'Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2' review: Action-packed movie has a beating heart

WATCH: 'Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2' trailer

Perhaps as a result of the chaotic world we’re in, there seems to be a running theme in recent movies: one of family, togetherness, and bonding together in the face of adversity. Sure, we’ve seen the group-of-misfits-banding-up-against-a-common-foe formula before (even in the first Guardians of the Galaxy), but there’s something more to the recent spate of “family-themed” films.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is as feel-good as they come, with some scenes bordering on schmaltz. As with last month’s The Fate of the Furious, which featured many instances of family togetherness and coming together, GOTG 2 is more of the same, except this time around we’re dealing with a wisecracking, mutant raccoon and a super-powerful baby tree (sapling?).

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Even the main plot centres on family: Peter (Chris Pratt) is suddenly preoccupied with his mother, who died of a brain tumour, and spends the first part of the film trying to come to terms with the father who abandoned him. Gamora (Zoe Saldana) is also dealing with her sister, Nebula (Karen Gillan), who’s along for this ride. Surprisingly, one of the most stand-out characters of this movie is Michael Rooker’s Yondu, who’s more than just a whistling arrow this time around.

Is there are lot of space battling?

There are spurts of battling, placed strategically between scenes of deep dialogue and emotional exposition. In this writer’s opinion, there’s more of the latter and not quite enough of the former, but it seems to be the filmmaker’s prerogative to pluck our heartstrings, so hey, if that’s what he’s after. That’s not to say there aren’t several kick-ass fights and battles, and if seen in IMAX, the special effects are amazing.

As with many other modern-day superhero films, the good guys can take an inordinate amount of physical punishment from enemies at least 100 times their size without being killed, but we’re meant to suspend disbelief. It’s not that hard to do since the entire movie takes place in space and on foreign planets. Still, there is no real fear of any of the main characters dying on us, and that robs the movie of any suspense.

The “villains” of the movie deserve special recognition, just because they’re such great villains. The Sovereign, led by Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki), are a gold-skinned people, obsessed with themselves and genetically engineered to be perfect. Ayesha and her people steal whatever scenes they’re in, which is refreshing since the majority of superhero antagonists are often toothless and dull.

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Of course, the music must be great. Right?

As with the first movie, yes, GOTG 2 features some pretty great tunes. Special shout-out to Cat Stevens’ Father and Son, which plays in its entirety towards the end of the film. (It’s always a trip to think about the young ‘uns who’ve never heard some of these classic rock/folk rock songs before.) For adults, the music definitely adds to the experience, though the GOTG franchise is probably the most adult-friendly superhero one out there.

You mention “schmaltz.” What do you mean by that?

The last quarter of the film is almost completely devoted to tying up the loose ends of the film’s emotional stories, so in a sequence of scenes we bear witness to multiple reunions, goodbyes and making of amends. You can almost feel the checking off of boxes. (This story wrapped up? Yep! These enemies bury the hatchet? Sure thing!) At times it feels like a purposeful onslaught, meant to make you cry. Most of the scenes are still poignant, but the schmaltz factor is definitely turned up in this sequel.

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Groot?

Groot. Groot Groot Groot.

So what’s the bottom line?

This is an enjoyable, jam-packed action film, the perfect movie to start off the summer. A killer soundtrack, a stellar cast and an overall fun vibe will make this a favourite for both kids and parents. Also, Groot makes the film worth seeing — the little guy certainly wins the cute game (and makes us wish that we could communicate with trees, too).

‘Guardians of the Galaxy 2’ is now playing in theatres.

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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