Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

As you might expect, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is a lot like the 2014 blockbuster from which it spawns — only bigger, faster and louder.

The latest high-stakes adventure with the ragtag group of intergalactic heroes features another cool 1970s mixtape and overflows with nostalgic charm, yet lacks the freshness of the first film. Since we’re familiar now with the characters and their antics, the sequel can’t coast as easily on enthusiastic banter, and doesn’t have the narrative clout to compensate.

To recap, the eccentric collection of misfits includes unassuming leader Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), green-skinned alien Zamora (Zoe Saldana), tough-guy enforcer Drax (Dave Bautista), wisecracking raccoon Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper), and Baby Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel), the pint-sized offspring of the anthropomorphic tree from the initial outing.

Nemeses on their perilous odyssey through the cosmos include a mixture of established faces and malevolent newcomers, including Gamora’s sister Nebula (Karen Gillan) and the ever-present Ravagers, who try to divide and conquer the Guardians. Meanwhile, Peter, a.k.a. Star-Lord, gains elusive clues to his mysterious background when he meets his father (Kurt Russell), while learning little about his motives.

The original film suffered from trying to force its unique characters and imaginative world into a conventional superhero framework. This installment includes more of the same — both strengths and weaknesses — in an effort to appease fans more than newcomers.

The screenplay by returning director James Gunn includes a generous array of amusing sight gags and one-liners. And at least there’s an attempted emotional arc, as he makes an effort to further develop the existing characters, touching on themes including parenthood and surrogate families, instead of resorting to a common sequel crutch of merely introducing new blood.

However, despite some taut action sequences and seamless visual effects, this effort falls victim to many of the same pitfalls as other comic-book adaptations these days. It’s an exercise in spectacle over substance, trying to fill every frame with hyperkinetic visual chaos while incorporating inside jokes and obligatory links to its respective fantasy universe.

As such, Guardians Vol. 2 is a functional enterprise that seems content more to repeat the accomplishments of its predecessor rather than to branch out in ambitious new directions. In other words, it’s content to fit in rather than stand out, and its characters deserve better.


Rated PG-13, 136 minutes.