PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The original opened in August of 2014 – late in the splashy summer movie season. But the sequel comes to us as the first attraction and potential blockbuster in the current summer movie season.
That tells you all you need to know about what a big commercial hit Guardians of the Galaxy was.
The follow-up – Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 – is another Marvel Comics-inspired comedic sci-fi thriller, set a few months after the first installment, about a team of misfit, mercenary superheroes whose spaceship crash-lands on a forest planet and badly needs repair.
Chris Pratt returns as their half-human-half-alien leader,Peter Quill/Star-Lord, accompanied by Zoe Saldana as Gamora, and Dave Bautista as Drax.
They depart their doomed transport, leaving behind Rocket Raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper) and Baby Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel), in search of Quill’s mysterious father, the well-named Ego, played by Kurt Russell, who gives the film’s most commanding performance.
And Sylvester Stallone stops by in a glorified cameo.
As for Groot, he has been reduced to a much smaller version of himself and Diesel has brought along a high-pitched voice that fits nicely.
Writer-director James Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy, Slither, Super) also returns with a somewhat heavier, less self-consciously zany approach, and pretty much equals the impact of its predecessor as the script jabs at the definition of family, truly explores the relationships, and unravels the mystery of Quill’s parentage.
The suspense quotient could be a lot higher, and the number of incendiary explosions – which the director is far too enamored of — could and should be more sensible. But there is a spot of humor delivered in one-liners, an aggressively effective and enjoyable array of songs, and a decent amount of character development.
We do wish we were having as good a time as the cast seems to be, but there are worse movie experiences than watching performers relish their assignments.
And while we appreciate the film’s willingness to delve into such themes as family relationships and childhood trauma, there are far too many stretches of pure action that, despite being technically impressive, are mind-numbing as well.
Still, we’ll rescue 2-1/2 stars out of 4 for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, a sequel more intent on delivering visual razzle-dazzle than emotional involvement, and more likely to please fans of the first outing than winning over new recruits.