Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2 is, of course, the sequel to Guardians of the Galaxy, starring Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautisa, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Karen Gillan, Michael Rooker, Pom Klementieff, Kurt Russell, and Elizabeth Debicki. And that's not even touching on the host of secondary characters.
So: Some time after the Guardians save the galaxy from Ronan, they're taking odd jobs and wind up crash-landing on a planet after pissing off the Sovereign, the high priestess of which (Debicki) takes shit like Rocket (Cooper) stealing their batteries very seriously. They then meet a celestial being called Ego (Russell) who turns out to be the father of Peter Quill (Pratt), and wants to show him how to manipulate the power cosmic (so that they can infect the universe together, but Ego doesn't lead with that information).
Meanwhile, Gamora (Saldana) runs afoul of her adopted sister Nebula (Gillan), who betrays the Guardians to Yondu (Rooker), the leader of the Ravagers, and everything kinda turns upside-down. Eventually Yondu kills the rest of the Ravagers following a mutiny (with the exception of Kraglin (Sean Gunn), who started said mutiny but has a change of heart), and assists the Guardians and Nebula in killing Ego before he can destroy the universe.
So, I know that most of that gibberish if you don't know the characters, but that's actually good - this movie builds on the first movie and you can see growth and movement in the characters. Groot (Diesel) is a literal child in this movie, impulsive and reckless and emotional, but the others treat him like one and all act as caregivers. Rocket in particular is willing to give himself up to save Groot; when the Ravagers capture him that's his only request. Drax (Bautisa) is still pretty awkward by human communication standards, but he's obviously learning about figurative language and other such concepts. Gamora and Peter are dealing with a mutual attraction, but Peter isn't creepy about it.
And then there's Yondu, holy shit. Spoiler alert: Yondu sacrifices himself to save Peter at the end, because he realizes that he thinks of himself as Peter's real father, even if Ego was his biological father. It's literally the first time in the MCU that a heroic death has meant anything (Coulson in Avengers came close, but then they had to bring him back for the show and it got weird; Groot in the first Guardians was good in-universe, but we watching the movie knew he wasn't going anywhere).
This movie is full of real emotional moments; two of my favorites are: Mantis (Klementieff) touching Drax while the latter is thinking about his family so that we get to see Drax' grief and love through Mantis, even if Drax is far too repressed to show it. And then Quill telling Yondu, "hell, yeah, he's cool" after telling Yondu he looks like Mary Poppins - it's meant as a joke at first, but then becomes a nod of respect and lover for his father.
I'm not saying the movie is perfect (the banter between Drax and Mantis never quite works for me), but in general I think this is a great sequel - it doesn't insult us by redefining characters and it introduces some new characters into the mix, but doesn't overdo it.
My Grade: A
Rewatch value: High
Next up: Heat