After James Gunn managed to make the make the best MCU movie to date (it still stands on that exalted pedestal now, in fact), the question of how he'd follow it up was always going to be pretty daunting. In all honesty, the potential pit-falls of making Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol 2 must have yawned hugely in front of him, tempting him to jump the shark or push fan favourite elements to the point of obnoxiousness (see The Minions).
But what Gunn has achieved in the sequel - particularly when Marvel has historically had a bit of a problem with 2 movies (aside from The Winter Soldier) - is nothing short of stunning. Vol 2 is a swaggering, hilarious spectacle, as big on entertainment factor as it is on laughs and heart and it will capture the imaginations of fans of the original in a quite perfect way.
It stands as a monument to Gunn's personality and his quirks: his friends cameo in it, his love of deep comic references shines through and his vision for a rag-tag group of dysfunctional heroes thrust together has been dialled up from the blue-print of the first movie. In short, it's truly excellent.
But it's not quite flawless, and it's definitely not as good as the first (but then, being the best, it's a hard benchmark to compete with). And while Gunn and the cast can be proud of what they've made, it's a shame that there are a couple of places it falls down.
First the negatives.
Warning: Some spoilers follow for Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol 2.