The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

The Guardians of the Galaxy were not among Marvel's more well-known characters when the original movie was released in 2014. Writer/director James Gunn brought them to the screen in such a vibrant, fun way that audiences immediately fell in love, thereby raising their recognition factor exponentially. There was also an important sense of discovery. Since the Guardians were out of the mainstream, people loved getting to know them. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 takes everything that worked so well the first time around and amplifies it, establishing itself as one of the most satisfying sequels of recent years.

The story starts off by essentially splitting up the team. Peter Quill, a.k.a. StarLord (Chris Pratt), goes off with Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and Drax (Dave Bautista) to reunite with his long-lost father Ego (Kurt Russell) after finally meeting him. Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) and Baby Groot (Vin Diesel), meanwhile, deal with a race of beings who are angry over the fact that the pesky raccoon stole some valuable batteries belonging to them. To survive, they must form an unlikely alliance with Yondu (Michael Rooker). These story threads converge in the last half-hour, when the team reunites to save the galaxy once again.

Elements that brought a touch of magic to the original do so here, as well. The characters are quirky in a way that's positively endearing. Dave Bautista makes for brilliant comic relief, delivering Drax's punchlines with laugh-out-loud impact. Rocket and Groot remain a hilariously funny interstellar Abbott and Costello. Their best scene finds the former growing increasingly frustrated over the latter's inability to understand that pressing a certain button will lead to assured doom. Most of all, the movie maintains the nice blending of these disparate personalities, making them a team that's as cohesive as it is ecclectic.

Some of the other pleasures are in the filmmaking. Once again, Gunn utilizes a soundtrack comprised of '70s and '80s tunes that are not mere background music, but integral parts of the scenes in which they are featured. The way the film uses Fleetwood Mac's “The Chain,” for instance, is particularly inspired. Vol. 2's opening credits sequence, meanwhile, is one for the ages – a comedic action ballet highlighted by Baby Groot's funky-fresh dance moves. Superb use of 3D adds to the enjoyment. Sequences are designed to take advantage of depth and scope, and there are plenty of moments where you practically feel like you're right in the middle of battle with the characters.

What Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 offers that's new is a sense of deep emotion. The movie expands upon our knowledge of the team's individual members. Peter desperately wants to make a connection with his father, yet fears that Ego may not be the loving patriarch he presents himself as. Gamora deals with her jealous sister Nebula (Karen Gillan), Rocket discovers that he has a lot in common with perceived enemy Yondu, and Drax finds himself experiencing feelings for Ego's right-hand woman, Mantis (Pom Klementieff, in a wonderfully kooky performance).

These strands tie together in the third act, each of them perfectly supporting the outcome of the Peter/Ego story. Vol. 2 proves to have some worthy thoughts about family, specifically the way familial bonds require accepting the flaws of others. The plot builds to a finale that's touching in a way you don't see coming.

Splitting up the team for a large potion of the movie means that it doesn't quite have the same smooth narrative flow as the original. Things jump back-and-forth for most of the running time. Nonetheless, it all works because Gunn knows exactly where he's taking the gang when it's all said and done.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is a tremendous amount of fun. It's exciting, humorous, poignant, well-acted, and visually magnificent. This is a worthy follow-up to one of Marvel's best movies.

( 1/2 out of four)

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action and violence, language, and brief suggestive content. The running time is 2 hours and 16 minutes.

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