They say you can’t choose your family, but that’s not the case with the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s most loveable team.
No, not Avengers A-leaguers Iron Man, Captain America and Spider-Man, but rather the intergalactic heroes-for-hire of dubious moral standing but excellent music taste, the Guardians of the Galaxy.
Blasting onto cinema screens in 2014, writer/director James Gunn’s brilliantly bizarre space opera dialled up the Marvel movies’ welcome sense of humour.
Unlike the sombre approach of DC’s Man of Steel or Batman vs Superman, it channelled the psychedelic silliness of Saturday matinee sci-fi movies like Flash Gordon but with way better special effects.
Parks and Recreation star Chris Pratt brought his loveable goofball charm to Peter Quill/Star-Lord, abducted from Earth by aliens as a kid in the 1980s with his beloved Walkman along for the ride.
There was obvious unspoken chemistry with green-skinned mercenary Gamora, played by Stark Trek’s Zoe Saldana, the adopted daughter of the Marvel Universe’s long-teased big bad Thanos.
Former wrestler Dave Bautista’s hulking alien warlord Drax joined Vin Diesel’s walking tree Groot and an unrecognisable Bradley Cooper stole the show as tetchy gun-totting talking racoon Rocket.
Packing dad jokes galore and kooky camaraderie, these comic book C-listers were suddenly everyone’s favourites, earning almost $800 million on a production budget of $170 million.
The great news is, Gunn’s sequel Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 builds on that all-for-one charm with even weirder new recruits and an emotional stealth weapon.
Answering one of the first film’s major mysteries, Kurt Russell climbs aboard as Peter’s unusual father Ego. An ancient alien creature who drifted through space for eons before willing an entire planet into being, built from his own DNA, as the name suggests, he has big notes on himself.
Russell relishes this smarmy father figure role and there’s real emotional weight when he teaches Peter how to channel the planet’s power while playing catch.
Canadian Pom Klementieff is also heaps of fun as Ego’s sidekick Mantis, an insect antenna empath who can read emotions by touching someone’s’ skin, thereby busting Peter’s crush on Gamora.
Their will-they-won’t-they romance allows for a wonderfully meta running joke. “I don’t know what Cheers is,” blurts an exasperated Gamora, referring to the bar-set American sitcom’s Sam and Diane storyline as she and Peter knock heads over the trustworthiness of his suddenly back-on-the-scene daddy.
Romance is also played to comic effect by Drax’s unwitting crush on Mantis, resulting in hilariously appalling pick-up lines. The epic sibling rivalry between Gamora and former Doctor Who star Karen Gillan’s villainous Nebula expands the fractious family, as does the interplay between Peter and his former guardian, the Fagin-like Yondu (Michael Rooker).
With the deliriously daft shenanigans kicked off by Rocket stealing from Australian actress Elizabeth Debicki’s golden-skinned and stuck-up alien queen Ayesha, the plot really isn’t the point.
By the final-act showdown with a much larger threat, you may find yourself inadvertently tearing up. Family can be tough, but then, love usually is.