Like most of the 14 other movies in the Marvel series that began in 2008, “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” is spectacular.
It adroitly balances art and entertainment, character and sensation, laughter and poignancy, and the personal with the packaged.
Writer-director James Gunn (who made 2014’s original “Guardians of the Galaxy”) comes from an exploitation background at Troma Entertainment, and worked his way to the “A” list through subversive horror films (“Slither”) and subversive superhero films (“Super”).
He brings his extensive history to the new sequel, which is infused with the feeling of being an outsider, the elation of being a part of a team, and the ups and downs of both sides.
As the movie begins, Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) is hurting over never knowing his dad; Rocket (Bradley Cooper) keeps others at arm’s length with barbed comments; and Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and her sister Nebula (Karen Gillan) are recovering from a violent, training-filled childhood.
Meanwhile, Drax (Dave Bautista), Baby Groot (Vin Diesel), and even Yondu (Michael Rooker), are just trying to figure things out.
After irritating a royal council of gold-colored beings, the Guardians meet Ego (Kurt Russell), a man claiming to be Peter’s real dad.
Additionally, characters fight, are captured, and escape, though not necessary in that order.
The movie’s awesome design deserves high praise, mixing and matching raw material from any number of weird 1960s, 1970s and 1980s sci-fi movies, comics, groovy pop songs, and TV shows.
Its visuals, largely consisting of beautiful arcs, curves and circles, are smooth, sleek and swift. The movie flows, avoiding the angular, cornered, stuck feeling of superhero films.
Colors pop and shine like a spring day, and the overall presentation makes “Avatar” look as if it were made with old sticks and Elmer’s glue.
What keeps these Marvel movies coming so fast, made by so many hands (yet retaining quality and consistency) and loved unequivocally?
While the DC movies are mired in defeat and disappointment, sludgy gray and full of gloomy brooding, this epic series is an unprecedented achievement in pop filmmaking.
Could it be the ever-so-simple concept that these Marvel characters are all endearingly human, a little broken, all missing something, and searching for it?
Then, perhaps because of their powers, which are sometimes a curse as well as a blessing, they can do something about it. They can help. They have hope, and that hope is contagious.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
Three and a half stars
Starring Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Michael Rooker, Bradley Cooper, Kurt Russell
Written and directed by James Gunn
Running time 2 hours, 18 minutes