Grade: A+

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Author: Billy Madden

Not many films in a series are better than the first. However, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 has mastered this feat. Following a rag-tag team’s quest to save the galaxy, this picture weaves humor and action perfectly, delivering a fun-filled space opera to its audiences. Within a span of 2 hours and 15 minutes, The Guardians find answers that even they were unaware of about their past and themselves. Through an intergalactic journey of discovering dark truths, Vol. 2 creates a plot full of growth and character development, lacking in the first movie.

This film does character development the right way: through wit and proper delivery. Primary team members learn about their biological families and are eventually presented with a choice based on their learning. Many can relate to their somber stories through sympathy or empathy for one’s life struggles. The stream of self-discovery is never dull and, although dark, is presented humorously. Given the responses from my fellow movie-goers, I saw an entire theater in hysterics, admitting that I myself left with aching sides from laughter. This ebb and flow allow viewers to align with the gang in a way the first movie could not provide.

With their timely deliverance, the stellar cast increased the importance of choice and change for the individuals in this squad. Scene stealer Baby Groot, through the minimal voice acting by Vin Diesel, does a surprisingly great job of disguising his stealth-like abilities with cuteness. My favorite character in the flick Drax, portrayed by actor Dave Bautista, grew in his whimsy. Humorous in the previous installment, it is clear that he was given the best lines in this movie. His hilarious deadpan style, obliviousness to social cues, and remarkable juxtaposition of facial expressions and strength had me rolling with glee.

Relationships are key when forming a team and navigating a journey of self-enlightenment. Add romance, and you’ve got a sure-fire winner for drama and comedy. The two characters that were challenged in this realm were “Starlord” Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) and Gamora (Zoe Saldana). They have a more serious relationship as their love is exposed to the cosmic band and each other. Compared to other franchises, the difference between the portrayal of their romance is the blessing that it isn’t shoved down your face. Rather it is presented as another challenge that helps to move the plot forward instead of the only facet that connects or divides everyone.

As the group continues their journey, old and new relationships help them to foster their sense of self. Gamora, while working to save the universe and maneuvering feelings of love, also faces the challenge of learning to deal with a toxic relationship between her and her half-sister, Nebula (Karen Gillan). Foul-mouthed Rocket (Bradley Cooper) helps to grow the Guardians in numbers by befriending a rival from the prior movie. Even Drax welcomes newcomer Mantis (Pom Klementieff) through perfectly timed teasing, creating a brother-sister dynamic.

If this is your first Marvel cinematic adventure (hey, it could happen), please write this down: ALWAYS STAY FOR THE AFTER-SCENE CREDITS! These stingers, mirroring the number of the original Guardians, have 5. To maintain a spoiler-free zone, I will not mention what they are or delve deeper into the plot. What I can say, however, is this is a must-see in theaters! With stunning visual effects and a music score that elevates every scene, this one is worth it in IMAX or Dolby 3D. So dust off the Walkman, pop in the new mixtape, and have fun!

Rated: PG-13 (for sequences of sci-fi action and violence, language, and brief suggestive content)
Director: James Gunn
Starring: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, Sean Gunn, Pom Klementieff, Elizabeth Debicki, Chris Sullivan, Kurt Russell, Sylvester Stallone, Michael Rosenbaum
Screenwriter: James Gunn
Genre: Action, Sci-Fi, Adventure

Set against the backdrop of Awesome Mixtape #2, Marvel’s “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” continues the team’s adventures as they traverse the outer reaches of the cosmos. The Guardians must fight to keep their newfound family together as they unravel the mysteries of Peter Quill’s true parentage. Old foes become new allies, and fan-favorite characters from the classic comics will aid our heroes as the Marvel cinematic universe expands.

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