The jokes and the jams are all there, but a surprising splash of emotion is what makes "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2" an even better space ride than the first one.
"Vol 1's" 2014 release established a group of rebels who barely got along well enough to work as a team, dramatized to the beat of a hit pop music soundtrack.
This time, in "Vol 2," there are more classic tunes guiding you through a surprising sentimental journey. If you liked the first "Guardians" adventure you already know you're going to laugh hard at this movie, but did you think you'd get a little teary-eyed? This movie at times has its space guns aimed right at your tear ducts.
The most well-known tidbit we already knew coming into a viewing is that team leader/lead actor Star-Lord/Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) will finally find the father he never knew. That plot point, predictably, takes over most of the movie. After all, if your papa is a legit rolling stone -- Kurt Russell stars as Star-Lord's celestial genetic supplier, Ego, a living planet -- and is all of a sudden in your life after never being there, well, it's not just going to be father and son throwing the ball around (although they do toss a ball of energy around and it is just as funny as it sounds).
This movie could have just been a father/son space opera. (Where have we seen that story before in a far away galaxy?) But the other Guardians' own issues don't get drowned out.
Gamora (Zoe Saldana) must contend with Nebula (Karen Gillian), fellow daughter of Avengers baddie Thanos. Nebula would literally drop a meteor on her sister to take away the pain caused by Gamora always being Thanos' favorite daughter.
Drax (Dave Bautista) is emotionless as always, but his new friendship with Ego's helper, Mantis (Pom Klementieff), an alien who can feel the emotions of others when she touches them, reveals Drax isn't over the loss of his family.
Rocket Racoon (Bradley Cooper) once again competes with Star-Lord for the most laughs, but is also dealing with the loneliness of being the only one of his kind.
The only Guardian not going through a case of the feels is Baby Groot (Vin Diesel), mainly because he's too cute and lovable to be stressed out.
"Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2" is Marvel Studios at its absolute best. The humor. The fun. The superhero action. There's even a surprisingly dark turn in tone just when you think the bad guys were getting too predictable. All set to a soundtrack that is probably an old mix tape from director James Gunn's youth that he would use when he was doodling Spider-Man. Old school music hits like Cat Stevens' "Father and Son" and George Harrison's "My Sweet Lord" help tell the story. I'd say "Vol 1" rocked a little harder, but "Vol 2" has Parliament hit "Flashlight," so maybe it's a push.
Gunn and Marvel Studios also deserve credit for making Ego the living planet work. Those familiar with the Guardians comic book adventures know that Ego is not Star-Lord's father in the comics. When it was announced that the Guardians movies wouldn't follow that template, it could have been a recipe for fanboy gripes. At the end of this movie, most Marvel fans will realize the right decision was made.
Michael Rooker's return as Yondu, the blue, Southern twang-spitting Ravager, is full of surprises.He's got a stronger bond to the Guardians of the Galaxy then maybe his tough exterior is willing to admit, and he has to face the music and explain to Star-Lord why he kept him away from his father for so long. And yes, his lethal, single arrow that responds to his every command when he whistles is back as well.
The Guardians will soon get their chance to shine on Marvel Studios biggest stageas they appear in "Avengers: Infinity War," serving as the bridge to connect the Avengers to the looming threat of Thanos.
That upcoming film could serve as a passing of the torch if key Avengers such as Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans) and Thor (Chris Hemsworth) have reached the end of their cinematic Avengers contractual obligations.
If so, Marvel Studios still has everything it needs for an ongoing superhero team franchise.
Charismatic and funny leading man/Iron Man? Star-Lord.
Lethal leading lady/Black Widow? Gamora.
Green muscle/Hulk? Drax.
Maybe you've heard that there are no less than five post-credit scenes at this film's end. One of those scenes sets up the foe the Guardians will face in "Vol 3." Once that next volume comes around, the Guardians of the Galaxy will probably begin that adventure as the new Marvel Studios hit-movie standard. No Iron Man needed.
The franchise has many more remixes in its future.