In August '14, the film version of Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning's "Guardians of the Galaxy" took the Marvel/space-opera scene by storm: a mega hit that exceeded expectations with its retro zeal in both action and pop-cultural sounds. It was the story's varied underdogs, however, who made the film great, with its ensemble becoming the most embraced since "A New Hope".
On this basis, it was only a matter of time before our lovable gang reappeared and yep, they're even hipper and quirkier for "Vol 2": Peter Quill/Star-Lord (Chris Pratt); Drax (Dave Bautista); Gamora (Zoe Salanda); (Baby) Groot (Vin Diesel); Rocket Racoon (Bradley Cooper); and Yondu (Michael Rooker), who once acted as Quill's troublesome, surrogate father. Oh, and let's not forget Gamora's resentful sis, Nebula (Karen Gillan); in addition to exotic empath, Mantis (Pom Klementieff); conscientious Kraglin (Sean Gunn); conniving, golden gal Ayesha Kismet (Elizabeth Debicki); and Star-Lord's maybe-he-is-maybe-he-ain't dad, a chap called Ego (Kurt Russell). Heck, even Yondu's has own lofty father figure, the Ravager leader otherwise known as Starhawk...Stakar Ogord (Sylvestor Stallone). Now how's that for a shape of things to come!?! (The addition of Russell and Stallone also make this a "Tango and Cash" reunion of sorts, even though the two never cross paths during the film. Pity...)
We now find our heroes combating a tentacled entity called the Abilisk, to assist a race called the Sovereign, but this interlude and the various circumstances and thugs that surround and/or stem from it (like Chris Sullivan's vile Taserface), don't drive the plot as much as Ego's weird intent. In fact, the father/son reunion soon becomes a tense focal point, giving the story that shaky Skywalker feel. Ego's ultimate motives, therefore, pave the path of this wild adventure, as does the biological baggage he carries, which can evidently alter the universe as we know it. This makes things real sticky for sonny-boy, but of course, Star-Lord can see through pretentious guises, no matter how paternal.
The adventure flies fast with its top-of-the-charts accompaniment, and thankfully, the ride never loses track of our various friends and foes: i.e., character development somehow prevails within the special-effects onslaught. The strength of character, therefore, might make this franchise the closest of all to its Marvel roots, with "Vol 2" clinching the deal. It also succeeds in keeping its characters (i.e., their motives) more in touch with those important, founding fathers who "Star Wars" has, alas, dismissed over the decades: John Carter, Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon. Hell, why not throw in Rocky Jones and Tom Corbett while we're at it? "Vol 2" is as damn nostalgically zestful as it gets.
James Gunn's writing/directing finesse is ideal for the character-laden mythology, though I hesitate to give him too much credit, based on his asinine Captain-America-as-a-Nazi acceptance. Unforgivable! And yeah, I sure as hell still hold a grudge over that. Nonetheless, for the sake of this particular, cosmic incarnation, I've no choice but to give credit where it's due. It's really that good.
As another plus, Star-Lord's persistent pursuit of Gamora is consistently bumpy and never full-fledged lovey-dovey. When it comes to this type of picture, that's the wisest way to play it. Keep the romance unfulfilled. That kills the yawns and ensures we'll want to see the relationship develop, and if it doesn't, no big deal.
"Vol 2" sure ain't Shakespeare. It ain't no "Winter Soldier", either; or for that matter, "Dune"; "Lord of the Rings"; "Planet of the Apes"; "Star Trek" or any number of other more complex, speculative journeys that we keep reassessing to expand our intellects. That doesn't make "Vol 2" any less important or productive for what it offers. I wanna see another chapter real soon, and if the early, box-office tallies are any indication, a third flick is but an intergalactic hop and a skip away. Hooray!!!