Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
Stars: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, voices of Vin Diesel and Bradley Cooper
Director: James Gunn
Verdict: 4 stars
IN WHAT was a flat year of releases, 2014's Guardians of the Galaxy was the one film that packed in moviegoers around the world, delivering what remains one of the most entertaining movies in the Marvel Studios universe.
It's fair to say that expectations for the sequel are through the roof from Marvel fans.
So the burning question is, does Guardians Vol. 2 live up to the expectations?
In short, yes.
All the cast from the first movie return including Chris Pratt (Peter Quill/Starlord), Zoe Saldana (Gamora), Dave Bautista (Drax), Vin Diesel (as the voice of Groot), Bradley Cooper (as the voice of Rocket), Michael Rooker (Yondu), and Karen Gillan (Nebula), plus you get added value with Kurt Russell, Sylvester Stallone and a few cameos you won't see coming.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 continues the team's adventures as they traverse the far reaches of the cosmos. The Guardians must fight to keep their newfound family together as they unravel the mystery of Peter Quill's true parentage.
Ego (Kurt Russell) finds our five heroes on the run from a race of angry aliens after Rocket helps himself to something he shouldn't. Ego tells Peter Quill that he is his father, and has spent years looking for him.
In the meantime, Yondu has his own problems, with his crew threatening mutiny, and the returning Nebula, while under guard, has her own plans to even the score with her sister Gamora.
You know you are back in the Guardians domain within the first five minutes, in what can only be described as one of the best opening credit sequences put to film that will have you laughing out loud while tapping your feet to a soundtrack destined to go down as one of the best in several years. ELO, Fleetwood Mac and George Harrison have never sounded or looked so good on the big screen.
Some say that the secret to good dialogue is characterisation, where you feel you know what someone is going to say before they say it, and this is the great strength of this movie.
The five guardians are always having sarcastic digs at each other, and it produces not only many laugh-out-loud moments, but means you are happy to just see them on screen in between massive set action pieces, with flawless special effects.
There is a big heart in this movie, and it flows through from start to finish, along with a bucketload of sarcasm and wit.
Most memorably, Baby Groot is quite possibly the cutest movie character ever put to screen and every time he appears you want to adopt him and take him home. You soon forget that in the last movie he was a giant and now he's basically a kid.
Similarly, Bradley Cooper's Rocket steals every scene he appears in, with one of the best set pieces involving Rocket's defence of a downed space ship using copious amounts of gadgets and explosives. It sums up what Guardians is all about, comical violence, great music and a wicked sense of humour.
Personally, I'd love to see Rocket get his own origin movie. They did it with Wolverine, why not Rocket?
Expanded roles from Michael Rooker and Karen Gillan add another level to the story, and their sub plots help meld everything together nicely by the end.
Like its predecessor, this is pure movie entertainment. You'll smile, you'll laugh, you'll cheer and maybe even cry.
Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2 delivers on all fronts, and while it sags a bit between the second and third acts, the finale is loud, full of action and leaves you satisfied that you got real value for money from your cinema ticket.
For adults, there are dozens of references to pop culture from the '70s and '80s to keep you amused, most of which will go over the heads of anyone under 30.
It won't join Aliens and Terminator on that very, very short list of movies that outdid the original, but if you want bang for your buck, this ticks all the boxes.
See it on the biggest, loudest screen you can and forget all the bad stuff going on in the world for a couple of hours. In a word, this is pure fun.
Oh, and one more tip - don't leave until the lights come on.
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