Emotional, amusing 'Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2' improves on its predecessor(s)

When the first Guardians of the Galaxy film was announced, people were pretty skeptical. Yes, writer-director James Gunn and nearly the entire cast have returned.

Early in the film, Peter Quill/Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) explains the significance that Hasselhoff had on his childhood.

So, "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2" is out. We know you are going to see it in theaters, but we also wanted you to know that Guardians of the Galaxy 2 will be streaming Netflix likely by the year's end! But seeing how well the previous film performed ($773 million worldwide, adjusted for inflation), not to mention how recent Marvel sequels Avengers: Age of Ultron and Captain America: Civil War performed in their opening weekends ($191 million, and $179 million, respectively), GoTG V2 should pull in just as impressive figures.

James Gunn and Guardians of the Galaxy 2 scored Marvel's fourth best opening for a Thursday preview night.

However, like so many sequels, it falls a little short of that admirable goal.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 avoids the dreaded sequelitis by sticking with the first film's winning formula while expanding the Guardians' universe. The Guardians find themselves in a few tight spots after Quill meets his alien father Ego (Kurt Russell).

For every Marvel-mandated Big Fight Scene, there's one of winking irreverence or pop-culture nostalgia (Sly Stallone, David Hasselhoff and Howard the Duck pop up in cameos; the sophisticated drone stations used by the Sovereign make Space Invaders-esque noises).

"(Chris) was the first person I told it to, that's for sure.

Marvel Comics has certainly provided us all with some mindless fun in the last decade and some of its movies have been really excellent, some fair, and some truly bad (Fantastic Four comes to mind). I don't think if he fully understands what makes Star Lord great because Star Lord doesn't really have any super powers and can not fly or shoot webs out of his hand. "Rambo", for me, that made me who I am today.

That said, this is still a spectacular line-up of stories, as anyone familiar with the Marvel Platinum line has come to expect, offering a diverse selection of strips you're unlikely to find collected together elsewhere, but also offering a ideal taster volume for new comics fans attracted by the movie series. But the Good Yondu didn't last long: During the climax he sacrifices himself to save Quill.

Pratt says it's hard to imagine anyone else playing that role. The follow up to 2014's Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 builds on what its predecessor started, taking the crew in new and different directions. With audience pumped up to see the new movie, the director thanked his first paying audience and was visibly buoyed by their enthusiasm.

As for the visuals, the drop-dead gorgeous, often iridescent, 3D effects that illuminate distant planets are trippy (a code for consider getting baked before you see this movie).

Gunn even said he was a little timid on the first film, but not anymore.

"If it's overstuffed in the way of most sequels, well, at least it's stuffed with good cheer".

One character death impacted more than I thought it would, as I was really looking forward to seeing more of them in the future.