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The Guardians of the Galaxy – Peter “Starlord” Quill (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista), Rocket (Bradley Cooper), and Baby Groot (Vin Diesel) – have been hired by the Sovereign race, led by Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki), to protect valuable batteries from an inter-dimensional monster in exchange for Gamora’s sister Nebula (Karen Gillan), whom the Guardians plan to turn in for bounty. However, Rocket ends up stealing the batteries, resulting in the Sovereign fleet pursuing the Guardians. They are saved during the attack by the celestial being Ego (Kurt Russell), who turns out to be Peter’s father. Peter, Gamora, and Drax accompany Ego and his empathic companion Mantis (Pom Klementieff) to his home, while Rocket and Baby Groot stay behind to fix their crash-landed ship. Meanwhile, Ayesha has hired Yondu Udonta (Michael Rooker) and his Ravager crew to capture the Guardians.

While it was originally questionable why Marvel Studios would make a film adaptation of the then-unknown property, 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy ended up standing out among the films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, thanks in no small part to the contributions by writer/director James Gunn. Gunn returns to helm Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, which doesn’t really mess with the formula that made first film so enjoyable. In fact, the film begins by referencing one of the standout moments of the first film, as Baby Groot is dancing to Electric Light Orchestra’s song “Mr Blue Sky” during the opening credits, as the Guardians are fighting a large CGI monster in the background.

The main thematic crux of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 involves Peter Quill finally being united with his father Ego, an incredibly powerful celestial entity, who created an entire living planet with his life force. While Peter is happy to finally be spending time with his father, Gamora becomes increasingly suspicious of Ego’s intentions, especially after the fear she notices Mantis express. Peter’s relationship with Ego is contrasted with that of his surrogate father Yondu, who receives a much expanded role this time around, including one hell of an action sequence involving his lethal arrow. The themes of family in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 are also present in the very conflicted love-hate relationship between Gamora and her estranged sister Nebula, with the latter being more an anti-hero than villain this time around.

As is usually the case for sequels, there is slightly greater emphasis on action in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. However, the film is retains its tongue-in-cheek charm, with its surprise cameos and pop culture references. While still relatively separated from the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, though that is set to change in Avengers: Infinity WarGuardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 does to seem to plant the seeds for the future as Sylvester Stallone makes a very brief appearance as, Yondu’s fellow Ravager, Stakar “Starhawk” Ogord, who seems to be a leader of another Guardians-like team, featuring uncredited cameos by a few familiar faces.

Of course, no discussion of Guardians of the Galaxy would not be complete without including the soundtrack, which is made up by a whole new mixtape of 1970s classics, including songs by  Fleetwood Mac, George Harrison,  Looking Glass, Cheap Trick, and Cat Stevens. On one final note, make sure to sit through the entire, yet pretty well designed, end credits, since there is a near-ridiculous five stingers.