It can be so hard for filmmakers to emulate preceding endeavours that inspired and entertained audiences, particularly when doing so to the extent that Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy managed. To give the viewer what they want without contrivance is a tough balance to strike, and when the opening act to this eagerly anticipated James Gunn sequel begins, with Baby Groot adamant he plays music as the collective fight the bad guys, the second Mr. Blue Sky begins and the sentient tree-like character shows off his moves, while we see Drax flung through the air mercilessly, we know things are going to work out just fine.

Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) may be Star-Lord, but his roots are steeped in humanity, thinking often about his mother who passed away. His father’s identity is a mystery however, but as he travels around the universe, with his merry band of galaxy protectors, such as love interest Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax (Dave Bautista), Baby Groot (Vin Diesel) and Rocket (Bradley Cooper) he is shocked and relieved when introduced to Ego (Kurt Russell), who claims to be his dad. While busy being enamoured by the idea of reconnecting with his parentage and learning more about his own identity, his crew are busy calling on old foes to help assist their cause as they not only seek to guard the galaxy, as they do so well, but their captain.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2Given this sequel doesn’t have the burden of introducing characters nor this new world the viewer has inhabited, it allows for Vol. 2 to get right into the action. We already know how everything works, accustomed and established with the laws of the environment. This helps matters immeasurably, and makes for a blockbuster that offers no respite, a non-stop adventure that has an unwavering commitment to pure entertainment, with barely a moment to pause and reflect, as spectacular set-pieces adorn the vibrant landscape from start to finish. All while thriving in such a capacity, the film remains grounded by its human themes (helped along by the fact we’re embodying a protagonist who came from Earth), to make for a film that has an emotional core that is easily investable. To be so irreverent and playful and yet maintain this poignant edge is of commendation to Gunn, who treads a fine line and triumphs, succeeding just as much in the more profound, subtle elements of the narrative.

It’s a true masterclass in storytelling, and Gunn’s screenplay is tantamount to this, particularly impressive in how we understand and care for this myriad of characters – not always an easy task where ensemble features of this nature are concerned. Every single role, not only those mentioned above, but also the likes of Yondu (Michael Rooker), Nebula (Karen Gillan) and Mantis (Pom Klementieff) are so brilliantly well-rounded, each with their own respective character arc, nuanced and multi-layered. Much of this is carried on the shoulders of Quill, our entry point into the franchise, and Pratt turns in another terrific performance, as such an accomplished, dependable leading man that we root for so effortlessly. Meanwhile Baby Groot is outrageously endearing (spin-off, anyone?) while the majority of the best lines in the film fall onto the lap of the gloriously deadpan Drax – who is quickly becoming of the best characters in the MCU. But heroes are only as good as their villains, and yet again the viewer can feel just how high the stakes are, and it seems the collective have a formidable opponent to overcome, with an endeavour that seems completely impossible – which is essential into any good superhero movie working.

On top of this, the soundtrack has again been handpicked so brilliantly, with the more energetic numbers creating the backdrop for the big action sequences, while even featuring the likes of Sam Cooke’s Bring it on Home to Me to ensure there’s barely an impactful scene that goes by that isn’t illustrated and enriched by a great piece of music. Embedded into the narrative, the music is more than just a score – it’s a plot device, as the tracks play off Quill’s Awesome Mixtape #2. Let’s just hope he’s made a third, because this a franchise we’ll want to return to yet again, and  we don’t want to wait too long, either.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is released on April 28th