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‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2’ keeps the Marvel franchise fresh

Chris Pratt boogie dances “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 ” to relevance.

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Rocket is voiced by Bradley Cooper, in the film, “Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2.”

Rocket is voiced by Bradley Cooper, in the film, “Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2.”

Marvel Studios

Marvel Studios

Rocket is voiced by Bradley Cooper, in the film, “Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2.”

Ross Siev, Contributing Writer

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There is usually some heart in Marvel films due to their similarities in tonal and story structure, but “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2,” injects that heart with a “Pulp Fiction” size needle of adrenaline.

Comic book films are becoming like stale bread at this point. Recent films like, “X-Men: Apocalypse” and “Suicide Squad” could only do so much before retreading similar superhero tropes. But, “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” manages to keep the Marvel film brand fresh.

Chris Pratt’s Star-Lord and his ragtag, quippy alien crew are back in another adventure where they stay true to their title by saving the galaxy, again. But the typical “end of the world” consequence doesn’t downgrade the film. In fact, the sequel improves upon the previous film’s plot, where it was the Infinity Stone that brought them all together. Their unifying bond has been replaced with character arcs and strange new areas to discover. Although the major plot focuses on Star-Lord and his cosmic long-lost father Ego the Living Planet (Kurt Russell) reuniting, the core focus is on the original team and their melodrama.

Returning to the ship Milano is the hardened but ever-so goofy Drax (Dave Bautista), emotionally-distant assassin Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and pint-sized Groot (Vin Diesel). Each have a role to play in both a dramatic and hilarious fashion. Rocket (Bradley Cooper) also makes a comeback, providing drama and driving a wedge in the crew. This seems to be a reoccurring cliche seen in almost every team-related comic book film that devolves into the predictable outcome of reunifying.

Marvel films seem to be changing their formula from the generic, action-heavy plot, to stories of a well developed hero, and their personal struggle against a villain. “Captain America: Civil War” and “Thor: Ragnarok” were improvements to their prospective series’, with “Civil War” focusing on personal struggles and “Ragnarok” finally making a Thor film look exciting.

“Volume 2” is everything fans of the previous film could hope for, but with more touches of comedy from the literally colorful cast of characters. Both returning stars and smaller, side characters all get their moments to shine and have their own side stories that make you end up rooting for them. Unlike villains seen in past films like, “Doctor Strange,” “Ant-Man,” “Avengers: Age of Ultron” and “Thor: The Dark World,” the character has some development that provides a worthwhile threat to the heroes.

What helps to deviate “Volume 2” from being another mind-numbing sci-fi adventure is the goofy sci-fi weirdness that director James Gunn and the special effects wizards bring back to the table. Aliens are just the tip of the iceberg as more worlds and their societies are explored. It doesn’t help that a lot of the environments are clearly CGI, but I enjoyed the larger-than-life planets that give the characters and audience an urge for exploration.

Gunn is also no stranger to underlying the more dramatic moments with bursts of comedy, which he has done in previous works like “Super” and “Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed.” For “Volume 2,” the jokes come in almost every minute, so often that I later ended up expecting a joke to arrive after heavily dramatic moments.

On top of the comedic element, what makes this film great is the campy atmosphere, rockin’ ‘80s soundtrack and spectacular visuals. Gunn crafted another world worth exploring for its many inhabitants and inevitable dangers.

Some of the target audience might miss the bombastic ‘80s references ranging from “Cheers” to David Hasselhoff, but the inclusion of the inherent silliness helps to craft “Volume 2” as its own character, separate from any other comic book film.

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