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Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

**1/2

by Matt Anderson

published May 6, 2017

Vol. 2 is on the weaker end of Marvel's remarkable string of successes. A lot happens, but little of it really matters.

Friends & Families

Watching this second installment about a group of space pirates that embraces their diversity while simultaneously getting on each other's nerves is at times pleasurable and other times grating. It's kind of like the Guardians have been hanging out together a little too much since they first burst onto the big screen nearly 3 years ago. Their familiarity has energized some combative attitudes that, as the movie winds down its 136-minute run time, ultimately makes the whole gang (and their unnecessary innuendo) more irritating than endearing.

The ride meanders around at first and it takes quite a lengthy setup before the storyline finally starts to find some direction.

The action kicks off in 1980, with Peter Quill's father (Fate of the Furious' Kurt Russell, having visited the CGI fountain of youth) meeting Peter's mother (Laura Haddock, Da Vinci's Demons) and falling in love. It's the beginning of a love affair that turns tragic when Peter's mother dies of cancer, far too young.

Fine. That stage is set, but the more impactful searing separation of son from mother was established in the first volume.

Then the action moves forward 37 years and catches up with the Guardians on a mission that finds Rocket Raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper, Silver Linings Playbook) misbehaving, breaking rules, stealing batteries and ushering in a whole lot of bad blood from the Guardians' golden-hued clientele.

Then the mission dovetails with the thread involving Peter (Chris Pratt, Jurassic World) and his father. There's a familiar refrain about love, friendship and family. Yeah, as much as they bug each other, those Guardians are a family all their own.

Who's Yo' Daddy?

It's a little odd to walk away from this strikingly visual extravaganza feeling so non-plussed.

There's some really good humor. One of the biggest jokes stems from young Peter's having to explain away his absentee father by way of David Hasselhoff and the TV show Knight Rider. Dad's busy traveling around fighting crime with a talking car, you see.

That backstory leads Gamora (Zoe Saldana, Avatar) to ask Peter of this godlike man called Ego who's identified himself as Peter's father: "What if he is your real Hasselhoff?"

Another great joke stems from Peter's ever-present Sony Walkman cassette tape player and his introduction to the magical Microsoft Zune. He's awed by the notion that it's a powerhouse with the capacity to hold up to 300 songs.

And those songs supply the soundtrack with some great beats. The movie is an eyeful and an earful.

So why doesn't it add up to something? Well, maybe because it's a movie that's simply marching to the beat of its own drummer; it's kind of a movie to simply chill out with. Let it happen, enjoy the ride. Maybe quote it later. But, mostly, chill to it.

Galactic Domination

As the father-son relationship ripens then sours, there's a quest for galactic domination in the works. It's suitably nefarious, but it's also lacking in anything remotely resembling a sense of urgency.

There are loads of family matters to contend with as the movie finds new ways to mine its culturally-diverse characters. Gamora's at odds with her sister, Nebula (Karen Gillan, The Big Short). Yondu (Michael Rooker, The Walking Dead) tells his backstory of being sold into slavery. Mantis (Pom Klementieff, Old Boy) is an indentured servant to Ego. Of course, Rocket's got his story of being an experiment in genetic engineering. And Drax (Dave Bautista, Spectre)... Well, Drax is Drax. (And maybe next time Howard the Duck will be given a more substantial role.)

And that's not to mention some wowza cameos by some Hollywood heavy-hitters, likely turning into recurring roles in future volumes. They won't be named here; not knowing who they are going in is part of the fun. Those cameos, though, make Stan Lee's two cameos merely yawners. They're a bit forced and not as funny as they were likely intended to be.

Ultimately, maybe that's where the problem with Vol. 2 really lies. There's a lot of calculating going on here. With something like five intra- and post-credit sequences in the mix, none of which add up to much, there's a certain feeling of ideas being thrown around knowing full well some will stick and others won't.