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Movie review: ‘Guardians Vol. 2’ kicks off summer with a bang 

–Summer movie season is a time most people look forward to the most. It’s a time when we have blockbusters, comedies and a lot of big-budget flair to provide entertainment and refuge from long, hot summer days. And the season begins the first weekend in May.

That first summer season release carries with it the weight of expectation, getting the season started right. And for the past few years, Marvel has leapt in to take that position. Last summer, it was “Captain America: Civil War” that bowed the first Friday in May to kick-off the summer season. It was about a superhero team that fractured.

This year, Marvel offered us a superhero team that knows what it means to be family. “Guardians of the Galaxy,” which bowed late in the summer of 2014, was probably the biggest surprise of the Marvel Cinematic Universe so far. It was based on an obscure property, featured a classic rock soundtrack and asked people to invest in a Raccoon and a tree creature whose sole spoken response was “I Am Groot.”

But most of America fell hard for these rogues turned heros, and many now regard “Guardians” as the best of the MCU films. Three summers later, they’re back for a new adventure and, again, to prove they are the best in the MCU.

“Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2” picks up after the events of the first movie. After saving the universe, the Guardians are now heroes who are in high demand in the galaxy. The film opens with them taking a job protecting valuable batteries, which doesn’t go exactly according to plan.

Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki), leader of the Sovereign Race, is after the Guardians, and dispatches her army to destroy them. Before that happens, the mysterious Ego (Kurt Russell) intercedes. It soon becomes clear he has the answers Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) has been seeking about his parentage.

This leads Star-Lord and the rest of the Guardians, Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax (Dave Bautista), Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) and Baby Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel), into a new difficult adventure. Along the way, they have a chance to re-connect with Nebula (Karen Gillian) and Yondu (Michael Rooker) and, inevitably, have to save the galaxy once again.

Director James Gunn poured a lot of himself into bringing the “Guardians” to the big screen. He brought plenty of fun, personality and a kicking soundtrack to the film, all things that helped it connect with audiences. And then, of course, there were the characters that resonated with audiences.

In “Vol. 2,” all that is again at work. This time, the film is blessed with one incredibly magical element — Baby Groot. Due to the events of the first film, Groot is going through a development process, and the audience is the big winner. Baby Groot won hearts in the trailer, and the experience of him in the full film is 1,000 times better. That, too, is largely a credit to the talent and vision of Gunn, who serves as the writer and director on the film.

But Baby Groot is far from the only fun thing in the film. The sequel follows up and builds on the characters and world, further developing them and coalescing them into a team. But it never takes itself too seriously, and the film always remembers what made the first one such a success. That is a rare achievement for a sequel, particularly a franchise film.

After launching the first film in 2014 with hardly any expectations, this second film was burdened with the weight of enormous expectations. Yet it delivered. It was a fun, fantastic ride, and a perfect way to kick off the summer. The film promises the Guardians will return in its closing moments, and that should be music to all our ears.

“Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2” has been rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America for sequences of sci-fi action and violence, language, and brief suggestive content.

Four stars out of four.

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About the author: Columnist Matthew Fox

Matthew Fox is a graduate of Biola University's Radio, Television, and Film program. He is an avid film and TV fan, and writes about both on his blog, each week. He lives in Colorado Springs, CO with his wife, Lindsay, where he follows the second love of his life, the Denver Broncos.

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