In 2014, the groovy, lighthearted “Guardians of the Galaxy” was a breath of fresh air, at least when it comes to superhero movies. Then, like now, there was a trend to make every comic book adaptation as grim and gritty as possible. “Guardians” shot some levity into that genre with its team of heroes most people had never heard of and its hip throwback soundtrack.
“Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” improves upon the first one in almost every way.
One of the few weaknesses of the first movie was its bland, throwaway villain. While the rest of the movie was extraordinary, can anyone remember what, exactly, Ronan the Accuser (played by Lee Pace) was trying to do?
Kurt Russell’s Ego (that’s the character’s name – I’m not referring to the actor’s sense of self-worth), on the other hand, is very engaging as a bad guy. Unlike most superhero movie villains these days, Ego’s got personality, largely because of Russell’s portrayal, and by the end of the film, the audience is eager to see him defeated.
Another area in which “Vol. 2” one-ups the original is in its storytelling. The first movie featured a lot of irreverent comedy, with some touching scenes thrown in. The second takes the time to ask meaningful questions about friendship, family and life. In between the scatological jokes, of course.
Each member of the original team is back and as good as ever, with the addition of a new member in Pom Klementieff’s Mantis, who is delightfully quirky and weird. Also back are Nebula, Gamora’s homicidal sister played by Karen Gillan, and Yondu, the blue-skinned space pirate portrayed by Michael Rooker. These two characters are greatly expanded upon in “Vol. 2,” and in the process, they become much deeper and surprisingly heartwarming.
As the name implies, “Vol. 2” features a mixtape-like collection of ’70s hits on the soundtrack, many of which now reflect the action of the movie in a more meaningful way. That meaning-of-family theme that this movie has going for it? Cat Stevens puts a nice bow on it for us.
Anyone who loved the first “Guardians of the Galaxy” will surely love the second one, as will anyone looking for a rambunctious cinematic romp through space, even if they don’t get every reference to the 48-year history of the comics that director James Gunn throws in.
firstname.lastname@example.org. Nick Gonzales is one of The Durango Herald newsroom’s resident film buffs. He welcomes movie recommendations. Follow him on Twitter @lackingzones.