The first Guardians of the Galaxy movie is my favorite movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and that says a lot. While I think The Avengers is one of the best comic book movies of all time, there is something about the original Guardians that I can’t help but fall in love with (read my review of the first movie here). The humor, characters, and story beats are something I absolutely adore in that movie. That meant that Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 had a lot to live up to.

At the end of the day, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 was a great sequel to the first movie. Much like the original, it is one of my favorite Marvel movies but falls below the first one for a few reasons.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 takes place only a short time after the first movie ends. The team are working basically as heroes for hire and have been hired by an alien race called The Sovereign to protect their planet from an invading monster. In a very similar way to how the first movie started with a great music montage with Peter Quill scavenging on the deserted planet, Vol. 2 starts with a musical montage of the Guardians fighting the monster – except the camera remains the entire fight on Baby Groot dancing to the ELO song, Mr. Blue Sky.

This beats out the fun opening of the first movie and is one of the most joyous opening credit scenes I have ever seen in a movie.

That fight is just a setup to Rocket Raccoon stealing power cells from The Sovereign, which causes them to both attack the Guardians and to eventually hire Yondu and the Ravagers to hunt the Guardians down and return them to die for their crimes.

One thing that James Gunn did with this second movie in the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise was to add a lot of fun, humorous, and ironic moments that has become his calling card. One example is that The Sovereign uses remote controls for their attack fleet and are all, in fact, on their planet hooked up to the controls like a video game – along with Atari-sounding effects. Without spoiling anything else, there is a ton of this involved in the movie and it is a blast just catching everything that Gunn throws in there.

As for the movie itself, whereas Guardians of the Galaxy was a story about Peter Quill coming to terms with the death of his mother from years before, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is about Peter Quill coming to terms with the fact that he never knew his father. With this being a story about fathers, Peter Quill meets his real dad, the Celestial Ego the Living Planet. Since this is a movie, Gunn had Ego take human form (Kurt Russell) and it gave Peter a chance to not only meet his dad but to also learn why he had the powers that manifested itself in the first Guardians movie.

There is also a chance in this movie for Peter to deal with his surrogate father he lived with for most of his life in Yondu (Michael Rooker). This is the more complicated story and delivers the best emotional moments of the entire film. It is also interesting that Yondu shares his own “surrogate father” moment in the movie with Stakar (Sylvester Stallone), the Ravager who raised Yondu as a child.

While Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 has all the humor you could want from a movie, it also has a ton of these emotional beats. There are moments with Gamora and her sister Nebula, Groot and the emotionally innocent new character Mantis, and quite possibly the best relationship of the movie between Rocket and Yondu. This movie gives everyone their own story arc and short changes no one. Even Baby Groot gets his moment.

The biggest complaint about Marvel movies is a lack of great villains. Loki is still the best of the best but Kurt Russell really embeds Ego with a great character arc and he stands above regular evil doers in other Marvel movies. There are moments in his story where Ego really seems to just do stereotypical movie villain things but that doesn’t keep him from being interesting when he is on screen. The one area where the second Guardians of the Galaxy movie falls a little short is the final battle climax, which was just a lot of special effects with little room for the characters to stand out.

Of course, this is a superhero movie so that is expected. At the end of the day, what makes a superhero movie succeed and fail is the characters, their relationships to each other, and in the case of Guardians of the Galaxy – humor. When it comes to those items, Vol. 2 was a huge success. James Gunn has his finger on the pulse of fans and knows these characters like the back of his hand. This movie will be a huge success and deserves every second of it.