Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Directed By: James Gunn

Starring: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, Pom Klementieff, Elizabeth Debicki, Chris Sullivan, Sean Gunn, Sylvester Stallone, and Kurt Russell

The summer blockbuster season is now upon us.  With it, we have Marvel's first big time up at bat in 2017.  We are on the road to Infinity War in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and the board is almost set.  The final pieces are moving, just elsewhere in the galaxy.  On Marvel's now renowned first weekend in May, we return to what has become an instantly beloved franchise in Guardians of the Galaxy.  Irreverent, quirky, and hilarious, James Gunn's oddball world is truly an awesome mix of colorful characters immersed in an equally colorful world.  While it's impossible to replicate the originality and freshness of the first installment in the franchise, James Gunn gives it his best shot this second time around.  Simply put, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is a rousing, fun-filled adventure.  It's also one hell of a fun way to kick off the summer movie season.

Star-Lord Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax (Dave Bautista), Rocket (Bradley Cooper), and Baby Groot (Vin Diesel) have been hired by the High Priestess Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki), the leader of the Sovereign people.  The group, aptly dubbed the Guardians of the Galaxy after the events on Xandar, are tasked with protecting some pretty potent batteries from a vicious monster.  While the Guardians battle the beast, Baby Groot dances the night away to Peter's awesome tunes.  Aside from Groot's jam session, Rocket takes something that doesn't belong to him.  After the Guardians collect their paycheck from the High Priestess, the Sovereign people take notice of what's gone missing and unleash their fleet of starships on Peter and the team.  As they face the prospect of their untimely doom courtesy of Rocket's sticky hands, the Guardians are rescued by an unlikely ally from the clutches of the High Priestess, Peter's father Ego (Kurt Russell).  Soon, they begin delving into the celestial heritage of the Quill family.  Meanwhile, the High Priestess turns to Yondu (Michael Rooker) and the Ravagers to capture Star-Lord and the Guardians.

Chock full of Easter eggs from the Marvel Cinematic Universe and general pop culture lore, infused with a vibrancy that matches the groovy soundtrack, and assembled with a charismatic, offbeat cast, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is an unmistakably American movie.  This is something notable at a time when most studios are focused on catering to the international marketplace and just lacing their tentpole movies with stunts and explosions.  The Fate of the Furious, its so-so performance at the domestic box office and its record-breaking international bow are all the proof you need of the overall trend.  Thankfully, James Gunn bucks this trend as he steps back into his now beloved sci-fi franchise.  Fueled by an eccentric effervescence built for American cinemas, Gunn's second outing in the MCU does not disappoint.  This is in part thanks to his decision to make a distinctly American film.

Gunn once again crafts his own unique corner of the MCU marked by breathtaking, innovative visuals that are the cinematic manifestation of one truly creative imagination.  Harkening back to bygone eras, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 looks like the baby The Wizard of Oz and The Fifth Element would have if movies could breed.  While this is clearly Gunn's world, he certainly recognizes the world of cinema that's come before him and honors it.  To fill this colorful galaxy, Gunn creates a host of colorful characters and peoples such as The Sovereigns.  With some swanky costumes that are most definitely futuristic, Ego and every other planet are full of life.

The cast is firing on all cylinders and has grown significantly since the original back in 2014.  Our main heroes are everything we loved about them in the original and more.  Chris Pratt is our charismatic yet egotistical leader Star-Lord.  Bradley Cooper gives us one loud-mouthed rodent as Rocket Racoon.  Reprising her role as Gamora, Zoe Saldana frostily reclaims her throne as the badass queen of sci-fi.  Dave Bautista is one truly funny dude as the always literal Drax.  Vin Diesel is Groot.  Vin Diesel is Groot.  All that being said, there's a lot of other star power on hand.  Sharp-tongued and able to justify it on the battlefield, Michael Rooker is time enough for Bradley Cooper's Rocket as the equally insufferable Yondu.  Finally, we have Kurt Russell as Star-Lord's absentee dad Ego.  He's arrogant.  He's suave.  He's everything you'd expect the father of a man who calls himself Star-Lord to be.  He's one of the most intriguing villains in the MCU to date.  This is all leaving smaller performances from the likes of Elizabeth Debicki, Sylvester Stallone, and a host of other talented actors on the table.  They deliver plenty of memorable gems on screen as well.

There are those who dance and those who don't.  If you don't, you certainly can't appreciate the great tunes that are front and center in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.  From "La Bamba" to "Flashlight", James Gunn takes us on a musical journey that really accentuates the fun that we have throughout the movie in its entirety.  The humor, the action, and the silliness all make this the best comic book movie since Captain America: Civil War.  The awesome soundtrack is just the icing on the cake.  Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 gets a sober rating.  Don't miss this one.