The latest installment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and the second outing of the Guardians of Galaxy is out. Can the film capture the magic of the previous films?

Cast

Chris Pratt is Peter Quill / Star-Lord
Zoe Saldana is Gamora
Dave Bautista is Drax
Vin Diesel is Baby Groot (voice)
Bradley Cooper is Rocket (voice)
Michael Rooker is Yondu
Karen Gillan is Nebula
Pom Klementieff is Mantis

Sylvester Stallone as Stakar Ogord
Kurt Russell as Ego The Living Planet
Elizabeth Debicki as Ayesha
Chris Sullivan as Taserface
Sean Gunn as Kraglin / On-Set Rocket
Tommy Flanagan as Tullk
Laura Haddock as Meredith Quill
Ving Rhames as Charlie-27
Michael Rosenbaum as Martinex
Michelle Yeoh as Aleta Ogord
Miley Cyrus as Mainframe

Written and Directed by James Gunn

Based on the comics by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning

Star-Lord created by Steve Englehart and Steve Gan
Gamora & Drax created by Jim Starlin
Groot created by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, and Jack Kirby
Rocket Racoon created by Bill Mantlo and Keith Giffen

The Premise

The Guardians of the Galaxy are hired by Sovereign to kill a giant monster that is attacking one of their power generation facilities, in return for Nebula, who had been caught stealing batteries from the facility. When Rocket steals some batteries himself and calls the Sovereign douchebags, the Guardians are marked for death. The Guardians are only saved from certain death by the timely arrival of Ego, claiming that he is Star-Lord’s father. Meanwhile, the Sovereign hire Yondu’s band of Ravagers to capture the Guardians. However, Yondu faces dissention in the ranks of his fellow Ravagers, along with ostracism from other Ravager chieftains for having taken Quill in the first place.

High Points

The opening fight is very well done, with a good use of foreground elements and background action for some great comedy.

Additionally, the soundtrack is incredibly well used, to the point that if you have managed to avoid reading the track listing for Awesome Mix Vol. 2, wait on reading it until after you’ve seen the film.

Also, Stallone’s inclusion in the film could have been stunt casting, but his inclusion clearly sets up some bigger things.

Low Points

While Baby Groot has some very cute moments, he also can get very obnoxious in some scenes, being particularly hateful to Drax, which is weird.

In the 3D screenings for the film, there is one shot with Gamora and Nebula where they are supposed to be talking in a room, but they appear to be talking in front of a matte painting.

Scores

Originality: The film makes some appropriate adjustments to the backstory of the Guardians (the ones who hadn’t been set up in the last film) from their comics versions, and tells them pretty well. 4/6

Effect: The effects are generally very solid. Of a particular note is the flashback scenes with Ego, where they have a great combination of practical and digital effects to age Kurt Russell to how he looked in the 1980s. 5/6

Story: The story wanders here more than it did in the first film. The middle portion of the film basically goes off on two tangents, with Peter, Gamora, Mantis and Drax learning about Ego, while on the other plot, Rocket, Groot, and Yondu deal with the mutiny in his band of Ravagers. It comes back together well, but still, it can feel a little loose in that middle. 5/6

Acting: The acting is still fantastic. The returning cast owned their roles in the last film, and they own them here. Of the new cast, Russell is a fantastic actor and plays Ego tremendously well, being a wonderfully warm father and an disturbing sociopath. Michael Rooker as Yondu gets some tremendous character depth through the film, which he pulls off well, and Sean Gunn also handles  6/6

Production: The production is as great as it was in the last film. If I have objections, it’s related to the film’s 3D conversion, and in particular to the shot in the low-point. 5/6

Emotional Response: There is a very short list of films that have made me openly weepy in a theater. This film is on that list. 5/6

Overall: Part of what made the first film so strong, is that it caught audiences off guard – even if you were a fan of the comics characters to begin with, you weren’t entirely sure that they’d work on the big screen. Here, you know that it can be done, so that degree of surprise isn’t quite there yet. Still, the film is tremendously fun, and absolutely worth seeing in the theater. 6/6

In total, Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 gets 36 out of 42.