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Star-Lord, Gamora, Drax, and the rest of everyone's favorite band of rag-tag space heroes are back to save the universe again — but is the second Guardians of the Galaxy as fun as the first?

After an early batch of reactions made its way to the internet last week, the embargo for reviews lifted early Monday morning. Now that the official verdicts are out, it looks like critics found a lot to love in James Gunn's Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, but also that the sequel doesn't hit the same hilarious highs as its predecessor.

As Entertainment Weekly's Chris Nashawaty wrote in his B- review, "[I]n Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, the gag is starting to feel like it's getting a bit old. It's still a good Marvel movie (at times, a very good one), but it's a come down from the dizzying highs of the first installment. The laughs are still there, but they're less involuntary."

Read on for more from Nashawaty and other reactions from critics.

Chris Nashawaty (Entertainment Weekly)

"Is it possible to be disappointed by a film and still manage to have a good time watching it? Absolutely. And Guardians Vol. 2 is Exhibit A of that. It's smarter than most films, but not as smart as the first one. It's funnier than most films, but not as funny as the first one. And it still probably belongs in the upper tier of Marvel movies but nowhere near as high up as the first one. Guardians Vol. 1 was so original and unpredictable and irreverent and silly and sublime that Guardians Vol. 2 can't help but feel like a step backwards."

Owen Gleiberman (Variety)

Shot for shot, line and line, it's an extravagant and witty follow-up, made with the same friendly virtuosic dazzle. Yet this time you can sense just how hard the series' wizard of a director, James Gunn (now taking off from a script he wrote solo), is working to entertain you. Maybe a little too hard. "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2" is an adventure worth taking, and the number of moviegoers around the planet who will want to take it should prove awe-inspiring. But it doesn't so much deepen the first "Guardians" as offer a more strenuous dose of fun to achieve a lesser high.

Todd McCarthy (The Hollywood Reporter)

"The heavy, elaborate action is both plentiful and rote; in their geometric design and execution, the special effects feel exceedingly computer-generated. Unlike, say, the best space battles in the Star Wars series, the frantic ballistic parrying here often makes the viewer feel as if trapped inside a pinball machine. The attitude toward all the violence and mayhem is mostly good-humored, casual and tossed off, which provokes a few good laughs and chuckles, and writer-director Gunn gets away with a lot of lame stuff simply by moving on quickly to the next gag or explosion. As before, his bluffly cynical, good-times attitude supplies a devil-may-care feel to the proceedings that's quite appealing to audiences. But Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 plays like a second ride on a roller coaster that was a real kick the first time around but feels very been-there/done-that now."

Alonso Duralde (The Wrap)

"Not that these shortcomings will bother the Marvel faithful, what with all the insider shout-outs and seedlings for sequels to come. (The closing credits of Vol. 2 contain more buttons than a bellhop's uniform.) But to be fair, the testy romantic chemistry between Peter and Gamora and the utterly irresistible adorability of baby Groot go a long way toward keeping the film from feeling like merely a cynical cash-grab. There is wit and there are explosions, and while none of them represent a step above Guardians of the Galaxy, neither do they impugn the memory of one of the freshest and most fun of the Marvel movies. If they're just vamping until Volume Three, or the inevitable Avengers crossover, at least they're doing it with some panache."

Eric Kohn (IndieWire)

"When the music kicks in, Vol. 2 snaps back to life. You could argue that Gunn overdoes the effect, but it's still far more exciting to watch a shootout set to a funky beat rather than cacophonous sound effects. With the Guardians always eager to blast the stereo as they head into action, Vol. 2 is basically the best mainstream American musical since La La Land (at least until Baby Driver, which uses a similar device, hits theaters). Those moments are complemented by the romantic vibes of [Chris] Pratt and [Zoe] Saldana dancing to Sam Cooke, and a nice use of 'My Sweet Lord' as the team arrives on Ego's psychedelic planet. Drop the narrative altogether, and the whole thing might play as a 21st-century 'Yellow Submarine.'"

Peter Travers (Rolling Stone)

"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 Quill and his mercenary space misfits is still everything you'd want in a wild summer ride. Besides Pratt, a virtuoso at lacing hilarity with heart, Zoe Saldana is back as Gamora, the green-skinned assassin who keeps cock-blocking Quill's advances. And there's wrestling champ Dave Bautista, a hoot as the hulking, tattooed and perpetually pissed-off Drax the Destroyer. But the MVPs in Guardians 2 are still the in-house computerized scene-stealers. I'm talking about Rocket, the gun-slinging, wiseass raccoon voiced by Bradley Cooper; and Baby Groot, a cute chip of tree bark delicately spoken by Vin Diesel who, whatever the situation, squeaks out the same three words: 'I am Groot.' It's enough for comic immortality."

Mike Ryan (Uproxx)

"Michael Rooker's Yondu plays a huge role in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. He's not always the gruff, tough customer we saw in the first film. On a mission to find Peter's downed ship, Youndu's Ravagers betray him – leaving him stuck with Rocket, Groot, and Nebula. (This movie is all about mixing and matching.) Compared to the first film, Yondu is at times a bit more of a sad sack. Yondu is also the heart behind this sequel and Rooker does an excellent job taking on the added character weight. We also get a lot more between Gamora and her sister, Nebula. … Also, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Drax. Drax seems to be in a much, let's say, happier place in life when we see him in this film. His tendency to laugh at people during their worst moments is in full effect in Vol. 2. Drax is a delight. And he's a much better rounded character this time around."

Haleigh Foutch (Collider)

"The film's greatest strength is the respect and genuine interest it has for its ensemble. Gunn loves his pack of weirdos, and for the sequel, he dives a bit deeper into the mess of emotional and psychological scars define them, carefully making space for each character to grow over the course of a very crowded film.  It helps that Vol. 2 is given a reprieve from the burden of actively advancing the larger MCU narrative in favor of honing in on this pivotal moment in the Guardians' arc. There are no Infinity Stones. Thanos is mentioned, but never appears, and the extent of his villainy is finally revealed by showing us the lasting effects of his evils deed gone by rather than the sinister machinations of his evil deeds to come."

Matt Singer (ScreenCrush)

"There are no major villains until the film's final act, few serious stakes, and a ton of exposition as the various characters explain their respective backstories to one another. Everything is focalized around the idea of family, those we're born into and those we build by choice, and which matters more. Does Star-Lord's new relationship with Ego trump his budding romance with Gamora? Can Gamora put aside her differences with Nebula? Will Drax put down his grief about the death of his wife and child? These are interesting questions, and Gunn gets plenty of time to examine them over the course of his two hour and 15 minute runtime. It's just that those questions don't really coalesce into a particularly compelling narrative."

Tom Huddleston (Time Out)

"After the sugar rush of the first film, recapturing the magic was always going to be an uphill battle. But for all its wit, speed and wacky cameos (Howard the Duck! Sylvester Stallone!) this second installment still feels like a disappointment. Until well past half way through, it doesn't even have a plot, just a bunch of amusing scenes strung together. And when the story does arrive, it's fairly half-arsed: big villain, universe in danger, loads of explosions. The characters are still fun to be around, the one-liners are still sharp ('My turds are famously huge!') and the soundtrack is, of course, terrific. But there are only so many times you can slap on a Fleetwood Mac toe-tapper and expect it to paper over the cracks."

Brian Truitt (USA Today)

"The creative mind of writer/director James Gunn comes alive again in this hysterical and surprisingly touching sequel filled with misfits saving the universe once more, a guy who's a living planet, a cosmic biker gang with loyalty issues and people pinballing through space like Bugs Bunny cartoons on fast-forward. It's missing some of the ragtag underdog charm of 2014's instaclassic Guardians that made it one of the best Marvel efforts ever. Yet Vol. 2 becomes in its own way a more confident and well-rounded movie by experimenting with character relationships, familial rivalry and its own successful template."

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
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