Just like its predecessor, Vol. 2 has a perfect opening sequence: a formidable battle is mere background to Baby Groot dancing adorably. Then the adventure truly begins, as the team splits up after facing off against the golden-skinned Sovereign, led by the haughty Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki, the awesome femme fatale from The Man from U.N.C.L.E.).
Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), and Drax (Dave Bautista) join Star-Lord's father Ego (Kurt Russel) and his servant Mantis (Pom Klementieff) to find out more about Star-Lord's heritage. Meanwhile, Baby Groot, Rocket (Bradley Cooper), and a captive Nebula (Karen Gillan) find themselves under assault by the Ravager faction led by Yondu (Michael Rooker). The story takes a number of twists after that, culminating in an epic battle against an entire planet.
Fortunately, by that time, the personal journeys taken by each of the characters have further strengthened the bond between them. Gamora and Nebula start to become true sisters instead of the weapons Thanos made them into. Thanks to Yondu, Rocket finally realizes why he's such an a-hole. And Drax is so damn happy. His frequent bellowing laughter reveals a side to him unseen in the first movie, when he was bent on revenge: he's a lusty, passionate person who has zero sensitivity. His interactions with Mantis are highly entertaining.
Zany humor balances out the gravity of some of the scenes, usually in the form of snarky dialogue, like Nebula snapping "Get over it!" when Gamora is speechless at being saved, or Ego's, "I thought my rugged good looks would make it obvious" that he's Star-Lord's paternal organism. In particular, the many insults used to describe Rocket had viewers snickering: "triangle-faced dog," "pet puppy," and my personal favorite, "trash panda." There's a running gag with yams that ends predictably yet satisfyingly. This time around, David Hasselhoff replaces Kevin Bacon as the imaginary Earth hero (so does Mary Poppins). And basically anything Baby Groot does is comedy gold.
Naturally, the effects are stunning, the fight scenes are fire, and the soundtrack is nostalgic while being thematically relevant. (I preferred the songs on Vol. 1, but YMMV.) In terms of visuals, I was a fan of Gamora shouldering a torn-off space gun while screaming bloody murder, and Yondu and his arrow are equally badass. Watching this movie in 3D is worth it!
Overall, Vol. 2 effectively tells its story while setting up the team's next villain (Adam Warlock) and dropping hints about the coming Infinity War. Looking forward to all of it!
TL;DR: Vol. 1's soundtrack is superior, but Vol. 2 takes us deeper into the characters. Highly recommended!
This post brought to you by first-time spring allergies! wtf.