Note: this post does not contain spoilers.
Get your tickets to see Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2 here.
James Gunn's Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2 comes real close to feeling overstuffed. It's a little shaggier than its predecessor, a little more indulgent. But it's also funnier and more emotional, with more characters, more elaborate set pieces and more Gunn-perfect needle drops. It might be borderline overstuffed, but it's borderline overstuffed with greatness.
My suspicion is that most people will spend their weekend chattering about how great Kurt Russell is in Gunn's film, and this chatter won't be wrong: Russell, who plays Ego The Living Planet, absolutely crushes the role, and he surely deserves every bit of praise that's headed his way. Of course he does. It's Kurt Russell.
But for my money, the film's MVP isn't Russell, or charming newcomer Pom Klementieff (who plays Mantis), or even Dave Bautista (whose Drax gets turned all the way up to eleven in this sequel), but the perpetually-reliable, always-welcome Michael Rooker, whose Yondu ends up being the beating heart of the entire film.
Yondu was something of a fierce doofus when we met him in 2014's Guardians Of The Galaxy, a space pirate whose snarling threats were matched only by his ability to be outwitted. He was a mildly threatening foil for Chris Pratt's Star Lord, and when he got clowned yet again in that film's closing moments, it seemed a safe bet that he'd serve pretty much the same function in Gunn's sequel. Yeah, not so much!
Michael Rooker has long been one of our most reliable character actors, but the performance he gives in Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2 feels like one of his all-time best. Without getting into spoiler territory (we'll have an all-spoilers discussion thread up for you sometime later today; until then, let's be respectful of our fellow moviegoers and keep this movie's secrets, huh?), the Yondu of Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2 is less of a cartoon than he was last time around. We learn more about where he came from, what kind of upbringing he provided for Peter Quill/Star Lord, what drives him now...Rooker sells every moment of it, building masterfully on the performance he gave in the first Guardians.
Indeed, over the course of this one movie, Yondu became one of my favorite characters in the entire MCU. As portrayed by Rooker, he's a classic Gunn character, his moral alignment refreshingly ambiguous in a genre not known for its grey areas. When the trailers seemed to indicate that Yondu would be joining the Guardians, my concern was that they'd shave down Yondu's villainous side, neuter him into nothing more than a doofus with a really cool weapon in order to get him on the team. It's not as simple as that, and I ended up as delighted by the complexity of Yondu's Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2 arch as I was with the way Rooker played it.
There's a lot to discuss about Yondu in relation to Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2 - much of it, as I mentioned before, very spoilery and to be addressed at a later date - but for those of you headed out to see Gunn's film this weekend: pay special attention to Michael Rooker's performance while you're watching this movie, and be sure to include him after the fact, when you're on social media ranting and raving about what a good time you had in the theater. Michael Rooker is a national treasure, this is his big moment to shine, and we should all be taking note of that.
Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2 is in theaters now. Get your tickets here.