Decoding the secrets of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol

Nostalgia is a huge part of the charm in Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy.

But if they have seen "Guardians of the Galaxy" a few times, they'll have enough information to enjoy the nods to the first film and the growth of the characters since then.

That's what we get in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, where the plot is a little more cumbersome but the jokes have even more gusto, as the budding franchise settles into its role as the soulfully meta annex of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Just the mountain of work that is making one of these movies. "It's comics!", this second entry of the cosmos-spanning adventures of a ragtag group of quirky and quixotic characters jumps right into the fun without any fillerous backstory, with the Guardians, fresh from defeating a Lovecraftian netherbeast finding themselves in the midst of leader StarLord's (the charismatic Chris Pratt) father, a god (lower-case g) named Ego, a living planet personified in the slick swagger of Kurt Russell. "So I was a little bit thrown off at first", reported CBR.

In any case, the story proper involves the Guardians themselves being on the run from a race of genetically-engineered gold-skinned superhumans called The Sovereign after Rocket manages to piss off their vengeful queen Ayesha; who conscripts The Ravagers to pursue them further.

The movie picks where the first left off, and wastes no time in diving straight into all guns-blazing action, as the team takes on a kind of giant inter-dimensional squid. There's Quill's repressed romance with Gamora, a sort of reformed alien-kung fu assassin; Gamora's unbalanced rivalry with her insane cyborg sister, Nebula; and, of course, Quill's paternity problems.

Anti-hero Yondu (Michael Rooker) also truly gets his moment in the sun.

One element that helped the actor was the addition of Pom Klementieff as Mantis, whose humourous delivery resonated well with Bautista. Despite the two small antennas protruding from the top of her forehead, she is perfectly attractive; however, Drax makes clear he finds her extremely ugly, which he sees in his unique way as something quite admirable. No one who sees "Vol. 2" will have that complaint.

Meanwhile, fellow Guardian Gomora (Zoe Saldana) is working through complex sisterhood issues with her sibling, Nebula (Karen Gillan), while Dave Bautista's Drax the Destroyer remains as blissfully lacking in self or social awareness as ever, providing numerous film's best comic moments. He is a delight. One villain character, who has given himself the moniker Taserface (Chris Sullivan of "This Is Us"), is mocked repeatedly for the ineffectuality of his meant-to-be-threatening handle. Given the story line, it's understandable that Pratt isn't as consistently amusing this time as Peter. Largely because of his antics, he and Peter constantly bicker while they are together, but Rocket does find some common ground with Yondu, of all people. Baby Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) is impossibly cute. Rocket's relationship with Baby Groot is heartwarming as he tries to teach the little guy how to do things, while Drax, who has a unusual conception of what's attractive and what's ugly, laughs a lot more and is more upbeat this time around. There is no question. You may also learn from Guardians 2 not to steal batteries. There are five (!) teasers at the end, but none of them connect to the other Marvel films. It's basically the movie many of us have been waiting to see since we walked out of a movie theater in May of 1983.

And it is that.

What makes the whole endeavor so impressive is that all of the threats that the gang confront spring from the internal: The cosmic Big Bad, the golden armada, the kill-crazy pirate faction and even the tightrope rampage of everyone's favorite psycho cybersibling - all of them are because of who the Guardians are, and the choices that they make.

Stars (of four): 2.5.


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