*There’s gonna be spoilers. Obviously.*
Taking place not long after the first film, the movie picks up the rag-tag band of intergalactic heroes as they are hunted by a race called the Sovereign and their high priestess named Ayesha (based off of Kismet or Her in the comics) and also Yondu’s Ravagers now led by Taserface (yeah, the name is made fun of the entire movie) after a mutiny. Along the way, Peter Quill/Star-Lord finally meets his father, who turns out to be a celestial named Ego.
That’s pretty much a good set-up to the story without spoiling too much...and this movie just cannot be spoiled for anyone, because it is so well put together and the story has so many heartfelt moments. What James Gunn does to the characters introduced in the first film in this one is all about character development. Even Yondu, who you wouldn’t expect to be the type of character any of us could identify with, is fleshed out a great deal...to the point where the audience has no choice but to fall in love with him. Not that it’s overly hard to make Michael Rooker likable (I know from personal experience...he’s the coolest human being), but Yondu came off pretty despicable in the first film.
Kurt Russell is amazing as Ego. Right from the beginning of the film (which has de-aging flashback CGI that will have you doubting the general laws of physics) you feel there is something way off and “too good to be true” about the character. Much like his character in Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof, that charming smile of his is hiding lots of strange and odd secrets...and as a Marvel fan that is perfect for the character. We get to witness Ego in all of his strange, creepy glory...and that was a huge concern of mine as more and more images of Russell as the character were released to us. Ego was always one of Marvel’s weirdest characters ever conceived....and the movie version does NOT disappoint in that aspect.
As you can imagine, Peter Quill goes through a rollercoaster of emotions. He finally finds the truth about his dual heritage, but he also learns a lot about his relationship with his teammates, who have now become his family. By the end of the film, we get to see the character grow up a lot and learn to understand that he is who he is because of who raised him and who he chooses to be, not who his biological father is. Chris Pratt as always, is every bit the perfect movie hero. The comedy factor is off the scale as Star-Lord (much like many Marvel characters) uses his sense of humour to get himself out of and through almost any situation. You definitely get why this guy has become such a huge movie star, and my guess is he will be for quite some time.
Star-Lord’s relationship with Zoe Saldana’s Gamora deepens as they try to figure out their “Sam and Diane” situation (as Quill calls it). You definitely see how much Gamora cares about Peter and is wary of Ego, and how this nurturing protectiveness can be confused with jealousy. At the same time, Gamora must figure out her complicated relationship with her sister, Nebula. These two were thrust into a horrible rivalry by their “father”, Thanos...and now they are freed of him and must somehow come to grips with the fact that they are still family of sorts, despite the abuse they have endured. It’s really awesome how real world archetypes come into play in this film. So many people can identify with the issues the characters face.
Drax is the most entertaining evolution of a character in this movie. He seems to be in quite a good place, not just because he somewhat avenged his family by killing Ronan (even though Thanos is the real person responsible) but because he GETS that he’s found a new family with his fellow Guardians. They are warriors like him, and they have given him a whole new purpose in the universe. Drax is now more jovial and even seems to be getting the hang of metaphors and humour (even though his versions of such are still skewed, resulting in hilariousness). When he meets Ego’s empathic “pet/servant” Mantis, her powers reveal the deep pain Drax still suffers from, and that creates an adorable relationship between the two, even though Drax finds Mantis hideously unattractive, and he doesn’t have the tact to hide that fact. I can’t imagine what the women of Drax’ race look like! James Gunn’s brand of humour has so many levels that it blows my mind!
By the way, Drax is wrong. Pom Klementieff is adorable in the role of Mantis and she BETTER be in further films or I will riot. We don’t get the ass-kicking martial arts character from the comics, but this innocent empath has too much comedic potential to not use again.
Rocket Raccoon also learns a lot more about himself as the most self-loathing of all the characters. Rocket has never known much love or kindness in his life and now he is surrounded by it with his new teammates. He doesn’t even know how to respond to it, so he pushes them away. He relates to Yondu in many ways as the two find themselves become unlikely allies. Rocket will never change his gruff demeanor (at least I hope not), but in the very least we begin to understand why he’s a jerk most of the time. One of my favorite scenes has Rocket completely decimating the Ravagers in a forest environment. It shows just how dangerous and wily he is. We don’t yet get his famous “Blam! Murdered you!” line just yet...but it’s the closest thing to the comic book version of Rocket we’ve gotten so far. I would bet James Gunn has wanted to do a scene like this with Rocket for quite some time.
We come to Baby Groot. Some have expressed the obvious “marketing ploy” of making Groot a cute, precocious little dancey tree child, but it matters not to me. He makes me smile every time he’s on the screen, and I don’t think the movie is oversaturated or dumbed down with the character. Come to think of it, the jokes involving him aren’t all kid friendly either! He’s kind of twisted, actually!
Also, Baby Groot is not just there for the merchandise potential, he is integral to the movie. He is a someone the Guardians must nurture and protect for the entire film. They owe it to Groot for saving their lives in the first film, but there's more to it. He is the glue (sap?) that keeps the Guardians together and a family. See the theme here?
We get so many memorable cameos in the movie, too. The obligatory Stan Lee cameo is in there (possibly the best one ever, and a true fan service), but we also get more icons like Sylvester Stallone as Stakar Ogord a.k.a. Starhawk. For those that have not read any original Guardians comics, he was an essential member of that team. In the movie Stakar is the leader of another sect of Ravagers and a former teammate of Yondu. And he’s not the only O.G. (get it?) that appears! Smallville’s Michael Rosenbaum as Martinex, Ving Rames as Charlie-27, Michelle Yeoh as Aleta Ogord, Krugarr and Mainframe (voiced by Miley Cyrus) all appear. Keep your eyes peeled for a brief cameo from David Hasselhoff, too. Don't worry, it makes sense. A certain feathered Marvel alumni voiced by Seth Green once again shows up as well. Yeah, James Gunn proves he can likely get ANYONE to appear in a Guardians movie...and it’s pretty awesome.
That amazing soundtrack is once again another cast member in the movie. From E.L.O. to George Harrison to Cheap Trick, this movie will have you dancing in your seat like nobody is watching. I can't remember when a movie franchise utilized music so well. The music encompasses the feel of the movie as well as represents the era that many of these characters were first designed in the comics. A lot of the far-out Marvel characters we love were inspired by music that was out at the time! Do you think comic book artists draw in complete silence?
I remember the first Guardians being pretty nifty in 3D and this one is even more impressive. When most 3D movies lose their wow-factor a half hour in, GOTG2 makes you “ooh and aw” throughout the movie. I recommend you do the full IMAX 3D treatment, and don’t forget the popcorn!
The first film was an amazing introduction to these great characters and the cosmic aspect of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This film dived much deeper into both the characters AND the cosmic corner of the MCU even more. We got to understand who the Guardians are as a unit and I can say that after this movie they could possibly be the best superhero team in movies so far, if not for the fact that they truly are a close knit family (something we may never see from the Fantastic Four, sadly). I can’t wait to see what we get with Guardians vol. 3 and Infinity War. Bring it on!
I simply cannot say anything more about this movie. Go see it as soon as possible, if you haven’t already and bring all your friends and family. Because at its core, that’s what the story is all about. That’s yer review, kiddos. Bleed out!