WARNING! SPOILERS AHEAD! READ AT YOUR OWN RISK

Sequels are tricky. Constructing a successful follow-up to a beloved film is a balancing act. Filmmakers strive to replicate that certain magic which made its predecessor so unique, while also attempting to create something new and exciting. Stray too far on either side, and the results can be disastrous.

You can end up with a bland carbon copy of the original (THE HANGOVER PART II) or a film that is entirely detached from its precursor (HIGHLANDER 2: THE QUICKENING). However, once in a while, lightning strikes twice, and a sequel manages to exceed our expectations: ALIENS, EVIL DEAD 2, THE DARK KNIGHT, TERMINATOR 2, and THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK.

Some of the Best Sequels of all time.

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2 is one such sequel. It expands upon its universe, fleshing out this bizarre world and the quirky characters who inhabit it. It continues to develop its rag-tag team of anti-heroes, delving deeper into their backgrounds and fine-tuning their dynamics. Most importantly, the film feels like a natural and necessary continuation of the narrative. Simply put, GOTG2 is everything a sequel should be.

Hooked on a Feeling

When the first GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY hit theaters back in 2014, I instantly fell in love. I thought it was the answer to everything that was missing from the modern Hollywood landscape. After a long stretch of lifeless studio blockbusters, we finally received a big-budget film with some personality. It had a great cast with amazing chemistry, a beautiful script infused with James Gunn’s signature humor, and a genuinely unique story.

The coolest/weirdest ensemble in the history of Hollywood.

It was a strange and incredibly fun summer flick. I was convinced that a sequel could not do it justice. I thought it would be AGE OF ULTRON all over again. However, I was wrong. In my opinion, GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2 is not only a worthy successor but is in many ways superior to the original film.

READ: Check out our review of GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2!

James Gunn takes everything that we loved about the first film and amps it up: the brilliant juxtaposition of sci-fi visuals and classic pop/rock songs (with a soundtrack that is every bit as good as the original), the hilarious banter and witty one-liners, and the overall strangeness of the subject matter (where else can you see an action hero take on the shape of a giant Pac-Man in order to fight a living planet with God-like abilities?). As I previously mentioned, a sequel must do more than repeat the formula. It needs to have its own story. It must be able to stand on its own, and GOTG2 is certainly able to do so.

Characters Come First

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2 tells a strong, emotionally satisfying story. One of the reasons it is so successful is that it devotes so much time to its characters. Each member of the main cast has their own arc. Every character has a flaw or personal issue to overcome (even Baby Groot!)

READ: Let’s analyze the incredible soundtrack of GOTG2!

Most importantly, none of these arcs feel tacked on, an issue that plagues many Hollywood sequels (case in point, the random “Marty hates being called a chicken” subplot from BACK TO THE FUTURE PARTS II and III).  In GOTG2, every arc is in line with how the characters were established in the previous film (except for Baby Groot, but he gets a pass because he is essentially an entirely new character).

No character left behind.

The first GUARDIANS focused on Star-Lord coping with the tragic death of his mother. This time around, the film focuses heavily on the theme of fathers and sons. In GOTG2, Peter connects with his biological father, Ego the Living Planet. But their father-son bonding time is cut short when Peter discovers that (major spoiler alert!) Ego was, in fact, responsible for his mother’s death. Star-Lord is then forced to fight and kill his own father. Throughout the course of this story, Peter learns that family is about more than blood relation and that he had already had a strong father figure: Yondu.

Then there’s Drax, whose wife and child were murdered. In the sequel, Drax finds a family in his fellow Guardians. In addition to this, Drax develops a strong bond with the new character, Mantis, who he says reminds him of his daughter. During the climax, Drax goes to great lengths to save her, serving as a personal redemption for not being able to save his wife and child.

Also, the film further explores the sibling rivalry between Gamora and her sister, Nebula. We gain a better understanding of Nebula’s hatred, discovering that her mechanical augmentations are the result of Thanos forcing the sisters to fight. Every time Nebula lost a match, her father would replace a part of her, hoping to improve her combat skills (Ego and Thanos are both serious contenders for the title of “Worst Dad Ever”). Ultimately, the sisters work through their issues and (at least somewhat) come to terms with their horrible, abusive childhood.

Then there’s Rocket, who we know suffers from several insecurities and has a tendency to push people away. We get to see these personal issued fleshed out and resolved as Rocket bonds with a similarly flawed character, Yondu. Speaking of Yondu, even this lovable blue baddie has a character arc. In the original film, it was hinted at that Yondu and Peter had a sort of twisted father-son dynamic. GOTG2 expands on this relationship and allows Yondu to redeem himself for all the mistakes he made in raising Star Lord. By the end, he is finally able to admit that he loves Peter and has always thought of him like a son.

“I’m Mary Poppins, y’all!”

Do you sense a theme with all of these story lines? Every single one of them revolves around the concept of family. A unifying theme connects all of these subplots. Unlike AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON, which had so many disparate threads that never really came together, all the character arcs in GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2 tie into one another. For this reason, no single subplot feels superfluous. When combined, all of these separate pieces make up a greater story.

A Necessary Sequel

Anytime a sequel comes out, we must ask ourselves the same question: is it necessary? Do we need to know what happened after the credits rolled? I’m not referring to films that end with dangling threads or unresolved cliffhangers. I’m talking about movies with characters who still have interesting stories to tell. This is the only creative reason why a sequel should be made. Thankfully, there are a lot of fascinating tales left in this beautiful, bizarre galaxy.

READ: Explore the evolution of Star Lord’s iconic look!

While GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY efficiently resolved its central conflict, it left its characters with plenty of room to grow and develop. The original film set the groundwork, and the sequel built upon it in a meaningful way. It feels as though we are witnessing the natural development of our heroes. This truly feels like the next chapter in their lives. The story adds layers to that which came before and leaves us wanting more. It brings back everything we loved about the first film without feeling like a lifeless clone. Above all, this sequel feels necessary. For these reasons, GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2  accomplishes everything that a good sequel should.

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