Unless you live under a rock, you would know that the much-anticipated follow-up film/musical to Mamma Mia was released on July 20, 2018. The release of Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again came at the ideal time and was the perfect way to celebrate the original film's tenth anniversary!

At first, the idea of continuing the story seemed daunting and many hard-core fans probably felt as hesitant as I was toward the idea, how could they match or top the magnificence of the first film?! Once the first trailer was released, there was no doubt in my mind that it would be an honorable attempt at matching the first film.

The film industry has had some miracles in sequels released this summer: maybe they've finally realized that movies should progressively get better in series when more are being created than always having the dreaded sequel people watch once then discard when doing marathon nights. The Mamma Mia family was blessed to receive one of those miracle sequels, and here are ten reasons why:

1. Spot On Casting

  1. A consistent issue in films is having unrealistic as well as unbelievable casting for the past or future characters. Whether that is due to how they portray that character or their appearances are nothing alike. This common issue for films became one of the biggest strengths for Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again. The past and present actors were extraordinary: they basically look related because the characters appear like real depictions of them at different points in their life, their personalities and physicalities are portrayed similarly, and the character chemistries match in past and present.
  2. The casting of Donna's love interest most evidently indicates how well they pulled off this aspect of the film. Young Harry (Hugh Skinner), Young Bill (Josh Dylan), and Young Sam (Jeremy Irvine) were incredible in matching the well-known energy and personality of their characters that were already developed and loved through Colin Firth, Stellan Skarsgård, and Pierce Brosnan's portrayals.
  3. Not much need for explanation on how well the casting was done for Donna's best friends, Rosie and Tanya. Julie Walters (Rosie) and Christine Baranski (Tanya) created gorgeously hilarious and memorable characters that every fan wants best friends like now. How Alexa Davies (Young Rosie) and Jessica Keenan Wynn (Young Tanya) absolutely embodied these characters perfectly is beyond me, but their performances deserve a standing ovation it was that believable.
  4. And we can't forgot the one and only Donna. Meryl Streep set an almost impossible bar anyone to try to attempt to match her beautiful performance in the original film. But it's as if Lily James was born to play Young Donna. Instead of focusing on matching the voice, she worked on mastering the personality and physicality Meryl Streep brought to Donna before to give an accurate portrayal as well as embodiment of the character everyone loves.

2. Great Soundtrack Selection

  1. Every time I rewatch the original film I rediscover my love for ABBA songs. Seeing Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again was no different. Each song stood out, made an impact on the film's storyline and helped it along. Each song had a purpose: to portray feelings toward another character (like Waterloo and Why Did It Have To Be Me?), to express their thoughts and mindset (like I Wonder and I've Been Waiting For You), for nostalgia (like Mamma Mia and Dancing Queen) and more. No songs become overshadowed and every song on the album has easily become a favorite. Even the classics that were featured in the original film have a new spin on them and can loved as a separate, new song.

3. The Album Itself

  1. Similar to the last point, the whole album deserves so much praise. ABBA and the cast put immense amounts of efforts into making it sound unique to capture Mamma Mia's energy while maintaining the timeless melodies ABBA created. It's catchy. It never gets old, even after listening to the album and only the album since seeing the second film. Honestly, it's distracting how amazing it's put together and hard to concentrate on anything else when it's playing.

4. Honest Storyline Portrayal

  1. Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again doesn't romanticize love, heartache, grief, and marriage. The emotions are raw and realistic. Young Donna is living with a free spirit and going where the wind takes her with whoever she happens to run into. What's admirable about this film is the fact that Donna's recent actions with the men she meets are never viewed in a shameful way (which they should never be, but commonly are in today's society) and is empowering for her character and today's audience. And the love she finds with Sam specifically is instantaneous, but realistically not perfect as we all find out which many people, I'm sure, can relate to from their own experiences. Lily James portrays Young Donna's heartache when Sam left beautifully, and interactions with her friends and, later on, Bill are often ways people find comfort during those times. And if the film was to romanticize her heartache it would have been a more extreme roller coaster for her. Plus she probably would have ended up with Sam again when he returned, but she's starting to move on and people are there to protect her from falling into that once-deceitful-trap Sam caught her in.
  2. Both films give an excellent contrast of the young, exciting love Sophie and Sky have with the separated couple that seem to have forgotten what's worth fighting for. A simple way to highlight the change their relationship went through between the two movies would be to listen to Lay All Your Love On Me, then One Of Us. But marriage is always about effort, and they are not characters we know to give up easily on something they're passionate about.

5. Energy

  1. Like the first film, there is a certain, unexplainable, fun, uplifting energy about it while carrying heavier storylines. In the first film, Donna had to overcome the fear of letting go of Sophie and the change of lifestyle that came with her leaving at some point when she was engaged to marry Sky. Any parent's fear of letting their child go and experience life on another level that takes time to accept. All the while facing her past relationships and heartaches that have found her again. Both very internal struggles that she deals with alone for some time.
  2. With Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again, the characters (and the audience) are facing the grief of losing Donna, and even though a year has gone by all the emotions are sensitively raw to handle. It makes you honestly recognize how much you've come to love and connect with each character. It evokes empathy in everyone, and if you didn't cry when Meryl Streep sang at the end I think you need to watch both films again.

6. The Cast's Enthusiasm

  1. Something that makes these movies, especially the second one, extra special is the enthusiasm and love the cast has for the projects. For returning cast members, they are bringing the fun, the energy, the love they had from the first one - it's like a big family reunion. And the new members loved the first film and have an appreciation for it and were fans before (Lily James stated in an interview she had seen the stage version of Mamma Mia at least ten times). When a group comes together that has that much love and enthusiasm to honor the projects they put effort into, miracles like this sequel are created. The chemistry and love the characters have with each other becomes more and more genuine, and become a more enjoyable, lovable experience for the cast and crew and the audience.

7. A Prequel and A Sequel

  1. This film is the best of both worlds. It is everything the audience has been craving since watching the first one. We get to experience parts of characters we've been dying to get to know more about: fresh out of college Donna, Tanya, and Rosie...what fun! I know I'm not the only one feeling compelled to start a band with my best friends now; Donna meeting Harry, Bill, and Sam for the first time - ever since Honey, Honey in the first film we've been wanting the details we finally got; Donna finding the island and the hotel, and the beginning of her life there. Then on the flip side, we got to see Sophie adulting with the help of Sam on the island by dealing with issues with Sky, her grief about her mom, and reopening the hotel in honor of Donna. Plus, the epic return of Tanya, Rosie, Harry, Bill, and Donna's mother!

8. Cher

1. Cher is Cher. What else should be said?Honestly, the grandmother wasn't, in my opinion, needed for the plot since her character was a "mamma" M.I.A. throughout Donna's past and Sophie's childhood. While Cher's presence and character was an unnecessary necessity for the film, it is difficult to imagine anyone else managing and owning that role.

9. Credits Grand Finale

  1. While Mamma Mia has a credits song, this version of Super Trouper was a major step up. It was like the after party everybody deserved. And we finally get to see the past characters interact with the future characters. It's just one huge celebration for the cast and the crew and the audience for such a memorable journey ABBA's music and the Mamma Mia films have taken everyone on.

10. Memorable Quotes

  1. It's difficult to not want to go backpacking and leave "structured" lifestyles behind after experiencing life through Donna's journey. While not everyone can do that, it does leave the audience and the world with a message to live freely and with a more adventurous, loving mindset. The whole film is memorable, but there are so many quotes that stick with you afterward for a variety of reasons.
  2. "You know, Soph, being a grudge holder makes you fat." - Ruby Sheridan (Cher)
  3. "Life is short, the world is wide. I want to make some memories." -Young Donna (Lily James)
  4. "It's called karma. And it's pronounced ha!" -Sofia (Maria Vacratsis)
  5. "She wasn't scared. She could do it because she wasn't alone, she had me." -Sophie (Amanda Seyfried)