Nebula, Gamora, Star-Lord/Peter Quill, Groo, Rocket and Drax. Image Credit: Marvel Studios 2017

The opening sequence of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 is an enormous action set-piece that involves the returning team from the original film fighting a giant space octopus, set to the tune of Electric Light Orchestra’s Mr. Blue Sky. And while the sequence itself is massive, probably more expensive to make than an entire indie film, almost everything and everyone is relegated to the background, letting Baby Groot take centre stage.

Wide-eyed curiosity meets mind-crushing levels of cute in the miniature “twig”, who ignores the life-threatening battle taking place around him and the ego-bashing and constant bickering among his still-new teammates, to take some time out to shake his booty. It’s everything you ever dreamt of for a Guardians of the Galaxy sequel and more, and it sets the tone for the rest of the movie: irreverent and extremely silly, but also the coming together of a fledgling superhero team that’s trying to find its purpose.

The film begins soon after the events of the first Guardians film: Star-Lord/Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax (Dave Bautista), Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) and Baby Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) are now defenders of the galaxy, traipsing around space, taking on missions and killing monsters on-the-go.

While most of the movie deals with Quill’s reunion with his absentee father, Ego (Kurt Russell, Disney’s prodigal child), who is the humanoid embodiment of a full-sized planet; the rest is a deep exploration of the relationships and conflict resolution between some of its main characters, mainly Gamora and her half-sister, Nebula (Karen Gillan), and Rocket and Yondu (Michael Rooker). While this considerably slows down the pace of the movie, it also allows the actors to show off their acting chops, especially for Gillan and Rooker, who get their much-deserved screen time in this sequel. We’re also introduced to Mantis, a mysterious new character played by Pom Klementieff, who plays Ego’s secretary of sorts and acts as an emotional foil to Ego’s grand scheme of things.

What really separates Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 from its successor and the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is its willingness to push boundaries and director James Gunn’s ultimately brave decision to take the film to territory that is pure, zany fun, almost uncomfortably so. Punchlines find their way into the most sombre of moments, but the wild humour, while mostly irreverent and off-the-cuff, also manages to reveal deep truths and elevate tense spaces.

Visually, the film screams colour and extravagance. Every shot is dipped in galaxy yum-ness and techno-neons, almost as if the reins were handed over to a sugar-high five-year-old. It’s the kind of sensory overload even Doctor Strange couldn’t manage with its mind-bending shots of dimension-hopping palettes.

The biggest surprise is the uncharacteristic redemption of characters previously thought nonredeemable. We will not mention names here, so as to not ruin the biggest emotional pay-off which comes right towards the end of the film, a treat both intensely moving and a feast for the eyes. Also, watch out for interesting cameos by characters from ancient Guardians lore: thorough fan service and something only a Guardians movie could pull off, given its tendency to explore parts of the MCU other Marvel movies would be afraid to touch, afraid of alienating new Marvel fans.

Where the film slips is in keeping up with juggling all the parallel storylines. While Star-Lord takes up considerable screen time, the others jostle to resolve their respective situations, resulting in rushed moments. Gamora and Nebula, the half-sisters, equally tormented by their ruthless father Thanos, are victims of this problem.

What Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 ultimately is all about is family and the central human yearning to find its tribe. And while other superheroes may be busy saving the world and smashing buildings and entire planets to the ground, the guardians are just trying to find themselves and where they belong, saving the world along the way. And if you think about it, aren’t we all?

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Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 releases in the UAE on May 4.