Marvel Studios

The summer movie season is officially here with a bang in the much-anticipated sequel “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.”  The first installment, “Guardians of the Galaxy” (2014), is easily one of the highlights of the Marvel cinematic universe and for good reason. The first film’s wild premise, exciting action, memorable characters and witty humor made it a solid standout in the superhero movie genre. Would the sequel be able to live up to the same level of charisma and charm as the first while still expanding these characters?

Featuring the same central characters from the first film, Peter Quill, Gamora, Drax, Rocket and baby Groot, the sequel finds the rag-tag team in trouble after Rocket steals some valuable items from a city they were supposed to protect. As they attempt to escape, the group find themselves on an unusual planet that turns out to be the home of Peter’s long-lost dad, Ego (Kurt Russell). While Peter begins to bond more with his father, unaware of his sinister intentions, more trouble brews as Yondu (Michael Rooker) and his men are ordered to capture the Guardians for their crimes.

What easily makes this movie stand out from the first is the treatment of its characters. Just about every character is given their time to shine, both comedically and dramatically in order to give them some development.

Peter is probably given the most attention with him becoming aware of his father’s existence and then questioning his father’s morals.Thanks in part to the great performances of both Chris Pratt and Kurt Russell the scenes shared between them have a lot of weight, and there is good balance of comedy and emotion.

Not only do the main characters get developed further, but so do two of the supporting characters who didn’t get as much focus in the first film, Yondu and Nebula. Yondu is given the most time, as we get a deeper look into his humanity, while more of Nebula’s backstory is explained. As such, Nebula’s character becomes more sympathetic and provides a more interesting relationship between her and Gamora.

James Gunn’s direction is another strong point of the film. The entire film gives the feeling that the director and the entire cast are having fun. Odd scenes, quirky pieces of dialogue and strange visuals are littered throughout the film, much like its predecessor, but now they are cranked up to the max and add to the film’s overall charm. Additionally, the humor is still very effective, the action is fun to watch and the ideas of these worlds and the logic behind them remain wildly creative.

The film, however, does come with setbacks that may put off some viewers. The main issue some find is that while the first film was straightforward in its plot, the narrative here is much more complicated and may have too much going on. Certain subplots, characters and events get shuffled around to the point that some are mostly forgotten and altogether cause the film to lose the snappy pacing of the first film. The tone is also perhaps too loose and relaxed under Gunn’s direction.

Despite this, “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” is still a worthy entry into the Marvel cinematic universe with its developed characters, quirky style, exciting action and gut-busting humor.