Ain’t nothing like the Guardians except the Guardians.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is the sequel to 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy and is the fifteenth installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In this film, the Guardians are back as they battle rogue Ravagers and discover the parentage of Peter Quill, a.k.a. Star-Lord (Chris Pratt).

Everything has been amped up from the first Guardians, from the color to the fun, the humor, and the heart. The MCU is sometimes noted for how bright it can be. No superhero film is as vibrant as Vol. 2. Take any color imaginable, and it’s in this movie. Whether that’s good or bad, it’s up to you. However, a world as brilliant as this feels alive as much as it is beautiful and creative. The bulk of the film takes place on the world of Ego, Peter’s father. The planet is rich with animation and life, filling every frame with breathtaking special effects.

Guardians was loved around the world for its sense of fun that appealed to general audiences, and Vol. 2 is even more of a thrill ride than its predecessor. Every action sequence bursts with creativity and laugh-out-loud humor. Some may say that director and writer James Gunn is trying too hard to entertain you, yet the action never ceases to entertain and nearly every joke hits its mark.

Vol. 2 tugs at your heartstrings harder than the first one ever did. In this film, we explore the tragic backstories of Rocket (Bradley Cooper), Yondu (Michael Rooker), and Nebula (Karen Gillan). Rocket helped steal the show before, and now again; we only got one brief, vague explanation of where he came from in the first film. Now we discover even more about him as he and Groot team up with Yondu to escape a rogue faction of Ravagers. Out of every comic book character you can think of, a genetically-engineered talking raccoon with a huge trigger finger would be the least relatable, right? Not true. Rocket is one of the most relatable Guardians, and his character benefits all the better for it. The same can be said for Yondu; how many of us screwed up, got rejected by our friends, and strived to make up for it in some way? The chemistry Cooper and Rooker have with each other make their characters as believable as can be, and they were never even on the set together. As for Nebula, you are never meant to care about her because all she wants to do is kill Gamora. Surprisingly, when we learn why Nebula hates her sister so much, you understand and feel for her. One of this movie’s biggest strengths is that it successfully explores the backstories of these three characters and makes the viewer feel sympathy for all of them.

Now, we have to talk about Vol. 2‘s shortcomings. Nebula’s background may be discovered well enough, but Killan once again overacts in her role. One scene has an extreme close-up of her face as she lays out her plan for revenge against Gamora and Thanos for ruining her life and body. Even though the rest of the scene is ultimately played for laughs, Gillan’s exaggerated facial expressions and accentuated dialogue prevents the audience from taking her performance seriously.

Furthermore, some of the first act is a little disjointed. Within the first two minutes, we are on Earth in 1980 and then the film jumps 34 years later to the Guardians preparing to fight an inter-dimensional monster. As the film switches between the Guardians separated in two groups, the editing tends to feel awkward. Scenes cut off a little too soon, especially when the audience needs to soak in a new revelation with the characters. However, as the film progresses, the pacing feels more natural.

Just like many superhero sequels, Vol. 2 has too much going on. Star-Lord, Gamora, and Drax go to Ego’s planet with him and Mantis. This plot mainly focuses on Star-Lord learning who he is through Ego while Drax and Mantis grow close to each other. Rocket, Yondu, and Groot fight a rogue faction of Ravagers. Nebula is hell-bent on killing Gamora. A race of golden people called the Sovereign want the Guardians dead for double-crossing them. A movie overstuffed with too many subplots never benefits from it, and at the average 136-minute runtime, Vol. 2 tries to do too much with not enough time.

Despite not living up to the uniqueness of its predecessor, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 manages to be a massively entertaining sequel, bolstered by amazing special effects, spectacular battles, and great characters.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 gets an A-

“It takes a lot of courage to face up to things you can’t do because we feed ourselves so much denial.”-Zoe Saldana (Gamora)

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