I saw Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 over two weeks ago. I’ve been either too lazy or too tired to write down my thoughts about it. But it’s time to stop procrastinating.
Jake wrote a very awesome and succinct review of it already that put in words more of my general thoughts about the film. So I’m taking a different approach as to what I got out of this movie and listing some of the specifics. Assuming most of you have seen it by now, I felt free in including spoilers as necessary.
The Guardians will make friends—and enemies—and frenemies—wherever they go
I have to concede that Rocket was a total jerk for stealing those batteries. But I suppose it should serve as a reminder that Rocket, Groot, Gamora, Star-Lord, and Drax were criminals before they were heroes, and to an extent they still are criminals.
The Sovereign were definitely interesting alien antagonists for our Guardians this time around. They have a right to be mad about the batteries, but unlike the NovaCorps they want petty revenge more than justice and they act on the determination to prove their species’ superiority. I half-expected them to join the fight against Ego but the Guardians never bothered asking for help. I guess it was too much to ask the Sovereign to ask what was going on at the Living Planet. We know from one of the mid-credit scenes that after her humiliating defeat, the High Priestess is determined to finish them once and for all, so we haven’t seen the last of them. That’s a tall order, honey.
(Also, in case you are confused about the said mid-credit scene, she is going to create Adam Warlock. According to this Vanity Fair article, it could be a big game-changer for the MCU, although Kevin Feige did confirm that Warlock will NOT be in Infinity War)
The Ravagers, we are also brutally reminded, are criminals–pirates, if you like. The mutiny against Yondu shows that for them it’s not about right and wrong so much as whose side you’re on. And the scene where Yondu shoots his arrow to just casually kill all the mutineers is funny but borderline disturbing. They can be just really petty when it comes to killing. (I could write an very long essay about how modern cinema is desensitizing us to violence and sin, but that would trigger my OCD. This is a movie review, so this is neither the time nor the place.)
But the film also demonstrates that the Guardians of the Galaxy—for all the trouble they cause—will win unlikely allies and support from those who have common interests. We can count Stakar Ogord (played by Sylvester Stallone) as a candidate to at least be commanding some of these allies. And there is plenty of room on the lineup for more Guardians, even if they don’t stick around.
2. Some Plot Twists Actually Are Predictable
If you see a lot of something in the promotional material leading up to a movie, chances are that in the film itself the thing will turn out to be not quite what you expect. Marvel wanted people to know from the get-go that Kurt Russell/Ego was Star-lord’s father. Naturally, I overthink things, and I guessed that what Marvel wasn’t spoiling was that Ego was going to end up as some kind of antagonist. They ended up taking that plot twist a lot farther than I thought they would, actually. What worked for this story was that we had to keep guessing about Ego’s intentions as we received a little bit of information at a time right up until the big reveal. The visual style of Ego’s powers is bizarre and quietly unsettling. But, yeah, spoiler, he’s a proverbial wolf in sheep’s clothing.
3. Team Kraglin, All the Way
Director James Gunn cast his brother, Sean, as Yondu’s right-hand-man Kraglin for Guardians of the Galaxy. For Vol. 2, Kraglin’s role goes from cameo to important supporting character as the only one helping out Yondu, Rocket, and Groot. And, small reference to the big spoiler, Kraglin may be sharing a leadership position with Peter Quill from now on. And I find Kraglin’s arc VERY exciting!
Sean Gunn and Michael Rooker will both be attending Salt Lake Comic Con in September. Needless to say I am STOKED.
Nebula is Fighting Her Own War
Thanos casts a long shadow, even when he’s just sitting in his chair. The Mad Titan himself does not appear in Vol. 2 (and James Gunn isn’t a big fan of him anyway), but he is mentioned frequently, mostly by an angry Nebula whose central motivation in the film is to get away and go kill him. The consequences of the events of Vol. 1 are somewhat in play—the Guardians and Yondu are wanted by the Kree, and Star-Lord got Ego’s attention by holding the Infinity Stone.
Nebula’s character development was one of the best points of Vol. 2. It was satisfying to watch Nebula work out her relationship with Gamora. Nebula hates her because Thanos would make them fight, and Gamora would always beat Nebula, and he would give Nebula more and more body modifications. At the end of the film, Gamora explains that she only fought back against Nebula for her own survival. Vol. 2 has a lot of tender moments, and that apology between the sisters was one of the best. I sincerely hope that Steve Rogers gives a similar apology to Tony Stark in Infinity War—or vice versa. Or both.
The most important detail about Vol. 2 that ties to the larger Cinematic Universe is that Nebula’s grudge against Thanos is the size of a supermassive black hole. Remember when she told Ronan that she would do whatever he asked if he destroyed Thanos? She meant it. We already know from a couple of teasers that Marvel released that Star-Lord will be in Infinity War. But more importantly, Karen Gillian is coming back as Nebula and she is gonna kick butt.
Gamora x Peter Quill isn’t a bad ship.
Once again, Gamora is the only character who really acts based on a sense of conscience. But she is also an interesting character because, on the one hand, sometimes she lets Baby Groot cuddle with her, and on the other hand if anyone gets on her nerves she threatens to kill them. Similar to Nebula, that’s the only way she knows of dealing with her issues. It’s amusing but also terrifying.
During the last two and a half years of watching Guardians of the Galaxy, I have not wanted to see Gamora in a romantic relationship with Peter Quill. However, as Vol. 2 opens up, we find out that not only does Peter have the hots for her but Gamora likes him back. It was kind of annoying that they had to bicker about it through the whole movie, but what sold the ship for me was that Gamora cares about Peter deeply enough that she doesn’t want to lose him. More importantly, they’ve grown closer together as teammates and they have good chemistry. She knows how to talk to him, and him to her. Which makes their disagreement about Ego more interesting, because while Gamora doesn’t trust Ego, Peter just wants to know if his biological father can be the dad he always wanted—clearly high emotional stakes for both of them.
Drax might not have things as figured out as we think
Drax may be getting better at making jokes, but he has no filter when it comes to crude humor or references to sex. He’s not the only one making those jokes, and there were enough moments watching this film that I felt uncomfortable and I think we need an edited version.
On a more relevant note, when he’s not making you uncomfortable Drax is actually a fun character to watch, partly because he’s kind of a drama-queen warrior. He doesn’t play as huge of a role in Vol. 2 as he did in the first, probably because most of his revenge issues are settled. He’s mostly along for the ride. But he still reveals to Mantis that he has some grief with him—there are some things you have to carry with you for your whole life. Drax and Mantis had a really good rapport with each other. Yeah, his manners need improvement, but he’s just being Drax.
7. Mantis is a Precious Cinnamon Roll and Must Be Protected at All Costs
No matter how you look at it, Ego keeping Mantis as a companion/therapy pet was kind of disturbing. She becomes a comic relief because of how sheltered she is, and it makes for some good moments in the film. But I liked the exposition of her powers and how she used them to relate to the team, and she won me over with her sweetness and innocence. I wonder how she will be of use to the Guardians in the future, since she doesn’t take a very combative role in this film. I do not believe we have seen the full extent of her powers.
8. Anyone can be a god, but being human is a choice
This is a theme that we’ve seen throughout the other MCU films, but it is beautifully illustrated in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. Ego, or rather the human persona of Ego, takes Peter back to his planet to theoretically spend some quality father-some time. What Ego really wants to do is to introduce Peter to the godlike power that he inherited and teach him to harness it. Peter Quill is more of a damsel in distress in this movie than he was in the last one. When Ego’s plot is revealed, Peter raises all the right objections–why did you abandon me and my mom, what are you going to do to my friends–to be able to overpower Ego’s persuasions. That is when Ego, however, crushes his Sony Walkman and mixtape–his two most personal possessions, his links to his deceased mother, his tie to his humanity. Yeah, Ego deserved to die. Just for that.
And there is a particularly poignant moment when, once Ego is killed, that Peter watches his newly-discovered powers fade out of him. So does this mean that he won’t be able to hold an Infinity Stone next time he sees one? Pretty likely.
But Peter Quill, criminal as he is, recognized that it was wrong for Ego to impose his will on the universe. And he didn’t want any part of it, even if it meant sacrificing his own strength. It is more important to be a good person and to stand up for what is right, than to have all the power you want to make things the way you want them.
9. More of a reminder: Rocket Raccoon is actually a Deep Character
Rocket got lots of quality screen time in Vol. 2, setting up traps and explosives for the Ravagers, helping Yondu get rid of his crew, and demanding background music for work.
Rocket is not only entertaining, but he is one of the most complex characters in the cast. Yes, he’s a talking rodent, you can think of him as cute. But he’s also a petty thief, a jerk, he’s rude to everyone, and he has difficulty with relationships. Why? Because HE. DIDN’T. ASK. TO. GET. MADE. One of the best scenes in the whole movie was the part where Rocket argues with Yondu, and he again brings up his tortured past. And Yondu knows about it, too. We already knew about Rocket’s trauma, but I bring it up because Rocket is actually confronted with having to choose between his own bitterness and caring about his friends. And he makes the choice.
10. It Is Not Possible to Over-hype Baby Groot
Even with all of the baby Groot we got in the trailers and teasers, he still had plenty of surprising moments in the film. Being on the small side, Groot is a little more vulnerable, and he does have some moments where he acts more like an actual baby, but he has an attitude ten stories high. And he’s just as much of a fighter and a killer as any of the grown-ups. Also, trying to remember which button not to press? #Relatable
11. Yondu Might Not be a “Good” guy but he has a Conscience
Yondu may have done a lot of questionable things in his career as a Ravager, but he knows when to take a stand. It goes to show that people that don’t fit society’s standard of decency are still capable of basic goodness—especially looking after people they love. It’s something to consider when you meet someone different from you.
Also, thanks to Yondu Udonta Mary Poppins is cool again—but I already knew Mary Poppins was cool. I think it’s cool that Peter made that comparison.
12. The Guardians set the standard for MCU relationships
The Guardians of the Galaxy hate each other’s guts, but unlike the Avengers they’re better at working through their issues and actually bonding. It was great to see them in action again, great to watch the characters we already know grow and develop, great to see them add some new faces and go on new adventures. I think defining them as a “family” is more fitting than saying they’re all just friends. The main message of this movie is that, while you don’t choose the people you’re related to by blood, your real family are the people who love you and are there for you.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is a quieter, less flashy film than its predecessor, and the character moments are a lot more personal. Guardians of the Galaxy was Marvel’s feel-good movie, and it’s not surprising that no sequel could ever be its equal. The mixtape isn’t nearly as catchy but maybe it will grow on me. However, it’s a better sequel than Age of Ultron was to The Avengers. Vol. 2 has moments that match to Vol. 1 in visual quality and emotional storytelling, but it also has plenty that are new and different and weird. And the two movies actually flow together pretty well, as far as overall feeling. The visual style is more fluid shapes and fewer angles, more organic but, like I said, vaguely creepy. The action sequence I enjoyed the most was the battle at the end. The rude humor kind of ruined it for me but it’s still a good movie. I don’t like it nearly as much as I liked Doctor Strange. But I definitely want to go back and watch it again. Like, here in a week or two.