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Guardians of the Galaxy return is even more fun than the first

Brimming with the missing element of so many other big superhero movies — joy — Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2 is as wild and woolly as we could have hoped.

Michael Rooker (on left), Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana and Bradley Cooper star in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, which is about a group of heroes hired by a race of aliens to protect valuable batteries from an inter-dimensional monster.

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Michael Rooker (on left), Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana and Bradley Cooper star in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, which is about a group of heroes hired by a race of aliens to protect valuable batteries from an inter-dimensional monster.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 opens with a battle scene that would not be out of place in almost any other superhero movie.

The set-up has the Guardians — Peter Quill /Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista) and Rocket (Bradley Cooper) — working for the Sovereigns, a thin-skinned race of aliens who have hired the heroes to protect valuable batteries from an inter-dimensional monster.

The action is as wild and woolly as we’ve come to expect from these big CGI extravaganzas, but the thing that sets the scene apart from all other superhero movies is the sheer, unbridled joy brought to the screen by Baby Groot (Vin Diesel), a tree-like being too small to take part in the fight. Instead he blissfully dances throughout to Mr. Blue Sky, the lush, Beatles-esque ELO song that underscores the sequence.

The scene and the movie brim with the missing element of so many other big superhero movies — fun.

“That’s what we hoped to do,” says star Michael Rooker, “bring back the fun. It was fun as hell doing it.”

Rooker reprises his role as blue-skinned, red-finned mercenary Yondu. The former Walking Dead actor — he played Daryl’s older brother Merle Dixon — jokes that his normal look, his handsomely craggy face, is actually make-up, and the Blue Man Group style we see in the movie is the face he was born with. “It takes four or five hours to get this on,” he says, pulling at his cheek. “The real problem is getting the fin off.”

Yondu’s weapon of choice is a flying arrow made of special sound-sensitive metal he controls through whistling.

“Dude,” he says, “everyone is digging that weapon.” It’s the character’s trademark and Rooker laughs when remembering talking to director James Gunn about the role. “Man, I was glad I was able to whistle.”

“The first time I got to whistle I did the melodic whistle... I hypnotized one of the aliens and then I shot out a piercing whistle. Yondu has different whistles.”

One wild action sequence with Yondu’s deadly arrow and set to ’70s pop ditty Come a Little Bit Closer is a showstopper, an imaginatively staged set piece with a huge body count and just as many laughs.

“That whole sequence is very much like a western gun fight if you think about it,” Rooker says. “You go out, and jacket pulled back, methodical, not fast. It is a total tribute.”

In the scene he is accompanied by two computer-generated characters, Baby Groot and Rocket, a genetically engineered raccoon-based bounty hunter. Neither actually appeared on set while shooting, but Rooker says they were there in spirit. 

“Because these movies use a lot of CGI they require your imagination to be fertile and open and ripe for seeding,” he says. “I’m like, ‘There is Baby Groot. He’s over there and he’s sopping wet...What have they done to him?’ I talk to them like they were any other two characters.”

Yondu may be a vicious, arrow-wielding mercenary but he’s also the film’s emotional core and James Gunn says people will be “surprised by Michael Rooker’s performance. He deserves an Academy Award nomination. No joke.”

What does Rooker think? “We’ll see about that bro. I’m up for anything.”

Richard Crouse's weekend ratings
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 — 4 stars
Jeremiah Tower: The Last Magnificent — 4 stars
First Round Down — 3 stars
I, Daniel Blake — 3 stars

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