Marvel Studios' Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 director James Gunn has a lot to live up to this time around. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 1, based on the comic book created in 1969, was praised for its soundtrack and quirky humor that set it apart from other MCU films. In addition, the film was a surprise smash at the box office and ended up being MCU's third highest grossing film, raking in a whooping $773 million worldwide and guaranteeing the prospect of a bigger sequel.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 scored a rare perfect score of 100 during a test screening back in February, which was higher than any other MCU film. That test screening has only ramped up the excitement for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and now the critic reviews are starting to trickle in. The questions are being raised: How does Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 stack up to the original and where does it sit in the MCU? Right off the bat, our own resident house critic Julian Roman thought it was a giant, awesome, rousing candy-colored affair, but at that, it simply couldn't reach the highs of the 2014 original. Says Roman.

"It doesn't quite reach the greatness of the original, but comes close enough to be a smashing success. Guardians 2 bursts unto the screen like a pack of rainbow Skittles. It's an eighties pop fueled ride that starts the summer movie season off with a technicolor bang."

Variety reviewer Owen Gleiberman seems to echo those sentiments. It's a big brash affair, all right. But the charm seems to have worn off a little bit.

"The gods of sci-fi spectacle must, of course, be served, and the climax of Vol 2 is exorbitant, rousing, touching, and just obligatory enough to be too much of a good thing. (That isn't even counting the half-dozen post-credit teaser scenes, which make the film feel like...TV.) The difference between the first Guardians and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 is that the new movie is flush with what a big deal it is. Ironically, that makes it a smaller deal."

Rolling Stone's Peter Travers thinks the movie is still inspired, even if it is a bit of a let down.

"Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 can't match the sneak-attack surprise of its predecessor. You can only do that once. The good news, however, is that the followup, while taking on some CGI bloat and sequel slickness, hasn't lost its love for inspired lunacy. Hanging with Peter Quill and his mercenary space misfits is still everything you'd want in a wild summer ride."

The Verge's Bryan Bishop thinks the movie is awkward. And not at all endearing.

"Multiple storylines interweave in a way that may have looked Empire Strikes Back sharp in an outline, but in practice, it's painfully awkward. A major issue is that none of the characters are particularly endearing this time around. Gamora and Star-Lord's slow-burn chemistry is still there, but it's sadly dialled back to make room for Gamora's relationship with her sister - and [Karen] Gillan once again delivers the weakest performance in the ensemble."

Empire's Chris Hewitt offered this critique.

"[When] you've lost the element of surprise, following that is no easy task. Happy to report, though, bar a few last-act wobbles and the odd tonal shift, Gunn has done it again, crafting a sequel that keeps the focus on the characters we fell for first time around while pumping up the volume... There's plenty to enjoy here, whether it's the perfectly deployed Baby Groot moments, or a general strain of anarchic weirdness that runs all the way through the credits and which still feels unique to this franchise, not just within the MCU, but blockbusters in general."

Asked his opinions on the movie after seeing it, our other resident house critic B. Alan Orange seemed less than impressed with the outcome.

"It was like seeing Ghostbusters 2 for the first time. The last half of the movie is a big colorful mess. I dare anyone to truly explain what is going on. And it's a good thing that all the characters are constantly laughing at their own jokes. That means I didn't have to. This might be one of Marvel's worst movies. It's on the verge of being straight up garbage."

The common thread of these reviews of Guardians of the Galaxy 2 suggest that it does not live up to the first film because of a lack of surprise, but this seems only logical. The first film set the groundwork for what the sequel could be built upon and fans know what they are getting into this time around. Part of the charm of the first film was that it seemed to bring outsiders into the MCU, people who might not have been interested in comic book movies at all and it spread by word of mouth. Another thread shared by almost all of these current reviews is that the movie is a fun, action packed good time, which is what the majority of audiences are looking for in a potential summer blockbuster.

The current Rotten Tomatoes score for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2 reviews are at 86% with 43 total reviews so far and those reviews will still be coming in for the next two weeks. So far, the average rating is a 7.2/10, which is almost on par with the first film being a 7.8/10 (91%). The Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2 reviews point to another homerun for Gunn and the MCU, which should come as no surprise.

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Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2 opens May 5th, 2017 and fans can buy or stream the soundtrack, Awesome Mix Vol. 2 now. For fans waiting for a physical release and more of a retro vibe can they can apparently purchase the Awesome Mix Vol. 2 on vinyl records and cassettes at a later date.

Kevin Burwick