A masterclass in sequel creation.

Guardians of the Galaxy 2 picks up from where we left the team, travelling across the galaxy completing jobs/missions for rewards. But, when Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) steals from a race called the Sovereign, they are chased across the galaxy leading them to encounter a being called Ego (Kurt Russell) Star Lord’s (Chris Pratt) father.

It’s always difficult to follow up a great film (such as Guardians of The Galaxy), let alone to improve upon it, however James Gunn (writer and director of both films) has done a stellar job.

Guardians 2 focuses heavily on characterisation, and does so brilliantly. Yondu (Michael Rooker), Nebula (Karen Gillan), Rocket and Star Lord in particular develop a lot more as characters as we hear more about their upbringings, experiences, what drives them and why. Family and parenthood in particular is something, especially with Star Lord, that creates a real empathetic connection with these characters who have been so poorly treated and suffered so much. Gunn has taken these alien beings and makes them feel human, making you genuinely feel for them.

Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and newcomer Mantis (Pom Klementieff) gain excellent screen time and development as well, but Drax (Dave Bautista) and Baby Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) steal the show. With little to build on for both of them, Gunn has balanced this out by providing them the funniest/best moments and lines, a useful technique to make sure that no character feels underutilised, which they certainly do not.

The cast themselves are brilliant, with everyone putting in great performances. Chris Pratt’s emotion into Star Lord is great, Karen Gillan’s rage and vengeance fuelled Nebula is great, Michael Rooker’s Yondu feels so much more human, and this goes on for all of the characters. There isn’t a performance that feels bad or out of place within the main team.

Kurt Russell’s Ego however does feel a bit off at times. He rants and raves through monologues that are supposed to seem impressive, but often feel a bit bland. This comes down to the writing more so than Russell’s performance, which I feel could have been tweaked a bit more so he was a little less dreary.

The Sovereign too aren’t particularly brilliantly written, some argue they don’t need to be in the film at all which I disagree with, but they do seem at times to simply be a large army threat for the Guardians to take on and nothing more. Which is okay, but a little more development into their culture, their character etc. would have gone a long way. Despite this, they fulfil their purpose well enough.

The CGI and visual effects in this movie are spectacular. They really take you into another world from minute one, splashing vibrant colour across the galaxy. It really makes Guardians stand out from the washed-out grey look to most Marvel films, a welcome distinction and a thoroughly enjoyable experience. Each CGI character or world is done excellently too, and it’s genuinely a true wonder to simply look around the universe Gunn and the team have created.

This is what I think helps the Guardians films feel much more self contained from the wider Marvel Cinematic Universe, which isn’t a bad thing. It allows these films to explore new areas, new worlds and focus on character building, rather than simply being another stepping stone toward Avengers: Infinity War.

Gunn has focused on his team, his story and his universe rather than just creating links and building toward the next set of films, which ultimately improves Guardians 2 so much more. His character handling, character development, entertaining plot and great balance of action, comedy and emotion really makes this film feel complete. It’s genuinely a masterclass in sequel writing.