When Guardians of the Galaxy exploded into theaters in August 2014, it was instantly welcomed as a hilarious, goofball addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe; the studio’s two previous films, Thor: The Dark World and Captain America: The Winter Soldier—well…let’s just say they skewed more toward the un-fun end of the spectrum.

Suddenly we had Star-Lord Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) and his motley crew of pals turning the comic-book movie genre on its head. The jokes flew as fast as his spaceship, and the super-retro soundtrack offered a glorious trip down Memory Lane for the moms and dads in the audience.

A sequel was, of course, mandatory, and three years later Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 arrives trying to equal (or even one-up) its predecessor. While it succeeds on many levels, including the introduction of new characters and the continuation of that groovy soundtrack, the sequel falls just short of its mark, largely because it feels like writer/director James Gunn decided to throw everything he could into it. And there’s plenty that could have been left behind.

Picking up a few months after the events of the original, Vol 2 begins (after a brief 1980-set prologue) with the Guardians helping out the gold-skinned Sovereign race, led by Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki). They run afoul of her, though, when Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) steals a handful of the Sovereign’s prized batteries as the Guardians are heading out.

After a brief space battle, the gang trips on Quill’s alien father Ego (Kurt Russell), who takes them back to his home planet, which is, actually, him. (Long story.) There are other things going on at the same time, too, including Yondu (MIchael Rooker) getting hired by Ayesha to track down the Guardians and then facing a mutiny at the hands of Taserface (Chris Sullivan), Gamora (Zoe Saldana) reuniting with her disgruntled sister Nebula, and the comic misadventures of little sapling Baby Groot.

Yes, there’s a lot going on here, and that’s ultimately what keeps Vol 2 from being declared an outright success. Gunn’s script is a non-stop barrage of sub-plots and side stories, many of which add little to the film. The entire Sovereign storyline, for example, could have easily been jettisoned in the name of tightening things up.

That’s not to say Vol 2 isn’t worth every penny you’ll spend to see it (or every dollar it’ll take in at the box office). It’s funny moments make it just as rib-tickling as the first go-round (the jokes come fast and furious, and they hit on everything from Cheers to David Hasselhoff to the film’s best joke, a Mary Poppins shout-out), and the visual effects (including 3D), makeup, costumes, music, and performances are all out of this world. The one thing missing is an editor.


4/5 stars

Worth the 3D glasses?

No question. Gunn threw everything but the kitchen sink into Vol 2, and that includes gobs of 3D eye candy. There are barely ten minutes of the entire film that don’t feature things floating around in space, exploding at your head, or otherwise jumping off the screen. Ante up for the plastic specs.