A Film Review by Tim Riley

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2 (Rated PG-13) Still weeks away from Memorial Day weekend, which could be considered the unofficial start of summer fun, Hollywood gets a jump on that marker by releasing a film fitting for a seasonal highlight. More impressive is that the early launch of “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” is not only a worthy sequel, but it may prove to be arguably one of the most entertaining and fun films in a superhero orbit that has too often become increasingly repetitive and predictable. “Guardians Vol. 2” is more than just another exciting production from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It stood out three years ago, and remains that way today with the second installment, because its irreverence and sense of humor remain defining features suitable for a wider audience. Aside from “Deadpool,” which was fueled by a fast-talking mercenary with a morbid, profane sense of humor and thus Rated R for good reason, the universe of Marvel Comics brought to film would not be so cheeky but for the emerging “Guardians” franchise.

To the delight of anyone surprised by the original film, “Guardians Vol. 2” returns the lovable key characters that became the ragtag group of misfits traveling through the cosmos to the tunes of the “Awesome Mixtapes” courtesy of the Earth-born Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), aka Star-Lord. The second installment offers more than a glimpse into the past of Quill, a distinctly humanoid creature who appears to be this generation’s Han Solo, but whose Chewbacca is an ill-tempered raccoon who can do more than grunt while acting as co-pilot.

Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper), trash-talking more than a WWE wrestler on fight night, makes for an amusing presence in his banter with the often reckless adventurer Quill as they cruise through the galaxy from one trouble spot to another.
Joining Rocket and Quill on the latest space adventure are original members, the tart-tongued, green-skinned Gamora (Zoe Saldana), the towering presence of muscleman Drax (WWE wrestler Dave Bautista), and lovable Baby Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel), the miniature dancing tree stump.

An early scene of rural Missouri circa 1980 introduces a young Kurt Russell cruising to a remote forest spot with the future Mrs. Quill, the mother of our daring space adventurer who thrives on listening to cassette tapes of Seventies rock music.
It turns out that Russell in the present day has his own planet where his humility as a celestial being allows him to go by the name of Ego the Living Planet, or Ego to his friends, and he reveals himself to be the father of Peter Quill.
But before time is spent on Ego’s magical planet, where one would not be surprised to see rainbows and unicorns, Quill and his crew are tasked with an assignment by Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki), the high priestess of the gold-skinned Sovereigns, to protect valuable batteries.

In exchange for Gamora’s evil sister Nebula (Karen Gillan) being held prisoner by the Sovereigns, Quill’s band of warriors has to slay a gigantic beast who wants to steal these batteries. The mission succeeds, but Rocket decides, seemingly out of disdain for the snooty attitude of Ayesha, to sneak a few batteries into his backpack on the way out to their spaceship, and the angered Sovereigns give chase with remote-controlled fighter pods. The adventures continue when the Guardians crash land on a remote planet, where Ego arrives in his own spacecraft accompanied by his sidekick Mantis (Pom Klementieff), an empathetic creature with forehead antennae that allow her to understand the emotions of others. Meanwhile, Ayesha hires the blue-skinned Yondu (Michael Rooker) and the mercenary Ravagers to go after the Guardians. Having acted as foster father to a young Quill, Yondu is best-equipped to chase down the intergalactic swashbuckler and his merry band.

Interestingly, the dynamics within the volatile Ravagers are fluid as Stakar Ogord (Sylvester Stallone) banishes Yondu into exile, while Taserface (Chris Sullivan) stages a mutiny and takes it upon himself to track down Quill.
Volatility also seems to be the watchword for the family relationships that are either dysfunctional or fraught with peril. Though Quill is thrilled to meet his biological father, there is a lingering uncertainty for Star-Lord to break away from the Guardians, his improvised family unit.

Sibling rivalry takes an ugly turn when Nebula would jump at the chance to destroy Gamora for reasons that seem based solely on misconceptions. Meanwhile, Quill would like his relationship with the aloof Gamora to blossom into romance.
If the summer movie season is set to kick off this early, there’s hardly more fun to be had than with the antics of the endless bickering and bantering delivered with cleverness and sheer delight in “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2.”
To be sure, as with any sequel, there are some pitfalls to this second chapter, but overall the fun quotient is off the charts and the fan base for this emerging franchise should be thoroughly satisfied.