James Buxton gives his review on the greatly anticipated sequel to Guardians of the Galaxy. Vol. 2 hit UK theatres on the 28th of April.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 1 was something of a runaway hit back in 2014. I mean, let’s be fair, you probably had no idea these characters even existed before Marvel decided to give them a shot. No one did. And yet, despite the lack of brand recognition and connectivity with the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Guardians has arguably become the most popular addition to the franchise.

Vol.2 looks to repeat the incredible success the original had in cinemas! Photo: Nico Van den Winckel/ Flickr

However, with the notable exception of the Captain America franchise, Marvel’s sequel game is far from perfect. While the studio is yet to release a downright poor film, there’s no denying that the likes of Iron Man 2, Thor 2 and Age of Ultron are vastly inferior to their original releases.

And sadly, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, despite managing to keep its distance from the overall arc of the Cinematic Universe yet again, has decided to follow suit. In short, Vol. 2 is not as good as Vol. 1. Does that make it a bad movie though? Of course not, it’s still bloody fantastic, though without the support of the first film it struggles to stand on its own.

Let’s take a look at the positives first. For one, it looks glorious. From the first frame to the final end credits scene, every visual element of the movie is on point. You thought Rocket looked good in 2014? Wait until you see what they’ve done with him this time. As a result, Vol. 2 is also the first Marvel movie that genuinely feels like a comic book adaptation, combining the more “realistic” tone of previous movies with a unique, colourful aura that plays up the zany and throws caution to the wind. Likewise, the soundtrack is more or less flawless. Director James Gunn has always prided himself on the fact he writes the films around their respective soundtracks and it seems Vol. 2 is no exception.

As a character piece, the movie shines. Despite the huge cast and three new team members in Yondu, Nebula and Mantis, Vol. 2 never feels overcrowded. Everyone gets their time to shine, with Yondu and Rocket being particular highlights. Other character subplots can seem a tad lacklustre at points with Mantis and Drax taking up far too much of the run time, but overall, it’s all fairly solid. It’s also far more emotionally driven than the previous film, tugging at the audience’s heartstrings in ways I doubt anyone expected.

As with the first Guardians, the humour is also mostly spot on. Despite being something of a constant throughout the film, the flow never feels interrupted by the onslaught of one liners and visual gags. Even in the final sequence where tensions are at an all-time high, the odd joke here and there does not go amiss. Not every joke lands, though, with one in the middle that seems to drag on forever without ever really being that funny. Maybe that’s just me, but I expect you’ll get what I mean when you see it.

But, despite its triumphs, the movie does fall flat in some areas. The plot, unfortunately, takes something of a backseat and never really takes off. That’s not necessarily a bad thing if you consider the movie a character piece, though it would have been nice to feel some kind of flow throughout. Unlike the first film which featured one cohesive plot, Vol. 2 is more made up of several different subplots that all link in together at the end. It doesn’t ruin the movie by any means but it does make it feel very disjointed.

Overall, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is a worthy sequel to the 2014 original, keeping with the tone of the first film while building on the characters and the universe as a whole. I’m not entirely convinced it could work as a standalone and sure, it falters on more than on occasion but in the end, it’s just a fun movie, and isn’t that what’s really important?