Marvel Studios has come a long way since Iron Man first arrived almost 10 years ago. With hit after hit, the golden era of superhero movies has been well underway. Yet after the recent Doctor Strange flick, I wondered if that was all starting to come to an end. Doctor Strange was an OK film but not the ball out of the park film we’re accustomed to from Marvel. With this in mind, would Guardians Vol. 2 put Marvel back on top again and ready to produce critically successful films again?

When Guardians of the Galaxy was released back in 2014, the general consensus was “who?”. Yet after that film’s success, fans couldn’t wait to see moee. It did a brilliant of introducing us to a bunch of characters most people hadn’t heard of, while making their stories as true as possible to their comic book counterparts for the fans. The addition of a solid story which is both stand alone and linked to the MCU and a fair sprinkle of comedy, while having a soundtrack which was perfect for each part it played during the film and there was an instant recipe for success. Volume 2 clearly subscribes to the theory ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’

Guardians 2 starts with the team we all know and love, fighting an extra dimensional monster. Yet the opening sequence doesn’t even focus on the action – but instead chooses to follow Baby Groot as he dances around the edge of the fight to Mr Blue Sky. Groot is almost oblivious to the actual fight going on but it’s a wonderfully worked scene very reminiscent of how we are introduced to Peter Quill in the first film. The action and comedy hits right from the beginning and doesn’t really stop, pulling you along a carefully laid out story which is explores the characters while giving them please try of time to talk.

The characters are all back as we remember – all except for Drax; who’s away from his more serious nature and moved more toward the comic relief. It’s an interesting switch in tone, but as it’s Drax he still doesn’t really understand when and where it’s appropriate to make these joke.

The introduction of Baby Groot is likely to be the biggest divider in this film. His childish character will appeal to some, while harming the balance of the tone for others. For my money, he’s the stand out character of this movie. I applaud James Gunn and his team for how they changed his character from the comics, as it gives them license to lighten the tone of movie when appropriate. In the comics, even as he was starting to heal and grow his body, Groot would still retain his intelligence. Here he is reduced more to the level of a toddler with tantrums, misunderstandings and a child like innocence to Groot. As said, it’s easy to see why some may find this shift daunting, but it’s one I feel works to the films benefit.

Another performance that impressed me was that of Karen Gillan as Nebula, I found her performance stale and flat in the first outing, an actress who was struggling to scale her performance to the bombastic surrounds she found herself in. Here though she shows us a different side to Nebula, offering us a small idea to her back story and why she hates Gamora so much. She played a far more behind the scenes baddy this time as well, trying to manipulate others to get what she wants. It adds more layers to the movie, and Gillan’s performance felt more rounded with the greater time afforded to her.

As for the two new characters in this film, they stay almost identical to the source material. Firstly was Mantis, an Empath who helps the team try to calm situations down and help the plot along, but ultimately will be there for the team to cope with their feelings.

Secondly is the brilliantly portrayed Ego, known as the Living Planet in the comics, I figured they may gloss over that and maybe make him more an Elder of the Universe, like with a lot of Marvel films in which they think if it’s too bizarre will it translate to screen. Normally they don’t tend to take risks but here they did and my god did it pay off in the right way, with Kurt Russell coming to Peter’s aid just in time to take him back to his planet. When they arrive Ego precedes to explain his story and it’s like reading the comics, without giving too much away, yes Kurt Russell will never play a bigger character now he has played an actual planet.

Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 is an action packed, emotional ride which will keep you pinned to the edge of your seat (and if you thought Howard the Duck and Cosmos were good Easter eggs, wait until you see these end credits) but that never takes itself too seriously, although you may have the odd tear in your eye. The fantastic eighties soundtrack and brilliant storyline make this an enjoyable family romp which I have to say has made my personal top 3 MCU films. Another hit and another kick in the shins for the DC cinematic universe, who like Marvel are willing to take chances but the difference being Marvel takes the risks with films that can hold its own against the giants of the MCU, The Guardians of the Galaxy are definitely here to stay and if they continue on this path will only get bigger and better.

Who else would be brave enough to get Sylvester Stallone to play a bit part or get in David Hasselhoff to appear for all of a few scant seconds? These are the risks Marvel are willing to make and they work perfectly, through a combination of right person for the job and some fantastic writing, the MCU will thrive and now I really can’t wait for Infinity Wars..