Yep, time once again for another of my movie takes, this time on the film Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, the sequel to the hit Marvel Cinematic Universe film Guardians of the Galaxy.  As always, if you haven't seen the movie yet and you don't want it spoiled for you, then please step back from your computer or whatever electronic device you're reading this on and stop reading now.  If, however, you're wise enough to know that movie reviews with spoilers are always more interesting than the ones without them...well...get ready for something good, something bad, a bit of both...

Three years ago, Marvel Studios rolled the dice hard on a big-screen adaptation of their comic series Guardians of the Galaxy, which turned out to be one of the big hits of 2014 and brought in a nice little $773 million worldwide, with a reported budget of $170 million.  James Gunn, who co-wrote and directed the original movie, was contractually obligated to return if asked, and wrote and directed this film as well.  In addition to the new character Mantis, Gunn originally planned to introduce Adam Warlock, but ended up cutting him because he thought the film was "getting too busy."  A good call, in my opinion, because the film is still too busy without him.

Set in 2014 shortly after the events of the first film, the Guardians of the Galaxy are recruited by Ayesha, the leader of a bunch of gold aliens called the Sovereign, to protect valuable batteries from an inter-dimensional monster in exchange for Gamora's eternally pissed-off sister Nebula, who was caught trying to steal the batteries.  After Rocket steals some for himself, the Sovereign attacks the Guardians' ship with a fleet of drones that have remote controls that use classic '80s videogame sound effects. The drones are destroyed by a mysterious figure, but as a result of the attack, the Guardians are forced to crash-land on a nearby planet.  Said mysterious figure reveals himself to be Peter's father, Ego, who just happened to be looking for his long-lost son from Earth.  Ego invites Peter, Gamora and Drax to his home planet (or is that the planet's home?), while Rocket and Baby Groot stay behind to repair the ship and babysit Nebula.  Lucky them.

Ayesha, meanwhile, is really not happy that Rocket stole the batteries and hires Yondu Udonta and his crew, who were exiled from the Ravagers for child trafficking, to go after the Guardians.  They capture Rocket -- eventually -- but when Yondu is reluctant to turn over Peter, Yondu's second-in-command Taserface (Yes, that's right, Taserface) leads a mutiny with some help from Nebula.  Taserface imprisons Rocket and Yondu aboard Yondu's ship and shoves everyone loyal to Yondu out an airlock, while Nebula quickly bails to kill Gamora, whom she blames for all the horrible crap in her horrible cyborg life.

As if that's not enough to deal with, Ego explains to Peter, Gamora and Drax that he's a god-like Celestial, an eternal consciousness that formed a planet with itself at the core. Feeling lonely and because Tinder hadn't been invented yet, Ego created a human body to travel the universe and interact with other species, eventually meeting and falling in love with Peter's dead mom Meredith.  Ego hired Yondu to collect Peter as a boy after Meredith's death, but Yondu never delivered Peter and Ego has been searching for him ever since. And yes, it turns out that Peter has Celestial power, too.

See, I told you this film was too busy.

And just when Peter starts feeling happy about finally being able to play catch with his dad, Ego drops the bomb on Peter that while exploring the universe, he planted seedlings upon thousands of worlds that can terraform them into new extensions of himself, but they can only be activated by the combined power of two Celestials.  So in order to make another Celestial, he knocked up countless alien women and hired Yondu to collect the children, only to kill them all when they failed to show Celestial power.  Losing tons of "Father of the Year" votes by the second, Ego forces Peter to activate the seedlings, which begin to consume every world they're on.  And then, just when you think things can't go any worse, Ego kicks Peter right in the teeth by revealing that he deliberately caused Meredith's death because his love for her distracted him from his true purpose.  Oh, hell no.

The film heads into the Third Act, with Gunn cranking up his latest classic rock mix tape and throwing everything he can at the screen.  The reunited Guardians fight the Sovereign's drones in the skies above while trying to reach Ego's brain at the planet's core and detonate a bomb Rocket made out of the stolen batteries.  The bomb naturally explodes just in the nick of time, killing Ego and causing the planet to go all Krypton.  And to help Peter cope with all of his new daddy issues, Yondu sacrifices himself to save Peter, who realizes Yondu didn't deliver him to Ego because he was saving him from being killed like the other Ego Juniors.  Yondu was Quill's real "daddy" after all!  Awwwww!

And thankfully, the film's cast give some great performances with a lot of entertaining character moments. Here are some of the things that stood out:

STAR-LORD/PETER JASON QUILL -- In his second outing as Star-Lord, Chris Pratt gets some serious emotional character development.  He finally meets his father Ego, discovers he has superpowers, tries to figure out what the hell he and Gamora are to each other, learns Ego is a major space douche, loses said space douche father and his superpowers, realizes Yondu was his unofficial father all along, and then loses Yondu as well.  As a result, Peter isn't nearly as fun this time and the film suffers a little because of it. 

GAMORA -- Zoe Saldana gets sidelined for a good portion of the sequel, pretty much reduced to playing "Will they or won't they?" with Peter, except for working out her issues (sort of) with her adopted sister Nebula.  The sequence where Gamora picks up a BFG and just unloads on Nebula is a particular highlight that just makes you smile.

DRAX THE DESTROYER -- Dave Bautista, the surprising comedic weapon of the first film, returns as Drax and thankfully hasn't changed at all.  Well, he does get a romance of his own with Mantis, whom he keeps referring to as physically ugly despite having apparent feelings towards her.  But don't worry, Drax's greatest trick of laughing hard at really inappropriate moments is still there.

ROCKET -- With all these emotional humanoids, you'd think Bradley Cooper's Rocket wouldn't be affected, but nope, nope, nope, he also goes through the emotional wringer. After a great spotlight sequence where Rocket pretty much owns the Ravagers before he ends up captured, he realizes he and Yondu are pretty much Angry Jerk Bros, and is genuinely affected by Yondu's death.  

BABY GROOT -- Vin Diesel reprises the voice of Groot, although you'd never know it because after the events of the first film, Groot is now a cute little tree toddler fresh out of the flower pot.  Baby Groot is pretty much all kinds of adorbz throughout the film, and you find yourself feeling really bad for him when the Ravagers turn him into their mascot and treat him like crap.  In a fun mid-credits scene, Groot starts growing back to his normal adult size, exhibiting typical sulky teenage behavior in the process.

EGO, THE LIVING PLANET -- The always entertaining Kurt Russell is Ego, a planet-sized change from Peter's father in the comics, J'Son, the emperor of the planet Sparta.  I'm sure a lot of diehard Marvel Comics fans were concerned about Gunn making The Living Planet a human, but the explanations provided work nicely, and we do get to see the comic version when everything goes to hell in the third act.  And hey, how about those Kurt Russell de-aging special effects during the flashback scenes with Meredith?  I think we need a new Snake Plissken Escape movie, don't you?

MANTIS -- Ditching the whole Celestial Madonna thing from the comics (for now at least), Pom Klementieff is a bit of a scene-stealer as the empath Mantis.  Her social awkwardness makes for great pairing with Drax, although I wish she wasn't quite so na├»ve at times.  It's nice to see another female character join the team though, especially as a contrast to Gamora.

YONDU UDONTA -- Speaking of scene-stealing, Michael Rooker comes dangerously close to stealing the entire movie as Yondu.  Rooker's "good ol' boy" charm comes through once again as he shares some great moments with Pratt and Cooper, as well as going through his own character arc of having his command taken away by disloyal mutineers.  He also gets the best line of the movie, after Yondu rescues Peter with the help of a rocket pack and lowers him slowly to the ground, proudly proclaiming "I'm Mary Poppins, y'all!"

NEBULA -- Returning as the cyborg sourpuss Nebula, Karen Gillan gets some character development of her own with the strained relationship between her and Gamora as adoptive daughters of Thanos.  Her best moments, however, are when she becomes the sci-fi version of Burt Kwouk's Cato from the Pink Panther movies and just shows up out of nowhere to try and kill Gamora.  Their battle on Ego's planet is truly epic.

AYESHA -- Looking like a victim of James Bond villain Auric Goldfinger, Elizabeth Debicki portrays Ayesha as a high priestess and leader of the Sovereign people and spends most of the film trying to kill the Guardians because Rocket stole the Sovereign's valuable batteries. In a mid-credits scene, Ayesha creates a new artificial being in a familiar cocoon with whom she plans to destroy the Guardians, naming him Adam.  If you're a Marvel Comics fan, you should recognize "Adam" as none other Adam Warlock.   

STARHAWK/STAKAR OGORD CAMEOS -- Making a couple of "Hey, it's Sylvester Stallone!" cameos in the film, Sylvester Stallone's Starhawk is the guy who saved Yondu from years of slavery by the Kree.  He later appears in a mid-credits scene, where he's inspired by Yondu's sacrifice and reunites with his former team, the original Guardians of the Galaxy.

MARTINEX CAMEOS -- Michael Rosenbaum appears as the crystalline Martinex, here a member of Stakar's team of Ravagers, who visits Yondu along with his leader to remind him that he is in exile.  After Yondu sacrifices himself, Martinex is also moved to bring the rest of the original Guardians back together to honor him.

CHARLIE-27 AND ALETA CAMEOS -- Ving Rhames and Michelle Yeoh turn up in the mid-credits scene where Starhawk and Martinex reunite with Charlie-27 and Aleta in a great nod to the original Guardians of the Galaxy team from the comics.

HOWARD THE DUCK CAMEO -- Steve Gerber's creation returns with Seth Green's voice once again.  Howard is shown having a drink with his date in the Iron Lotus on Contraxia, where Yondu Udonta was exiled for breaking the Ravagers Code.  In the scene, he flirts with his date by saying "You're out of luck until you've got duck." 

OBLIGATORY STAN LEE CAMEO -- Stan "The Man" turns up in a great post-credits scene as an informant to the Watchers, discussing previous adventures that include Stan's cameos in other Marvel Cinematic Universe films. This is a great nod to the popular fan theory that Stan was actually one of the Watchers in his various cameo appearances.

All in all, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is a worthy sequel to the original, even though it's not quite as good.  James Gunn makes another fun summer movie with the morally dubious Guardians, once again filled with lots of old-school songs you never knew you liked, snappy one-liners, and a ton of sci-fi action goodness.  But if you thought this film had a lot going on, just imagine how crazy things are going to get when the Guardians turn up next in Avengers: Infinity War to help take on Thanos...

And for those who may be wondering, here's the updated list of my Top 20 Comic Book Films:

1. Superman (1978)
2. The Dark Knight (2008)

3. The Avengers (2012)
4. Batman Begins (2005)
5. Logan (2017)
6. Captain America: Civil War (2016)
7. Man of Steel (2013)
8. Doctor Strange (2016)
9. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
10. Spider-Man 2 (2004)
11. Spider-Man (2002)

12. Iron Man (2008)
13. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
14. Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
15. Watchmen (2009)
16. Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
17. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)
18. X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)
19. X-Men: First Class (2011)
20. Deadpool (2016)