Storytelling usually comes in two ways: character-driven or plot-driven. Ideally, you'd like a story to have some kind of balance between the two and Marvel Studios has been mostly good at that but Guardians introduced a more character-heavy brew that was so tasty it became arguably the Studios' best film to date. That's quite the rep to live up to and the second helping of Guardians was still tasty but didn't have that original zest to it.
Volume 2 takes place briefly after volume 1 with Peter Quill aka Starlord (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax (Dave Bautista), Rocket (Bradley Cooper), and baby Groot are famous as the Guardians of the Galaxy and going around adventuring until they come upon Peter's mysterious dad, Ego (Kurt Russell) and Mantis (Pom Klementieff) and uncover a sinister plot.
Guardians 2 feels like it has no plot for most of the film with groups of the galaxy's most interesting sentient beings instead running sidequests, which bring the layers out of their characters. Questions left unanswered or hinted upon from the original like Quill's origins, the romantic tension between him and Gamora, and why Rocket is such an a-hole all the time among many. Everyone, even Yondu (Michael Rooker), who steals the show in many occasions (and is overpowered), and Nebula (Karen Gillan) get additional development and amazing scenes.
It'd be spoilerific to elaborate further on how the plot develops. For about half the film it's like Ego the Living Planet, just floating around in space seemingly aimlessly. But no wait, he has a purpose and the final act following an otherwise predictable villain-reveal puts together some of the best sequences that capitalized on what the whole film was mostly about: over-the-top comedy and unbelievable action scenes.
It's still an enjoyable treat that is a bit heavy on the sugar i.e. the comedy gets a bit heavy. Critics bashed Batman v Superman for its glum atmosphere and lack of humour and Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2 could be the opposite for its overly upbeat film that lacks a solid plot. The difference is this film is a joy to watch, deals with sentimental moments more tastefully, and has baby Groot in it.
Bearing the film for the first hour or so won't be too difficult with how lovable the characters continue to be and with the fantastic visuals and funny albeit borderline corny one-liners. While nothing new or groundbreaking is really introduced to push this sequel to the same echelon as the first film, it does introduce more of the galaxy whetting the appetites of Marvel fans everywhere (there are plenty of cameos and references).
For those who have seen the first film, vol. 2 is like an encore and offers little in terms of adding new elements to its universe or storytelling but its well-coordinated final act will send fans off just as satisfied while new fans may just see it the same way we all did the first time around. ★★★☆