– by David Kozlowski

Director James Gunn has set high expectations for Marvel’s upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 film. The sequel expands upon the backgrounds of its main characters, while also fleshing out its cast with major new additions, including Kurt Russell’s Ego the Living Planet, Pom Klementieff’s Mantis, and an as-yet-unkown role by legendary actor Sylvester Stallone. One of the major successes in the original Guardians of the Galaxy was the pure joy and energy exhibited by its ensemble cast, yet there wasn’t a lot of depth to these characterizations, which Gunn intends to remedy in the sequel. The inclusion of such heavyweight actors like Russell and Stallone probably warrants a bit more breathing room too, just to ensure that everyone has their moment.

Today we learned from Australia’s Event Cinemas, which debuts the film a week ahead of North America, that the expanded roster and deeper plot will push the film’s running time to 2 hours 17 minutes, which is sixteen more than its predecessor. 

Why is this significant? These days, a typical Hollywood film usually runs about 90 minutes, which helps theater owners schedule one or two extra screenings per day. The downside of longer runtimes — particularly when its a major release — is that multiplex venues will often cannibalize additional screens to maximize audience and revenue, which is obviously bad for any other film trying to compete or just hoping to hang around for one more weekend. With the increasing blockbuster competition, most films are seeing shorter theater runs of just a few weeks, so every additional screen and showing is crucial. 

So, what accounts for this longer runtime and why should you be excited? In a recent interview with ScreenCrush Gunn explained how he intended to differentiate and expand the story in the sequel:

“The first film is about becoming a family, the second film is about being a family. But I also think I had more science-fiction concepts around Quill and his relationship to his father, that’s a little bit of a bigger idea. I felt extremely freed by not having to set up so many major characters in 20 minutes like I did in the first movie, which was by far the biggest pain in the ass.”

Early box office estimates for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 are expected to shatter records. Marvel’s marketing campaign, which has so far included an avalanche of teasers, trailers, posters, and interviews, has driven expectations through the roof. All of these promotional materials suggest that Marvel is wisely doubling-down on the sense of fun and adventure so successfully demonstrated in the first movie, while also pushing their chips to the center with a bigger cast and a more emotional storyline.  

I can’t imagine any other film this year having nearly as much hype or more outrageous expectations than Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, and all indications are that Gunn and his amazing cast are set to deliver.

In case you missed it, here’s the official synopsis:

Set to the backdrop of Awesome Mixtape #2, Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 continues the team’s adventures as they traverse the outer reaches of the cosmos. The Guardians must fight to keep their newfound family together as they unravel the mysteries of Peter Quill’s true parentage. Old foes become new allies and fan-favorite characters from the classic comics will come to our heroes’ aid as the Marvel cinematic universe continues to expand.

What do you think? Are you excited for a longer, expanded Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2? Let us know in the comments down below!

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 hits theaters on May 5, 2017.

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SOURCE: Event Cinemas, ScreenCrush

David Kozlowski is a writer, podcaster, and visual artist. A U.S. Army veteran, David worked 20 years in the videogame industry and is a graduate of Arizona State University's Film and Media Studies.