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Guardians of the Galaxy proved to be one of the most valuable films of Marvel Universe, a subversive  and fun space adventure that shed the cynicism of modern comic book movies. The sequel, while not quite as fresh and exciting as the original, has a lot of great elements; while the story is convoluted, the characters are still as engaging as ever, delivering great comedy and some strong emotional moments. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is a film that relies on our love for the characters, and writer/director James Gunn continues to make interesting dynamics, even when the story is not as strong.

Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax (Dave Bautista), Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper), and Groot (Vin Diesel) are once again on the run from an evil alien race, and after an attack leaves them stranded on a foreign planet, they receive aid in the form of Ego (Kurt Russell), Peter’s biological father, who seeks to reconnect with his long lost son. Ego is keen to engage with his son, but as time runs out for the Guardians of the Galaxy, the kind hearted figure proves to be more than he first appeared.

The central dynamic between Pratt and Russell is what drives much of the film, and while there’s a fair amount of exposition heavy dialogue to get through, Pratt continues to be a force of charisma and wit, with Russell proving to be a perfect foil. While Zoe Saldana’s Gamora is slighted of scenes or particularly memorable dialogue, Bautista’s Drax gives the film some of it’s best laughs; there’s a near constant emphasis on producing one liners, and while it does feel like Gunn is overdoing it at some points, most of the jokes land, giving levity to what could have been a confusing mess.

Surprisingly though, the Quill storyline feels secondary overall, with a majority of the film focusing on a side plot involving Rocket, Groot, Yondu (Michael Rooker), and Kraglin (Sean Gunn). Bradley Cooper’s sarcastic, angry line delivery never fails to bring humor, and once again, it’s Rocket’s loneliness and desire for a family that gives the film much of its heart. However, it’s Rooker’s role as the angry space pirate Yondu that’s most vital; Yondu’s relationship with the crew, and his own regrets, are by far the most interesting character piece within the entire film. Sean Gunn’s Kraglin also proves to be the film’s secret MVP, giving some of the most solid character moments in his strained relationship with Yondu, as well as some great laughs.

Is the story a mess? Absolutely. There’s logical mishaps to the entire plot, and the rules of the Celestial beings are hard to follow at many points. There’s also a clear desire to replicate the success of the first Guardians of the Galaxy; more jokes, more songs, and more crazy, insane visuals. Even if it does feel like it’s trying too hard at some points, there’s a genuine passion behind the film from James Gunn; the flaws in the film aren’t due to a cynical studio system, but just products of Gunn’s passion to deliver his insane vision to screen.

While flawed, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is a hilarious, action packed ride, with an ending that’s so moving that it easily washes away many of the issues with the story. The soundtrack continues to be kickass, and although the film emphasizes the brilliance of the Marvel Universe, it never takes time away to set up a sequel or tease a future installment. It’s a character piece, made with respect for its audience, and clearly a product of a filmmaker and studio that feels passionately about the material. Grade: B

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