Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, 5(.5) Stars out of 5, 5/6/17.
Lightning does strike twice, and in larger, yet more intimate proportions. The Guardians of the Galaxy are back, and funnier than ever. We open with Star Lord’s mother (Laura Haddock) and father (a de-aged Kurt Russell) going to Dairy Queen, then the woods behind it. And when a boy loves a girl, well… fast forward 34 years, and we see the giant monster scene from the trailers, featuring Star Lord (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax (Dave Bautista), and Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper) squaring off against it while Baby Groot runs around dancing to Star Lord’s tunes. After they best it, it’s time to save the galaxy twice. After the Guardians get Nebula (Karen Gillan) from the Sovereign race. After that, Rocket insults their queen Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki) despite warnings from the rest of the team. After finding out he stole the easily stealable batteries from them, they go all Liam Neeson on them in galactic proportions, leading them to crash on a planet and discover his real father: Ego the Living Planet (a not-de-aged Kurt Russell). Yes, you read that right, a living planet. Not a huge spoiler because they revealed it a long time ago, and in the movie, they explain the logistics of it believably, though I’ll let you dissect the nitty gritty details when you watch it yourself. It moves briskly through that, and then takes its time while keeping we the audience engaged in the action, whether it’s the characters or the amazing and colorful visuals of galactic proportions, whether it is Ego’s planet, the space battles, or just the great detail in Rocket Raccoon and Groot. In this follow up, we trade pure good vs. evil for family drama, everything advances that narrative, develops a character, or is just so plain fun that I don’t care if it adds to the narrative or not, and it works out. The old characters are just as fun as they were last time, and the new characters bring a new depth to the story, such as Mantis (Pom Klementieff) and her chemistry with Drax, the larger scope of the ravagers revealed with Stakar Ogord (Sylvester Stallone) being introduced as the leader of all the ravager factions. They all blend well, have great chemistry. We learn more about the old ones (especially Star Lord) and learn enough about the new ones to ready them for Infinity War and/or Volume 3. Unlike characters, the music is all new (except for the original theme in the orchestral score), and we finally get to hear what’s on Awesome Mix Vol. 2 (though if you pay attention to the first movie, “I Want You Back” was on Volume 2 when Star Lord hit play at the end of that one), and it both fits the scenes it plays over and is just plain fun to listen to. I know what I’m playing on my car radio until Volume 3! Overall, Guardians of the Galaxy is as hilarious as the first one while still having a legitimate story to tell instead of being two hours of space beings doing funny things. Though I’d totally go see a movie where just that happened! For the parents, there are a few swears (all from Rocket), but otherwise, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is wholesome family fun if wholesome family fun includes planetary biology lessons. You rarely get a chance to see lightning strike twice, so take it, and after that, you can jack up your viewer’s hype for Infinity War!