The Guardians of the Galaxy reconvene for a new adventure. After a paid job protecting some valuable batteries for the Sovereign race goes awry, the Guardians are thrust into a high-octane caper that sees the group split to face their own challenges. They ultimately re-group with some new recruits to battle an all-powerful foe intent on destroying the universe.

‘Guardians’ Set the Bar

Guardians of the Galaxy burst onto screens and broke the mold. It surprised us all with its approach and paved the way for irreverent, comedy-focused comic book movies. Without Guardians of the Galaxy, we wouldn’t have had Ryan Reynolds passion project Deadpool, and Taika Waititi wouldn’t be about to thrill us all with his own brand of funny in Thor: Ragnarok.

As a result, there’s been huge anticipation for Vol. 2 – and it delivers. What other comic book film would kick off with a battle scene against a spectacular monster but keep the focus firmly on a dancing twig creature who only says “I am Groot”? Yes, that happens. And no, you won’t watch what’s going on in the background.

Chemistry and Characterization

Guardians 2 Drax
Drax gets his chance to shine in Guardians of the Galaxy 2

Film studios imagine that what audiences want in a sequel is the familiar – the stuff that appealed about the first – but on a bigger scale. So what we get in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is exactly that. But where many fail, getting the balance wrong or missing that elusive spark, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 succeeds. Mostly.

It’s bigger, louder and injects plenty of fun without ditching the main thing that grabbed audiences – the characterisation.

The chemistry between our heroes remains, and all get the opportunity to develop their characters significantly and deliver funnies against a story that’s jam-packed with action. Rocket, Drax, Star-Lord, Groot and more all get their moments. It’s a remarkable feat for director James Gunn.

But we challenge you to watch it and not feel like something’s not quite clicking. It boils down to the fact that first time around, Guardians felt fresh and subversive, sparking feelings akin to watching Star Wars for the first time.

It was groundbreaking – bold and new. And it’s extremely difficult to re-bottle that, especially when you’re sticking to a formula, as this sequel ostensibly is. In following a blueprint, the story feels a bit convoluted: they throw the kitchen sink at this film.

Intricately Plotted

Guardians of the Galaxy 2 Sovereigns
They're golden, and they're fierce, and they're very serious – they're the Sovereign people

The explosive opening kicks off a narrative revolving around the Sovereign people. What happens here leads into their pursuit of the Guardians. That’s one narrative strand. Meanwhile, Nebula is still very much at war with her sister, Gamora. On top of this, the insalubrious Ravagers – the interstellar band of thieves we met in the first film – have an axe to grind. For a while the story splits in two, with Ravager leader Yondu, Rocket and Groot thrown together.

Then there’s Peter Quill – aka Star-Lord – and his whole arc involving his father Ego; that’s right, Quill meets his real father in this film. Plus, there are quasi-romantic subplots featuring Drax and and a new character called Mantis, and also Quill and Gamora, picking up where the first film left off. And that’s before we’ve even delved into Yondu’s deeper story revolving around Sylvester Stallone’s character and how that branches off. Oh, and then there’s the not-so-small matter of all the Easter Eggs and cameos seeded throughout, too. Phew.

Suffice to say, there’s a lot to take in. As a result, its lengthy running time is justified – it helps to ensure the banter we love remains intact. We love the fact that they’ve even kept in a long scene where Baby Groot attempts to bring an incarcerated Yondu his prototype fin and keeps getting it wrong.

Laughter, Horror, Tension and Tears

Guardians 2
Director James Gunn injects tension into the film alongside the humour – including in this battle scene

Still, it’s a surprise when the film sags at times, in particular during the drawn-out final battle.

It’s an ambitious undertaking, though – Vol. 2 is also tasked with setting up the third film and embedding it firmly in the wider Marvel Cinematic Universe and does so admirably. There are more than a couple of surprises here to delight fans – make sure you stick around for the film’s five post-credits scenes.

Gunn has, on the whole, pulled off this follow-up. In some ways, he’s outdone himself. One liners and eccentricity abound but he also manipulates us like a pro, making us reel at the horror at times and hold our breath at the tension before tugging at the old heartstrings. All against the rousing strains of Awesome Mix Tape Vol. 2.

Is ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2’ Good?

Guardians of the Galaxy 2 Baby Groot
We're a bit in love with Baby Groot

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is a sequel that unavoidably lacks the freshness of the original and feels a touch overstuffed. But, crucially, it redeems itself with its attention to dialogue and humour as well as character development and performances alongside its ability to expertly manipulate our emotions. It takes us through the whole gamut of feels.

We forgive its formula-driven elements because it’s as heartbreaking as it is funny and it pays fan service. And, well, because Baby Groot.

‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2’ hits screens in the UK on April 28 and in the US on May 5.

Kim Taylor-Foster
Kim Taylor-Foster is Entertainment Editor for Fandom in the UK. She was raised on an unsteady diet of video nasties and violent action flicks.