"Guardians of the Galaxy 2" is blasting into theatres with more intergalactic antics, out-of-this-world action and riotous gags.
Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana and director James Gunn return for more adventures with the motley crew of moon-hopping misfits. This time Kurt Russell is on board too. And most importantly, there's a new '70s and '80s mixtape filling the soundtrack with planet-sized pop tunes.
In fact, music is so important to this space-faring sequel that the only way I could express my true feelings about the flick is through the medium of top tunes in a mixtape of my own. So polish your spacesuit headphones, crank the volume and press play on the world's first ever mixtape movie review.
Track 1: 'Oops! I Did It Again' by Britney Spears
Just a few short years ago, the Guardians were obscure comic book heroes that only the truest of Marvel true believers had heard of. The 2014 movie therefore seemed like a gamble, but turned out to be a wildly imaginative intergalactic riot. Now director Gunn brings them back for round two, ready to repeat the first film's blend of raucous action, irreverent comedy and stunning neon-rainbow visuals.
2: 'Start Me Up' by The Rolling Stones
"GoTG2" blasts off into warp speed from the very first in one of the funniest title sequences around, instantly establishing the team, the action and -- of course -- the music.
3: 'Another Girl Another Planet' by The Only Ones
Before the space-faring adventure begins, we're introduced to Star-Lord's human mother. We learn the identity of his father -- who's the latest movie star to be digitally de-aged, with computer-generated trickery wiping years off his handsome face. It's technically impressive, but still looks a bit weird.
4: 'Papa Was A Rolling Stone' by The Temptations
The relationship between Star-Lord and his erstwhile space dad is at the centre of the story, but it doesn't provide much momentum. Instead, Pratt and Russell just kind of hang out getting to know each other while the action happens elsewhere. The story is less rocket-fuelled than the first film, but the loose pace allows the sprawling cast of characters room to breathe.
5: 'Solid Gold Easy Action' by T-Rex
In the course of their cosmic capers, our heroes fall foul of the Sovereign, haughty gold-painted aliens with a novel twist on fighting space battles. They're fun if unthreatening baddies -- a recurring issue for Marvel movies.
6: 'We Are Family' by Sister Sledge
Rocket fuel propelled the first film, but the sequel is an altogether looser, more relaxed affair. CGI furball Rocket Raccoon and whistling sort-of-bad-guy Yondu shoulder most of the action as they deal with space pirates and their own violent nature, but the rest of the crew does as much chatting as fighting.
While Star-Lord gets in some father-son time, the overly literal Drax comically riffs with new character Mantis. Fortunately, cast members have light-years of charm, so the quick-fire gags and emotional gracenotes carry the film through to the mandatory effects-heavy climax. Ultimately, it's all about forming family bonds in a harsh universe. Which brings us to...
7: 'Sisters Are Doing It For Themselves' by The Eurythmics
Sibling rivalry reaches new levels as Gamora and Nebula, two trained killers, explore their relationship through the medium of trying to murder each other. As we learn about their tragic past, Karen Gillan does a decent job of emoting through a pound of latex in the limited time afforded by the large cast. It's this kind of emotional connection with the characters that anchors this sequel from being just a loosely connected mess of jokes and action.
8: 'Knock on Wood' by Amii Stewart
For a near-monosyllabic walking tree, Groot sure has tons of character. Having stolen the ending of the first film, Baby Groot runs away with every scene he's in, particularly the totes adorbs opening sequence. This film really is an object lesson in making wacky CGI creations relatable and lovable to audiences.
9: 'Friends Will Be Friends' by Queen
As if there weren't already enough faces in the stuffed cast, "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2" introduces a few new friends. From Russell and other celebrity cameos to comic book characters that will test your nerdy recognition skills, there are absolutely loads of people to keep track of. Luckily, the crucial thing is that everybody seems to be having an absolute blast.
10: 'Imagination' by Belouis Some
Superheroes are one thing. But "Guardians of the Galaxy" occupies its own corner of the Marvel universe where the sky really isn't the limit. Drawing on some of the most psychedelic imagery ever committed to the Marvel page, "Guardians" explodes with sheer unrestrained imagination. From gold-plated aliens to vast space battles to rainbow-coloured planets, it's sheer vibrant visual wonder from start to finish. And speaking of the finish...
11: 'Goodbye Stranger' by Supertramp
Don't move from your seat when the credits start to roll -- there are as many treats in the closing titles as some films have in their whole run time. Admittedly, the obligatory nerdy references may delve a little too deep into the further reaches of Marvel lore. But the whole film is such a blast you'll appreciate having a few minutes to wind down. Roll on volume 3.
"Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2" opens in Australia on 25 April, the UK on 28 April and the US on 5 May.
Tech Culture: From film and television to social media and games, here's your place for the lighter side of tech.
Batteries Not Included: The CNET team shares experiences that remind us why tech stuff is cool.