KcMsterpce posted a MOVIE REVIEW item: 12 days ago

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2


Directed by: James Gunn
Written by: James Gunn
Cast: Chris Pratt, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Zoë Saldana, Michael Rooker, Josh Brolin, Dave Bautista, Glenn Close, Kurt Russell, Pom Klementieff, Elizabeth Debicki, Chris Sullivan
Studio: Marvel Studios
Genre: Action, Adventure, Comedy, Comic Book, Science-Fiction
Official Site:
Plot: The guardians are back, four months after the events of the first movie. They are a full-fledged group at this point, and Rocket causes trouble when he steals Amulax batteries, which are extremely valuable. The Sovereign own the batteries, and don’t like to be made fun of or look bad. The penalty is death. Soon, they are engulfed in danger, only to be saved by a mysterious man claiming to be Peter Quill’s father (Kurt Russel).


The opening scene, with baby Groot dancing while the credits roll, is the first of many great creative choices in GotG2. Groot starts dancing, while in the background, the guardians are battling a giant monster. Since it’s the beginning of the movie, Gunn is purposefully undermining the levity of the situation by keeping the battle in the background. I think it is a pretty clever setup for the movie. Quite often a movie will begin by putting the main characters in a dangerous, life threatening situation, but it’s obvious that since it’s the beginning of the movie they aren’t going to die or anything (*cough* OKJA *cough*). GotG2 in some ways may be too clever and self-aware for its own good. However, if you liked the first movie, chances are that you’ll like Volume 2. If you didn’t, well… I still say this one deserves a chance.
Although it has been four months since they defeated Ronan, there is still plenty of contention with the team. Each of them knows how to push one another’s emotional buttons, while Drax – most likely because he wants to fit in and is pleased to finally have people to care about again – keeps laughing in a way that is very out of place with any given scenario. At first, I was getting annoyed as hell by Drax laughing all the time, but by the halfway point I started laughing with him, and I came to realize that I was falling in line with the movie’s pulse (again) (more about Drax’s laughter in the SPOILERS section). It is ridiculous in parts, and the humor AGAIN teeters on the edge of falling into parody. However, before going into spoiler territory, new layers of depth and characterization push that humor aside just long enough to give some even deeper “feels” than the first movie’s proceedings.
There is just as much color, blue breath and purple flames pluming about as before. The visual influence of GotG has been seeping into the rest of the MCU (most apparent with THOR: RAGNAROK, and to a lesser extent, DOCTOR STRANGE), and in a way it’s a pleasant sidebar to the cool yet predictable drabness of earth for most other MCU flicks. There were hints and allusions to a universe with more color in THOR, especially the bifrost bridge. It makes sense for the third THOR installment to meld the two opposing visual palettes into one movie.
Unlike THOR: RAGNAROK’s unwillingness to tone down the humor and keep shallow the characters and their plight, GotG2 finds ways to weave in strong emotional threads, which were actually put in place with the first movie. Yondu (Michael Rooker) took in Peter so that he could use the kid’s small size and skill to break into places other people couldn’t fit. At the end of GotG Kraglin (Sean Gunn) said that Peter’s dad was a “dick”. Yondu didn’t exactly raise Peter in the most peaceful or fatherly of conditions, but it DID shape him to become the skilled thief and fighter that he is for these movies.
It’s also easy to see, even in GotG that Yondu doesn’t hate Peter. He made several threats of killing Peter, treated him rough, but in the end he didn’t kill the “boy” (no one says “boy” like Michael Rooker). It was a game to him, even though Peter feels threatened by Yondu. I love the bit at the end of Volume 1 when Yondu opens the case, and the troll toy is stuck inside. His smile says it all: Peter is Yondu’s adopted son, and with that, Peter’s fear of Yondu is much like a child fears the wisdom and strength of a tough parent, yet still trying to earn their respect.
This leads to the ultimate theme of GotG Volume 2: Family. It is about the family you have no choice but to be a part of, versus the family you choose. At some points, the movie even goes out of its way to beat the viewer over the head with these themes. What I find beautiful about it all, though, is how deftly the interconnecting parts of chosen family, and that of kin, provides a cascading crescendo of payoffs by the end credits (and even a little bit after the credits).
Kurt Russel has plenty of great scenes, with chewy monologues. His speech to Peter about how Looking Glass’ song “Brandy” is an analogy for Ego, Peter, and Peter’s mother is genius. Also, it’s easy to like Kurt Russel himself, so when Ego plays down his godlike status in order to allow Peter a chance to finally play catch with his father… it started out as a laughably cheesy moment, but eventually I stop laughing and remember that Peter mentioned in an argument with Gamora that he was hurt to never have the CHANCE to play catch with his father. It seemed like a throwaway line, but in retrospect, it was just another branch that grew from the many seeds planted in the first movie – and the second – to allow a series of callbacks and wrap-ups which permeate through GotG2’s runtime.

*************** SPOILERS FOR GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, VOLUME 2 BELOW ******************

It can be easy to overlook, or throw aside a lot of the buildup of the family theme, but it is so intertwined with the movie from so many levels, that I can’t help but be dumbfounded by the complexity of it all.

Baby Groot is a great example of how much thought went into this team’s dynamics. Each of the guardians react to him differently. Groot goes to Gamora for consoling, and she has a strong maternal instinct to protect him. Rocket talks to him like a buddy, and much the same way he treated Groot in the first movie. Drax always yells at Groot and pushes him out of the way, and Groot also seems angry to be around him (until the very end, when Groot chooses to hop onto Drax’s shoulder to go to sleep, and Drax holds him). Peter Quill completely disregards Groot’s existence, until the very end of the movie. When Peter finally plays the Zune, the first song he plays is Cat Steven’s “Father and Son”, while Groot takes a seat on Peter’s lap. Peter shares an earbud with Groot, and they listen together. Peter finally understood that Yondu is Peter’s “real” father, and Peter accepts the responsibility to become a father to Groot (thus, the scene in the end credits with the adolescent Groot).

Rocket represents “The Family You Choose”. He is abrasive, but Yondu and Rocket come to understand that they are both miserable, and lash out at those they care about the most. They become good friends based on shared misery. The Guardians inherently know that is how Rocket shows that he cares. He tries to push them away, but he is indispensable, and does what needs to be done when none of the others can do it (leaving behind Peter and Yondu on Ego as it explodes. He said, “I lost one friend today”. Did he mean Peter, or Yondu? Why not TWO friends?). He stays with the team because somewhere inside himself he knows he has a family.

Drax lost his entire family. He had nothing but the need for revenge until meeting Quill and Co. He laughs a lot, I think, because he’s also overwhelmed by the happiness he feels inside versus the heartache of being alone and consumed with rage. This is why the scene with Mantis making fun of Peter’s love for Gamora is more important than the joke itself. The point of that scene is further emphasized when Mantis later touches Drax’s shoulder to empathically console him as he talks about the painful loss of his family. Every time Drax comments about the beauty of his father’s sexual escapades with his mother, how his mother was the only one not dancing at a public gathering, and so on… Drax never jokes. But he laughs at any other opportunity. When Mantis consoled the sadness that overwhelmed Drax while they were on Ego, I came to realize why he’s laughing so much: He is trying to forget how much pain he carries in himself, while also relieved at the freedom of having family again. Plus, he’s just awkward and doesn’t know how to act as “normal” as most races.

Yondu, of course shows Peter what true love is when he needs it most. He doesn’t aim the arrow with his head, he aims with his heart. Yondu wins back the love of his OWN family of Ravagers who abandoned him because “he dealt with kids”, and kids are off limits to the Ravager code. Yondu took Peter in because he came to realize what Ego was doing to the children. At the same time, he couldn’t just ABANDON the boy, so he raised him as his own – even though it got him exiled from the Ravager community. He lost one family, to raise a boy as his own.
The Zune was a funny, but clever set up for GotG3. Peter’s mother spoke to him through the Awesome Mix tapes volumes 1 and 2, and now Yondu can speak to Peter after HIS death with the song list on the Zune. Furthermore, it is a chance for a new Awesome Mix that has more modern music. Although Ego destroyed Peter’s Walkman, the replacement is an “upgrade”, and shows that Peter has let go of his attachment to the pain of losing his mom, and to make way for the future – while honoring Yondu’s legacy.

Gamora and Nebula’s sister bond is the most obvious. However, I love that tender hug Gamora gives Nebula. Thanos was an abusive father in this case. Abusive in a way that is NOT underpinned with love, like Yondu’s love for Peter.

Ego’s lack of humanity is evidenced by miscalculated comments meant to further ensnare Peter into his web for universal domination. The comment about putting the tumor in his mother, for example. At first I thought that was a very simple ploy to get Peter to “come out of it”. But then, thinking back, Ego has done this same process – bonding with his child to make them do his bidding – hundreds, if not thousands of times before. Ultimately, Ego doesn’t give a shit about Peter’s mother or even Peter himself, and by not knowing how deep love truly goes, he didn’t understand that mentioning his choice to murder her would cause Peter to go berserk. Everything that Ego said and did up to that moment was rehearsed, a calculated façade to get Peter to willingly use his energy to help Ego build his power. He’s not just an absentee father, but he’s a psychopathic asshole to boot.

*********************** END OF SPOILERS *****************************


There are times when I thought the laughter and wisecracks were a little overdone. Baby Groot’s many attempts to get the prototype fin is one great example; it went on way too long. So, too, was a lengthy gag about trying to get some Scotch tape during the perilous final battle. It’s funny, yes, but I kind of think it was too silly. Or, Taser Face. Yeah, the name is funny, but not as funny as everyone in the movie seems to believe.

Ultimately, GotG2 hits the right notes, striking a beautiful chord with the whole theme on “family”. You can have scary parents that still care, or your dad can be like Thanos, who only wants to have sisters compete to be the most evil. The family you're born into is beyond your control. What IS within your control is finding the people that piss you off, but will always have your back. The family you choose will make you stronger, even when there is strong contention. It’s that “unspoken thing” from a familial bond that elevates this movie to beyond a simple action comedy, and into an effective emotional experience as well. With that, as well as an unusual story structure that lacks a “main villain” or an “important object/MacGuffin”, leading to a slow evolution towards an atypical conclusion… GotG2 is a unique, and special viewing experience.

Grade: A
Score: 9/10

Reviewed 12/5/2017


Other reviews of this film: oscarxp25 (9/10) , LelekPL (6/10) > Display all

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