Peter Quill, the hero protagonist of the comic and the film, was taken from Earth as an kid in the Eighties, the same day that his mother passed away. He grew up and adjusted to life in the weird, cosmic parts of the Marvel Universe; two of his few links to home are his Walkman and the mix tape his mom had made for him. At film's end he finally lets himself open one last gift from her, and to his wistful joy it's "Awesome Mix Vol. 2." More hits from the '70s and '80s live on, even on the other side of the galaxy!
"Awesome Mix Vol. 1" was something of a freak hit last year; good for it. (I wonder if it also made many people want to do mix tapes, or at least mix CDs or curated playlists, as gifts again; admission, I was in the right generation for it but never got into the habit of making mix tapes for others, just for myself.) It's a well-done mix: the songs take on a certain meaning by being ordered in a certain way, in a context never intended by any of the musicians (well, mmmmmmmmaybe David Bowie, he's always had a science fictional mind). The songs are never used jokingly, or an on-the-nose way. (Want an example of too "on the nose"? Watch Titan A.E. -- no, don't. Just know that when the main character pilots a spacecraft for the first time, the song that plays has the line "It's my time to fly.") The film even finds a serviceable, amusing use of the annoyingly catchy "Escape (The Piña Colada Song)," and more power to it for THAT.
How big a deal should Guardians of the Galaxy 2 make of "Awesome Mix Vol. 2"? Maybe not too big a deal; my hunch is that they shouldn't try too hard to recapture that lightning in that bottle. Co-writer/director James Gunn's supposedly already thought about what should be on it, but I hope he and the other people who have input into the song choices choose good, appropriate songs, not just "songs we think would make a hit like last time." Gunn is also enough of a smart-ass -- I know from having seen his Troma film, the genuinely good, disturbing and funny Tromeo and Juliet -- to do something smart-assed and slightly subversive with "Vol. 2," like have it turn out that Peter hates most of the songs and can't bring himself to love them the way his mom loved them (never mind that Baby Groot thinks at least one song is keen). Thank goodness that most signs are that Gunn is a smart-ass sweetheart, so that's unlikely.
Plus there's a worse way to use "Awesome Mix Vol. 2": make it a plot point. I imagined a GOTG2 subplot where it turns out "Vol. 2" is really a coded message: Peter's mom trying to tell him who his real father is. Which will be dealt with sooner or later, but to have a nearly 30-year-old cassette be the big clue would be hella contrived. Plus what the heck songs would work for that? Let "Vol. 2" be what "Vol. 1" was: a character point telling us a lot about Peter Quill. A catchy, catchy character point.
And no matter what, "Awesome Mix Vol. 2" won't include that freakin' piña colada song.