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Violence, carnage all in fun in 'Guardians' sequel

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INSCRUTABLE ALIEN  Vin Diesel provides the voice for adorable twig with limited vocabulary.
  • INSCRUTABLE ALIEN Vin Diesel provides the voice for adorable twig with limited vocabulary.

The summer blockbuster season starts with a bang. Our heroes in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 are pursued by the Sovereign, a gilded, genetically engineered race of stuck-ups with a lot of money for bounty hunters. Thanks to the light fingers of the thieving yet endearing Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper), the gang is chased by a sky full of drones operated by the golden aristos with arcade-like video game controls and vintage sound effects.

Rescue comes from an omnipotent old hippie named Ego (Kurt Russell), a self-declared "small-g god." This omnipotent beardo is the real father of "Star-Lord" Peter Quill (Chris Pratt). Ego owns a planet that looks like million-dollar van-art, with orderly little creeks and fountains. But even with his newly gotten brawn, Pratt has to do more heavy lifting as an actor than he can sometimes handle.

The dad-and-son bonding is interspersed with the continuing quarrel between space-princess Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and her evil sister, Nebula (Karen Gillan), an iridescent creature with an enameled head. As played by the improbably gigantic Dave Bautista, Drax is the funniest interstellar muscle since Adam Baldwin in Serenity. He gets the best comeback in a movie full of them when he answers Quill's scoff "You sound like an old woman" with "Because I'm wise?" Baby Groot, the simple little sprout, is fairly adorable as he's coached through the process of planting an atom bomb.

The sequel shares the first Guardian's taste for impalement, with a series of closeup reaction shots of the transfixed, as when blue-bruiser Yondu (Michael Rooker) launches a fire arrow that leaves glowing tracers as it speeds through the chests of a small army of men. Even when the victims are murderous space pirates who deserve it, there's an unsettling amount of barbaric glee in these movies. To enjoy them, you have to accept their argument that it's not about violence—it's all about fireworks. Ah, summer.

'Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2' is playing in wide release in the North Bay.

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