Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy are back to save the universe – again. First introduced on-screen in 2014, Peter Quill/Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax (David Bautista), Rocket (voice of Bradley Cooper) and Baby Groot (voice of Vin Diesel) have returned with a new Awesome Mix to back their badass space battles.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 opens with Quill and the gang taking on an interdimensional monster for a bounty offered by a woman known as Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki). Ayesha promised a reward to the Guardians for protecting the city’s batteries, which turns out to be Gamora’s captive sister, Nebula (Karen Gillan). With their trophy secured, the Guardians depart, but not before a parting enquiry from Ayesha regarding Quill’s ancestry.

This question serves as the basis for the rest of the film. Quill struggles with the true identity of his family, Gamora and Nebula come to terms with how their father Thanos treated them, we find out more about Yondu’s journey into the Ravagers, and Groot makes his way through the terrible twos.

GotG Vol. 2 shines not only in its emphasis on relationships and an artistic style that improves upon the production design of the first film, but also its character development. Drax, in particular, has come a long way in his perception of emotions, and Baby Groot predictably steals the show with his adorable naivety.

There is also the addition of newcomer Mantis (Pom Klementieff), more screen time for the vastly under-appreciated Yondu (Michael Rooker), and a couple of other noteworthy characters we’ll let you discover for yourselves. Throw in more than a few pop culture references – tackling everything from Cheers to Pac-Man – and you’ve got a sequel that’s truly worthy of the original behemoth.

With Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Marvel Studios raises the bar for its third phase of MCU movies, seeding connections and planting Easter Eggs fans will be eager to hunt down – and, of course, including a gratuitous cameo. The MCU has taken another step toward the new, post-Infinity War universe – which is coming sooner than you may think. As always, don’t forget to stick around after the credits.

In cinemas: April 25, 2017star 4 and a half
Starring: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Michael Rooker
Directed by: James Gunn