Before I get started on what worked and didn’t work with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, I want to start by talking about a theme that resonated with me throughout the film. That theme was family, love, and what it really means to be parent. Now I apologize if you wanted some simple review of the space adventure, but I really don’t think you can review this film without looking at the important role family played throughout the film.
Without giving away any spoilers, Peter Quill, AKA Star-Lord, meets his real dad, Ego, who in the comics is just a planet that can think and do all the fun stuff you see in the film, but he has jack-all to do with Star-Lord or his parentage. He’s just a planet. In the comics, Star-Lord’s dad is a jackass named J’Son of Spartax. Kurt Russell plays Ego and does a magnificent job of it, too. Though Ego is Star-Lord’s biological father, we learn a bit more about why Yondu never delivered Peter to his dad.
What stood out to me in this film was how the filmmaker, James Gunn, was able to powerfully illustrate just how much another person can love someone with whom they share zero genes. You don’t have to be blood to be family is a theme present over and over again. There is an extraordinarily powerful scene near the end of the movie that struck a chord inside of me that I haven’t felt since I was a child going to court over and over again while the system tried to figure out what to do with me because I wasn’t wanted by my real parents.
Anyone who has come from a broken home or lived with a family that wasn’t their own, but quickly became their own will see this movie through a different lens than those who grew up in a normal household, though it can still speak to them through relationships made over time. Even still, they weren’t the target audience for this theme. A Motley crew of people who have good at the center of their hearts, even if they have massive shortcomings on the outside. They may have shortcomings, but they overlook your shortcomings and have your back just the same. This movie speaks to this idea in a way Marvel had yet to do and James Gunn deserves all of the credit.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is an immensely entertaining ride. Whether or not you find it to be as good or better than the first one will depend on the viewer, but this reviewer believes that Gunn knocked it out of the park and far surpassed my expectations for the film. At present, it is the single greatest film I’ve seen Marvel Studios put out and it’s going to take one hell of a film to displace it from that spot.
Though the film’s cast almost doubled, the story remained intimate and focused on our heroes as they navigated their own inter and intrapersonal relationships. The “unspoken thing” between Quill and Gamora sees a candle lit under it. Dave Bautista continues to defy expectations about what he could do as an actor. Once again, Bautista nails the role of Drax and even brings it to a whole new level. There even seems to be a relationship building with Drax and another crewmate, but I won’t spoil that in here.
The easter eggs in this movie were off the charts. This film dropped some series bombs and paved the way for several things to happen. The post-credit scene showing the fate of the Contraxian antagonist in the film drops a two-ton megabomb right before we get to Infinity Wars. The film also introduces the concept of higher beings within the Marvel Universe. It would be rude to spoil what those beings are, but Marvel fans will instantly recognize most of them and non-readers can simply Google an article on eggs in the film if they’re that curious. It would probably be worth your time to Google one anyhow, reader or not, this film cleared up a lot of fan theories and things we knew we knew were finally said by their proper name, thus bringing them into existence within the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
There were so many different ways this film could’ve gone and I would bet that every one of them would’ve been a fun ride. I think Gunn, however, knew this one was better than “fun,” he knew that this film would be the launching pad for so much more than just the Guardians of the Galaxy. This film has replaced Inhumans as the final film in the Phase 3 of Marvel’s 10+ year project. Now Gunn has the honor of wrapping up universe we’ve known and loved for the last decade, and this film proved he isn’t just ready to do it, it’s something he was born to do.
Visually, the film lives up to expectations. Fans are even treated to a standard view shot of the Planet Ego and it looked outstanding. The world Ego created is vibrant and layered. The arcade-like appearance of Contraxia was well done and on point. Even the look of the new ravagers in the film were distinct, well-crafted, and brought to life in a way that didn’t look forced. The Cosmos as a whole looked exactly like you’d see it in a Marvel comic.
The characters were also cleaned up, given slightly new looks and Groot was just a joy to watch throughout the film, even though his role as a fighter was diminished. Yondu’s updated look was a call-back to the comics. Call-backs to comics and earlier films were highly utilized in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and they were couched in the conversation as opposed to being totally obvious lines meant to affirm something, but sound totally out of place. Marvel comics do this all the time, you’ll see a thought bubble saying something like “It’s a good thing my seventh sense allowed me to foresee that incoming attack or I would have been toast.” All. The. Time.
While the soundtrack didn’t have as many notable songs as the first, I thought the songs were thoughtfully chosen and each one hit the mark when it was supposed to do so. This is one of those areas that people will be divided on. Music speaks to each person differently, so whether or not you liked the soundtrack is entirely up to you. This reviewer felt the songs were all appropriate and appreciated that they told a story using songs that meant something to development team. Having firmly established itself as a viable franchise, I felt the film was able to mature the soundtrack and use songs that spoke to the viewer on a deeper level than “Fooled Around and Fell in Love.”
A perfect example of this is Cat Stevens’ “Father and Son,” which was used at exactly the right time and brought all kinds of emotion out of myself and other viewers. I’ve seen the reactions and know that enough people out there felt the way I did when they heard this song play in the accompanying scene. It was raw. It was pure. It was family being driven home as a theme once again. The song was already amazing, its usage made it the most poignant moment in the entire film.
At the end of the day, this was a journey about finding your family and finding your way in life. It’s not always clear-cut and sometimes the choices we make will have lasting consequences, but the right people around and you’d be amazed at what you can overcome. Things aren’t going to come easy and effort has to be made on all sides, but the true magic begins when folks find a space in their heart another person to the point where they consider them family. It’s love, it’s simple, it’s pure.
I really enjoyed Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. I believe the film was better than the first. I cannot wait to see the third film and a lot of my fears were allayed vis-a-vis Inhumans being replaced with a third Guardians film. If I have to choose between seeing the Royal Family on ABC and going on one more ride with James Gunn et al., it’s pretty much a no-brainer for me. The Guardians of the Galaxy are the past, present, and future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. So long as they keep churning out films of this quality, I’ll let them take me anywhere they want. They’ve earned the right to officially be one of Marvel’s heaviest hitters and they did it with a simple concept like finding family where you had none.