Everybody loves the Guardians of the Galaxy. James Gunn has won me over, and millions of others, as a director and storyteller extraordinaire. He took a rag-tag group of widely unknown misfits and turned them into household superheroes that have become the gleaming beacon of Marvel. I never knew I needed a Groot until I was ever so amazingly given one 3 years ago. So with the release of the highly anticipated sequel, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, the stakes were very high and the expectations were through the roof. I can say that my expectations were met, however, they were not exceeded. Let’s dig in:
Spoilers Ahead: BEWARE
The first 30 minutes of Guardians were some of the finest minutes in all of the Marvel movies so far. We open up to a flashback to Kurt Russell’s character, Ego, and Peter’s mother riding around in a Thunderbird in the mid 70’s and the song “Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl)” by Looking Glass. In a call back to Star Lord’s love of music and his mother, we see what her life was like before Peter was born and the time she spent with Peter’s father before her death, and before his departure. This scene is great because it not only set the tone for the movie but it is another emotional open for a story that overall deals with the idea of family. Peter’s mother and Ego fall in love and eventually she gets pregnant with Peter, thus making him half human and half whatever space creature Ego turns out to be. She even says, “I can’t believe I fell in love with a space man” giving way to the fact that she knows and now we know, Peter is not all human. The scene ends with Ego and Peter’s mother kissing in the woods and Ego planting some kind of glowing space plant behind a Dairy Queen, which by the way, we get TWO Dairy Queen spottings in this movie. Nice James.
Flash forward to 2014 and we find Star-Lord and the gang, getting ready to duke it out with some sort of space creature. These events take place a couple of months after the first movie and we get see the whole gang ready for action, including a now walking and talking Baby Groot. This scene was my favorite in the whole series so far. It has the comedy, the action and it brings us back into the fold of how Peter is leading a real team and excelling at it. Baby Groot, who is a great character throughout the entire movie, dances his way around the battle, avoiding almost certain death, all while imitating the dance moves we see Peter display in the beginning of the first Guardians movie. Set to the song “Mr. Blue Sky” by Electric Light Orchestra, we follow Baby Groot as the Guardians fight a giant space slug in the background and it is amazing. It was a great call back from James Gunn and it set the tone of the movie off right. Showing off the humor of Star-Lord, the ingenuity of Rocket, the fierceness of Gamora, the obliviousness of Groot and the absolute idiotic bravery of Drax; this scene had it all. I really, really loved that this is the way Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 opened up.
As we approached act 2 of the film, we see the characters meeting new allies and possibly new foes into the mix. A golden race of perfect people, who will serve as one of many major conflicts, are congratulating the Guardians on defeating the space slug. Ayesha is the main golden goddess, hired the Guardians to protect some expensive and explosive batteries from being absorbed by the space slug. As payment for protecting the batteries, the Guardians gain custody of Gamora’s sister, Nebula, who was captured and wanted by the Nova Corps. On their way out, Rocket ends of stealing the batteries they were there to protect and thus pisses off Ayesha. When the Guardians leave the planet, they are chased by a fleet of golden ships and are pushed into an asteroid belt of death. These scenes were funny and I loved the passing around of Baby Groot, as if everyone was used to taking care of the little guy “Buckle your seatbelt Groot”. We also get some solid Drax time, as he hangs out of the back of the spaceship to shoot down the enemies, all while flailing about in space. When it seemed as if the crew were surrounded, a tiny man on a spaceship destroys all of the golden ships in one fell swoop and the Guardians found themselves heading toward a planet’s surface.
The Guardians crash on a strange planet and that tiny man turns out to be Ego, Peter’s father. Ego tells Peter about himself and persuades him to come with him back to his planet with Gamora and Drax. I don’t actually mind the group splitting, as we now have two groups doing different things, and the pairings for this work out to be funny and for a purpose. In this time we also meet Mantis, who is a cute alien “pet” that Ego keeps with him to help him sleep. She has an interesting power, which is able to feel other people’s emotions and even intensify their emotion or comfort them, if it is too much. Drax and Mantis have some of the best back and forth in the film, as it seems like Drax likes her, but ultimately finds her physically disgusting. “You are beautiful Mantis….On the inside.” She also reveals that Peter has feelings for Gamora. This is one storyline in the film that falls flat, as we already had a romantic connection between Gamora and Peter, we didn’t need another movie to solidify that.
At this time we also get reintroduced to Yondu and the ravager crew, now as another possible enemy threat. Yondu is traveling around the galaxy, doing rough and tough Ravager things like gambling and killing, when he finds out there is a bounty on the Guardians. He takes that opportunity to get some cash and get back at Peter for the last movie. He had put a tracker on Peter’s ship, which eventually leads him to it so he can make his money. Let me say, I love Michael Rooker as Yondu. He is one of the stronger actors in the movie and has some of the coolest shots and funniest lines in the movie. His part in the movie feels forced at times but it is hard not to love every minute of his screentime. Even so, this is where Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 loses a some points for me. The storyline gets pretty murky.
By the middle of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, we have 4 different storylines going on, with a bunch of different conflicts. One being the Ayesha and her golden cohorts who try to destroy the Guardians because Rocket stole some valuable batteries. Two being Ego and Peter’s relationship of father and son. Three being Yondu and the ravagers, who eventually pull Rocket and Groot into the mix. And four being the feud between Gamora and Nebula. These main story lines don’t even play into the other minor plots like the Ravagers mutiny, Rocket and Yondu’s rocky past and the end conflict, which is that Ego really wants to destroy the universe with Peter by his side. Like I said there is a lot going on.
On top of all of this, we see that the main theme of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is family. Peter and Ego, Peter and Yondu, Gamora and Nebula, The Guardians and themselves, Yondu and the Ravagers and so forth. I think that Gunn tried to pack too much into this movie and could have given us more screentime with our favorite characters, without bringing all of this into the fold.
Even so, I do like what happens in these storylines and they did work for the most part. I would say that the Guardians are at their best when they are a whole unit. The end of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 has them all back together fighting ego and we see a lot of great action and comedy. The scene with Yondu floating down from the sky, with his arrow in hand looked kind of dumb. However, when Peter says he looks like Mary Poppins and he yells down to the crew “I’m Mary Poppins Ya’ll”, I nearly peed my pants. But even when they were spit up, we had great moments, such as Groot trying to find Yondus new fin. He brought back things like a desk, a human toe and a call back from the first movie, the eye Rocket asked for when breaking out of the space prison. It was on point and one the more memorable scenes in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.
Some of the best jokes and gags in this movie did not have to deal with the “main” character at all, which I thought made the movie better. The main hero does not always have to be a focus of a movie. Even though Star-Lord had a lot of screen time, the other characters shined much brighter than he did and I am thankful for that. The cuteness of Baby Groot and his childlike wonder made me love the character more than I did in the first movie. Drax’s blunt and dumb humor was spot on and Dave Bautista really did an amazing job in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. Rocket and Yondu had a special connection and they were both such a-holes, it made them fun to watch. Gamora and Nebula were probably the weakest characters in the movie for me. We established that they hated each other in the first movie and their conflict was only used as a vehicle to find out Ego’s big secret towards the end of the movie. We really didn’t need more of that.
The end of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 had some amazing action scenes but a little bit of CGI bloat. Even so, the destruction of Ego and the heroic nature of Yondu made up for that. This brought about the biggest consequence for the Guardians, which was Yondu’s death. The death of Yondu at the end of the film was pretty genuine. I felt sad in the theater because you find out that Yondu isn’t a terrible guy (minus all the killing and ravaging), he was just tough on Peter to make him stronger. He saved Peter from Ego when he was a kid so that way Ego didn’t use him for power or worse, kill him. Even though he threatened to eat him, many times, this showed that he really did care for Peter and his rough exterior was covering up a soft spot. So the end of the movie and Yondu’s death help redeem his character and make you want more. Unfortunately, him dying kind of puts a stop on more Yondu screen time.
Guardians of the Galaxy is my favorite Marvel movie to date. After this weekend, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 might just be my second favorite. Star-Lord and the gang returned to theaters this past weekend to give us another galactic adventure, filled to the brim with laughs, action and love. Marvels latest attempt at bringing tongue in cheek humor and adult situations into comic book movies was an overall success. Even with some minor plot issues and excessive conflicts, I really loved this film. Many of the things people enjoyed about the first movie, were amped up to the max. Some of it worked and some of it did not. Even so, this movie is a must see summer blockbuster, making $85 million on it’s opening weekend! You might be in the minority if you haven’t already seen it and trust me, you will want to see it. All I can say about this movie is it makes me excited that there will be a Vol. 3 and that we can take another galactic ride with Star-Lord and company.