When the world is falling apart, take a leaf out of Baby Groot's bookWALT DISNEY STUDIOS MOTION PICTURES

When the Guardians of the Galaxy logo first appeared onscreen three years ago to the sound of Redbone’s ‘Come and Get Your Love’, audiences and critics alike were caught off-guard. So used to the thunderous themes of Alan Silvestri or Hans Zimmer, this was a radically different vibe for a superhero film. Following suit, Vol. 2 bursts into life with ‘Mr. Blue Sky’ by ELO, a song director James Gunn fought his own battle to get the rights to, and it fits like a cassette in a Walkman. There’s always a danger of putting your best scene at the start of a film, and nothing that follows, regrettably, quite matches its impact. Still, there are plenty more delights up Gunn’s gauntlet.

This time there is no need to reintroduce the infamous bunch of a-holes, all of whom make a welcome return to the screen. Perhaps these films stand out above Joss Whedon’s action-heavy Avengers films thanks to the unparalleled likeability of these characters, with expert development revealing each to have often tear-inducing pasts. Where Iron Man and Captain America come across as sanctimonious narcissists, there is a more human dimension to the green Gamora and GM-raccoon Rocket than any of them. Unfortunately, the sequel lets this down by labouring the ‘family’ point, milked to the same lengths as a gag about a villain called Taserface that only Gunn seems to be laughing at.

Mr. Blue Sky by ELO fits like a cassette in a Walkman.”

There would be little point in making a sequel, however, if some new faces were not introduced. Unfortunately, for every Star-Lord or Yondu, we get a Mantis or Nebula, whose scenes force the film to drag. Indeed, Drax’s literal thought processes, while often driving the humour, at times verge on the cringe-inducing, especially in his sexualisation of the female characters. Karen Gillan never quite found her place in the first film, originally having been killed off in the script, but has been brought back for this instalment with similar effect. Nevertheless, her relationship with Gamora is a moving one, and in its most intimate moments the film finds a new depth much richer than before.

The flaws do, fortunately, more or less end there. The soundtrack includes some forgotten classics, such as the virtually unknown ‘Wham Bam Shang-a-Lang’ by Silver, and another stunning scene sees Bradley Cooper’s Rocket fighting a host of thugs to the tune of Glen Campbell’s ‘Southern Nights’. This is paired with some remarkable uses of CGI that push its capabilities to new lengths, especially in the heart of Ego’s planet where fluorescent bubbles drift gracefully over crimson dunes. The colour directly contrasts the comparative grit and murkiness of the first film, giving it a gloriously retro mise-en-scène. On the point of Ego, Kurt Russell often steals the show as Chris Pratt’s father, although, without giving anything away, it is in his character that Gunn seems to realise he needs a plot, which feels too forced for credibility. Nevertheless, the chemistry between these elements creates a cinematic treat often superior to the first outing.

While some of the characters and narrative fall flat, pretty colours and classic songs elevate the film above the noise of the overcrowded superhero genre. With more humour and Easter Eggs than you can shake a Groot at, Gunn has provided another treat for superhero lovers and haters alike