Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2: Can sequel live up to original?

Dazzling visuals and devil-may-care humour will keep the cinemas packed, but is it a case of deja vu?

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Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 opens in UK cinemas this week following almost three years of anticipation.

The first film released in 2014, based on the Marvel superhero comic, was a worldwide hit. Starring Chris Pratt as a half-human, half-alien leader of a ragtag bunch of space warriors, the film won glowing reviews for its inventiveness and humour.

Ever since the follow-up was announced fans and critics have been speculating about whether the sequel could recapture the magic of the original.

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Vol 2 sees the return of Pratt as Quill (AKA Starlord), along with Zoe Saldana as Gamora, Dave Bautista as Drax, Vin Diesel as Groot, and Bradley Cooper as Rocket.

Set a few months after the first film, it follows Quill’s attempts to keep the gang together, while trying to discover his true parentage and stop a galaxy-threatening enemy.

Early reviews have been largely positive.

Geoffrey Macnab in The Independent writes the second instalment is "Marvel Studios near its best: spectacular, funny and with a very likeable self-mocking quality".

While the critic found the first Guardians "a little too flippant and full of in-jokes", he says that in this second film, writer-director James Gunn has given his comic book characters "an interior life”. Macnab adds that the new film combines "eye-popping" visuals, a "nostalgic jukebox-style musical soundtrack", and "sardonic humour", with an “emotionally engaging story” for "a wildly entertaining ride".

Chris Hewitt in Empire agrees that "bar a few last-act wobbles" Gunn has once again crafted a sequel "that keeps the focus on the characters we fell for first time around while pumping up the volume".

But is the film trying a little too hard? asks Owen Glieberman in Variety who says the sequel “works harder for less fun”.

In agreement, Hollywood Reporter’s Todd McCarthy admits that while the film will keep the cinemas packed, “the results on the field are not nearly so pretty”.

The critic says the film's "devil-may-care feel", will appeal to audiences but complains that the “scattershot” plot in which the survival of the universe is treated more glibly than "its knotty superhero daddy issues" begins to grate.

McCarthy concludes that Vol 2 is like a second ride on a roller-coaster "that was a real kick the first time around but feels very been-there/done-that now".

Guardians of the Galaxy opens in the UK on Friday 28 April.

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