Marvel's favorite motley crew of reformed outlaws is back for another space adventure full of classic tunes, epic battles, and charming comedy. While it isn't quite as awesome as the original, that doesn't mean Vol. 2 isn't good. Set to the soundtrack of Meredith Quill's Awesome Mix Tape #2, which she bequeathed to her beloved young Peter, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 moves the group's story forward -- primarily for the orphaned Star Lord, who's always wondered exactly who his Star Man dad was and why he left him and his mother behind on Earth. Russell is an ideal pick to play Ego, the celestial god (lowercase "g") who hired Yondu to bring his son to him 26 years earlier. Without getting into specifics, this father-son dynamic, in classic Marvel origin-story style, is the driving force behind the tension and action in the second half of the movie. It just isn't quite as interesting or funny or as the original's "assembling the Guardians" storyline. Father issues, of course, run rampant in superhero worlds, and the Guardians are no exception, whether they're missing the lack of one, bemoaning an evil one, or, in the case of Drax, mourning the father he used to be before his family was killed.
Speaking of fathers -- biological or otherwise -- Yondu, played by Rooker, is a standout supporting character in this installment. He and his magical arrow (and his straight-talking wisdom) are a highlight of the action and the dialogue. Yondu and Rocket enjoy a couple of meaningful conversations that depict their growth in a surprisingly touching way. Saldana and Pratt continue to exchange lingering looks as Peter and Gamora, but there's not a whole lot of romantic development, given that so many higher stakes are at play around them at nearly all times. This sequel passes the Bechdel Test thanks both to Gamora and Nebula's exchanges as sisters dealing with their abusive upbringing at the hands of evil Thanos and to new supporting player Mantis, even though most of her scenes are with Drax (who finds her laudably "hideous" and "repulsive," but in a "good way"). It almost goes without saying that Baby Groot steals the show with his big eyes and sweet demeanor. Even the Ravagers consider him "too adorable to kill." And then there's the music, which is once again a finely crafted compilation of '60s and '70s classics, with Fleetwood Mac's "The Chain" and Looking Glass' "Brandy" being the most memorable. But there's plenty more awesomeness to enjoy.