With so much noise in the movie marketplace this year, Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2, came and went with little fanfare.  But the hype of other productions and the failure of the studio to come up with a more audience-grabbing publicity campaign caused many to skip over the sequel to 2014’s surprise success, Guardians of the Galaxy (it’s really been three years?).  If you were one who missed it in the theater, it’s now available on multiple streaming services, Blu-ray, and DVD, and it’s so much fun, and so good, it’s going to prompt us to resurrect our discussion of that awesome rarity: sequels that rival the original.

Get ready for more laugh-out-loud humor among the Guardians than in the previous film.  Now that the origin story is behind us, we get to know each character more after they’ve been working together and their relationships are well-established.  Prepare for more quotable lines from Chris Pratt’s Star-Lord, Zoe Saldana’s Gamora, Dave Bautista’s Drax, and the voices of Bradley Cooper’s Rocket, and Vin Diesel, this time as a tiny Baby Groot as we met him at the end of the first film.  Returning characters who see fairly expanded screen time and are integral to the story more than before are Karen Gillan’s Nebula, Michael Rooker’s Yondu, and Guardians II director James Gunn’s brother Sean Gunn returning as the Ravager Kraglin.

As much as you’ll love the familiar players, the new characters and the storylines they bring to the table keep the film exciting to the very end.  First you have two big names, and unlike superhero movies of the past, they aren’t just in the film to get audiences into the theater:  Kurt Russell adds another compelling and multi-layered performance to his resume as Star-Lord’s father Ego, and Sylvester Stallone plays an important role as Stakar, a Ravager leader whose backstory intertwines with Yondu.  Adding to her nuanced villain roles (along with her role in 2016’s The Man from U.N.C.L.E.) is Elizabeth Debicki (you may also recognize her voice in Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets) as Ayesha–you directs a fleet of pilots in spacecraft drones that are like nothing you’ve seen before.  And finally, the Marvel Universe is introduced to Pom Klementieff’s Mantis.  Some of the best scenes in the film, both dramatic and hysterically funny, come from conversations between Drax and Mantis.  An unexpected reference to Mary Poppins (!?) is probably the best line in the film.

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