Marvel Studios has a mixed track record with its sequels.
Most of the second outings for Marvel are considered the least popular of all of the films in the cinematic universe - "Iron Man 2," "Thor: The Dark World" and "Avengers: Age of Ultron."
However, "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" is regarded as one of the best of all Marvel films, and now "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2" can join it as a movie that bested even its own ground-breaking entry into Marvel.
The guardians still have all their great lines and camaraderie, but with it for the sequel comes a surprising amount of heart and depth for everyone in the film.
Sure, characters still have a penchant to tell people far-too-personal information that doesn't warrant that particular relationship - something that I thought didn't land well in the first movie. But it's better handled in the second, partially because most of the characters all now know each other enough to better hear those conversations.
And all of this helps the movie better establish a backstory for characters who didn't get much attention in the previous film - Michael Rooker's Yondu and Karen Gillan's Nebula. Even if you weren't a fan of either in the previous film, you'll come out of the sequel with a much better understanding of what drives them.
The cast this time around also seems to have a better handle on those meatier discussions and scenes. There are no awkward serious rallying scenes like there were in the first "Guardians," and Chris Pratt gets more to do when Star-Lord meets his father, played by Kurt Russell.
The trailers for the movie have done a good job in keeping away what exactly is happening in the second movie, and I'm not going to spoil that here, either. Despite the movie being completely separate from the other Marvel movies (or maybe because it doesn't have to connect with the other films), "Vol. 2" manages to have a plot that matters to the characters and audience. Marvel has struggled with its villains as of late, but it hit the right mark with "Vol. 2."
There are hardly any complaints to be had with this movie. Sure, it loves to give Dave Bautista's Drax increasingly uncomfortable one-liners and maybe relies a little too much on the cute version of Baby Groot, but "Vol. 2" is a cohesive film that stays on target all while giving audiences what they liked from the first film.
From its incredibly well choreographed opening fight sequence to the heartfelt finale, "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2" has more to offer than just humor and great music. And the franchise is all the better for it.