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

If all goes according to plan, get used to seeing "Guardians Vol. 2" on top. It's a continuation of coherent and blissfully limited ideas. For Marvel noobs, that just means the next big chunk of Marvel films - and to put it in context, we're about to enter the meaty bit of Phase 3, which includes Thor: Ragnarok and Black Panther and which will culminate in the third and fourth Avengers films.

It's the most focused, original and fun Marvel movie to date.

Remember in the first movie when Peter (spoiler) is able to hold an Infinity Stone without dying?

The movie picks where the first left off, and wastes no time in diving straight into all guns-blazing action, as the team takes on a kind of giant inter-dimensional squid. In one of the best opening sequences of recent memory, we are brought back into the story by seeing the Guardians fighting a giant - and visually imaginative - monster together, scored by a pre-1990s pop song.

And then there's Groot (Vin Diesel). Rather than always scrambling for a reset, this sequel seems to delight in wandering down loose paths the previous film set down. It made more than $106 million in its first weekend at 58% of overseas territories. "I am Groot" worked in graphics, special effects and various other departments. In addition, the plot is wafer-thin and it is hard to shake the suspicion that Baby Groot was more of a marketing creation than an artistic decision. No one was quite sure how the first film would perform, considering it featured a rag-tag group of lessor-known superheroes, but Guardians of the Galaxy impressed by opening to $94.3 million domestically in early August 2014 on its way to grossing $773 million globally.

"Mr. Blue Sky" by Electric Light Orchestra - Appropriate for the space cowboy Peter Quill, played by Chris Pratt.

Part of what makes this smaller narrative work so well is likely its authorial consistency.

More than any other corner of this cinematic universe, Gunn's work feels like it belongs in its own space - so much so that I'm nearly dreading seeing the eventual blending of this with the other properties.

"We got the rights to the first one" - the 1976 ELO hit "Livin' Thing" - "but I cut the scene", Gunn tells The Post's Comic Riffs. "I think that there could be a Guardians Vol. 4, but it would not be the same", Gunn said in an interview with the Toronto Sun.

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