made for him, one of the few things he still has from his childhood. I loved "Awesome Mix Vol 1", but I do think that "Vol 2" was a bit of a step back. It's hard to knock any soundtrack that kicks off with ELO's "Mr. Blue Sky", but the rest of the tracks are a bit up and down.

I also can't go without addressing Baby Groot. At the end of GotGV1, ***SPOILER ALERT FOR A THREE YEAR OLD MOVIE THAT YOU'RE ALREADY READING A REVIEW FOR THE SEQUEL TO*** Groot sacrifices himself to save the rest of the group. The end of the movie shows a new Groot growing from a twig, and in the few months that have passed, Groot has grown to the most adorable little wooden toddler I've ever seen.

The best thing I can say about this is that it's the sort of movie I would love to make. Is it a simple crowd-pleasing, summer blockbuster, popcorn flick? Certainly. Is there anything wrong with just making a movie full of jokes and action and good music and fun cameos? Hell no.

On the [Celluloid Hero] scale, "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 "gets an 8 out of 10.




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