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With the surprise success of 2014's Guardians Of The Galaxy at the box-office, Marvel quickly confirmed a sequel and fans were overjoyed. A bit of a dark horse in that it felt like a possible one-off flop on paper before its release, the charm of the characters and the colourful galactic setting made these Guardians such a likeable bunch that seeing more of them was kind of a must.

And so here we have Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2, which continues the heroes-for-hire's ongoing adventures, without worrying too much about how everything will fit into the next Avengers movies, surprisingly. The film opens with an action sequence where the Guardians are attempting to take down a giant octopus-like monster except most of the time we're watching the adorable Baby Groot dance and wrestle around with tiny creatures. This sets the tone for another light and playful outing for the gang, with the cartoonishness of it all enhanced somewhat. All the familiar characters are still as likeable as ever with even the likes of Nebula and Yondu being fleshed-out into three-dimensional anti-heroes. New characters include Ego (Kurt Russell), his naive servant Mantis (Pom Klementieff) and leader of the gold-painted Sovereign people Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki): they're all really entertaining and help make the film as enjoyably campy and fun as it is.

The plot is set into motion after Rocket Raccoon steals some fancy batteries from the Sovereign alien race they were meant to be helping out. As they escape, an unknown ship saves the Guardians and we meet Ego, Peter's estranged father, who welcomes them to his home planet. The gang are separated while their ship is being repaired and Rocket, along with Baby Groot, are picked up by a bunch of bad guys hired by Ayesha. Yondu's men turn against him and he joins the two Guardians behind bars. There is a lot of emphasis on character development in this movie as there isn't actually tons going on story-wise with the Guardians not so much going on an inter-galactic mission as they are hanging out on some weird planet slowly discovering that all is not as it seems. All the character arcs are interesting and work really well from Rocket realising he's much more like Yondu than he realised, to the latter's redemption and the touchy Nebula/Gamora sister relationship.

Due to the side-step nature of the film's plot, this sequel could have probably benefited from a slightly shorter running time as a few scenes kinda turn into overlong Monty Python-style sketches for no reason. These very goofy comedic moments also help make the film tonally erratic: it's extremely cartoony one second then super-sentimental the next when the movie is actually at its best when it's just in between. The main problem being that the writing throughout is nowhere near as tight as it was in the first film. That said, the characters are so charming and the action sequences are so exciting and colourful that, ultimately, it's another fun adventure packed with funny and sweet moments not to mention much better music. This movie does very little to further engrain the Guardians into the extended Marvel Universe as Thanos is only mentioned here and there, but that only confirms this sequel as a sort-of left turn before the big showdown so, after all this build-up, the next instalment will probably include some Avengers and I am totally fine with that.

Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2 expands on all the characters we fell in love with in the first film, introduces some new ones, gives us much better villains and more Flash Gordon-style visuals. An overarching mission would have added some welcome urgency instead of having everyone just kill time on Ego's planet but the film still works on sheer charm alone, and it has a lot of that.

Reliably entertaining.

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