I was very excited for the release of Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2. The first movie had done such an excellent job of introducing us to these characters and to the Marvel Cinematic Universe cosmic setting. It had the right blend of comedy, action, and character beats that it was within my top five of Marvel movies.
My high level thoughts on Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 are that I really enjoyed the movie but it had some flaws. None of these flaws are enough for me to say not to see this movie in the theater, but did make me pause and think about it afterwards.
Spoiler Warnings On!
There are lots of things to like about Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2.
We are once again given a space opera. The action is big, loud, and gorgeous. There is no reference to a hive of scum and villainy but there is a chase scene through an asteroid belt. The effects are wonderful as always. In particular, I liked the design choices in how Ego told his story to Peter and the rest of the crew. It took an intimate moment between father and son and made it creepy and distancing.
Volume 2 does not disappoint on the character beats either. Each member of the team had been given backgrounds in the first movie that had many loose ends. These are pieces of the puzzle that help flesh out the movie as well as being one of my favorite things in comics. Volume 2 takes the time to find these threads and explore them so that we get a better understanding of the Guardians themselves. one of my favorites is Yondu. It is a consistent story point that Yondu makes such a big deal of being hard on Peter and yet never doing any of the horrible things that he said he would do. This thread leads to a poignant moment between Yondu and Rocket as things look bleak. We also get to revisit the relationship between Gamora and Nebula. Though the idea of child soldiers is dropped, we do get to see what life was like from the perspective of the less successful of Thanos’ daughters.
These character beats highlight the underlying theme of family. In the first movie, we get to watch as this group of misfits come together to form their own family in the end. In volume 2, we get to watch as this idea is explored a bit more in depth. The same interplay between Rocket and Peter can be seen on display. But instead of letting the sharp sarcastic barbs fly fast and furious, there are consequences. The movie takes the time to illustrate that once you care for someone that those barbs you toss about without thinking take on a much greater power. Peter’s playful quip about Trash Pandas becomes a dagger with out thought and the damage is much harder to repair.
The flaws are neither glaring nor numerous. They are just enough to take me out of the movie and wonder why these choices were made.
I will admit that I love baby Groot. He is adorable. But, did we need so much of him? He dominates the opening credit scene as he dances around and we get glimpses of the action in the background. It is a unique way of showing us the action but it felt like a waste of time as Groot himself never takes part in the battle. In addition, Groot is used as a sledge hammer to drive home the the theme of family in this film. The guardians are immersed in a powerful conversation. Throughout the conversation Groot is passed around and cradled by each member in turn.
Ego was…disappointing. Don’t get me wrong, I loved Kurt Russell as the living planet. He did an excellent job as a manipulative yet uncaring cosmic being. I just had hopped that he would have been allowed to be the living planet as opposed to being made a celestial. This is a deep cut for me but the celestials in the marvel universe are sort of the creator race. Their powers are vast and unfathomable. I had hoped that Marvel had learned from the first movie in this series that they could just go with the craziness that is the cosmic marvel universe and run. The audience had accepted a talking racoon and a plant. A living planet that was tired of being alone would have fit in just fine.
The initial plot that starts the movie is very thin. We get to watch as the team guards batteries from an interdimensional beast. This seems very low rent for a team that has successfully defeated Ronan the Accuser. It further thins as this empire is willing to throw all its resources against the Guardians even after a good portion of their fleet is destroyed by a single creature without a ship. There is no pause to contemplate that this might be a poor life decision and that whatever those people have stumbled into might better be left undisturbed.
The last bit that bugged me was Yondu. We learn that Yondu broke the Ravager code in regards to children and that he was allowed to continue to wear the colors but was not given any of the support that this would normally entail. We learn as the story unfolds the true horror of what Yondu has done appears. In the end, The Ravagers end up giving Yondu what he hoped for but there is no reason for this. Rocket admits that he broadcast the last moments between Peter and Yondu. This is enough to give Yondu a personal redemption but does nothing to explain why the Ravagers would now consider him a member of the group once again.
Overall, Marvel has still done a good job with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2. It gives me more space opera that I enjoy as well as character moments that provide a connection for me with a movie. A little less baby Groot and a little more on in regards to plot would have made this an excellent movie.
Three bear paws out of four. Well worth watching on the big screen to enjoy space opera in it’s natural habitat.