Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Review

My rating: B+

I will preface this by saying I was a big fan of the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie. I didn’t think it would be a hit, but with its likable characters, far-out visuals, fun soundtrack and surprising emotional depth, it was my favorite movie of 2014. I was psyched for the sequel – more so than the next Star Wars movie. I couldn’t wait for more adventures with Peter Quill a.k.a Star-Lord and the gang and I was thrilled just thinking about what tracks would be on the soundtrack, Awesome Mix Vol. 2. Having now seen it, what did I think of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2?

I felt the film was entertaining, had good character development and the ending resonated emotionally with me. Toward the end, I wished I could live in this world and watch the Ravagers’ fireworks alongside the Guardians. All in all, I thought it was a solid film. I enjoyed that it was just telling the next chapter in the lives of these characters. I like that this one had more serious moments that grew the characters. The first movie was more fun, but I expect with repeat viewings I’ll grow to love this film in its own right.

I didn’t have much criteria before going in. I wanted an entertaining movie with solid character development and some emotional depth, like the first one. Quill’s relationship with his mother in the first movie, represented by the mix tapes she gave to Quill before her death, was one of the emotional highlights of the first movie. I remember being surprised that despite being advertised as a comedic action-adventure film, which are a dime a dozen, the first film had a heart. 

Without any spoilers, if you haven’t seen the film, here’s what I feel were the strongest aspects of the film:

Father/son theme.

The identity of Quill's father was left up in the air at the end of the last film, so this was a question that I wanted answered in the sequel. I was not disappointed. Quill’s father, Ego (Kurt Russell), was a strong character and he contributed a lot to the film. I love complex father-son relationships because there is so much a father has to teach his son and, though I’m familiar with many stories about a child meeting their long-lost parent, I liked Quill enough as a character that I wanted to know who his father was and why he abandoned Quill as a baby. The reason why, which we learn in this film, makes sense given who and what Ego is. The fact that he’s not human added another layer to the father-son relationship. While I feel like this relationship deserved to be explored in greater detail, I understand that the movie had to focus on the development of multiple characters, this element was good but could have been greater. However, the relationship between Quill and Yondu added that emotional depth I was looking for. I left the theater feeling mostly satisfied by the questions I had wanted answered.

Characters

I love these characters, so any time spent with them was entertaining. I feel like the movie did a good job developing its characters, choosing to spend the most time developing Quill, Rocket, and Yondu. Developing such characters as Yondu and Nebula, who both have greater roles this time around, rounds out the diverse cast. Yondu is developed according to his relationships with both Rocket and Quill. The time spent with Yondu is well worth it. When we first see him in this film, he is in a catatonic state on a faraway planet that celebrates bars and brothels. His journey throughout the movie is traumatic as he watches his Ravager friends massacred by villain Taserface (yes, it is a dumb name, something the movie drives home). I actually feel like the emotional journey of the film belongs to Yondu, so kudos to the film’s writers for giving what was a secondary character in the first film so much development.

The character of Nebula is juxtaposed with her adoptive sister Gamora. While it was nice to gain more insight on the sister relationship between these two, Nebula still feels underdeveloped, as does Gamora. Although Gamora is my least favorite member of the Guardians, I found her subplot with Nebula intriguing and a nice bit of character development for them both. I like that we’re also getting background information about Thanos, who raised both women and who will be the villain for Avengers: Infinity War. However, I didn’t buy Nebula’s sudden love for Gamora when they embraced at the end of the film, especially after she explained to Kraglin how she wanted to kill Gamora. Explaining that she actually loved her sister deep down felt like a cop out at first, but I’ll give the film credit because it gave depth to the sisters’ relationship.

I love the family aspect of the Guardians.

They argue a lot because they’re family. Out of the Marvel Cinematic Universe films, the family dynamic of the Guardians reminds me a lot of the X-Men, or at least what the X-Men movies should be like.

The new characters in the film were a welcome addition with Mantis being funny with her naivety. Her empathic power led to some nice character moments, especially between her and Drax. His honesty about finding her ugly was hysterical. Drax is a solid member of the Guardians for his brutal honesty and obliviousness to his teammates feelings. He’s just having a good time.

Music

The soundtrack was something I anticipated most about the film. Luckily, it didn’t disappoint. I love being introduced to great music from the past. I think this soundtrack is even better than that of the first movie. Kudos to the writers for the “Brandy” song to explain Ego and Meredith Quill’s relationship. Small touches like Rocket’s love for Quill’s music were great, such as him singing “Southern Nights” and requesting music on the Ravagers ship reinforced the family dynamic.

The humor

There are a lot of comedic moments to love in this film. Baby Groot was great, as was the line about Rocket being a “trash panda.” Some of the more cartoony moments of the film didn’t work for me and some jokes went on too long (Taserface), but they didn’t detract much from the good stuff.

 

(SPOILERS)

 

Is everybody gone who cares about spoilers? OK, here we go. My biggest problems with the movie is:

The father-son relationship between Quill and Ego wasn’t developed enough.

 I’d been waiting three years since the first film to learn about these two and, honestly, I felt like Quill should’ve at least had more conversations with his dad about his childhood. Seriously, is Ego such a jerk that he wouldn’t want to catch up on his own son? They had the scene with the two of them playing catch, which was a step in the right direction, but I just didn’t find Ego to have much emotional depth as a character. Should I? I mean, the guy is a planet, not human. Maybe I’m asking too much, but even a deadbeat father should be curious about his son’s life. I just didn’t get the feeling that Ego cared, which maybe he didn’t. He seemed too bent on conquering the galaxy to care about spending time with his son. He was a lot more about passing on his power to his son so they could rule the stars together, which was a good character motivation, but ultimately it wasn’t compelling enough. When we learned that Ego actually created the tumor in Meredith Quill’s brain that killed her, it was a big moment that genuinely shocked me, but it could have been so much bigger. I wanted these two to forge a strong bond before the big reveal tore them apart. You must have an emotional foundation to have good drama. I wanted to feel that heartbreak that Quill must have felt. He spent his whole life wanting to meet his father and, now that he has, I’m sure that reveal was a crushing blow for him.

A nitpick I have is that Ego’s planet should not have been completely CGI. It looked fake most the time, especially with the bright colors. They should have used actual landscapes.

The revelation that Quill is immortal didn’t have enough impact:

Besides a line from Quill that basically communicated, “Whoa, that’s cool!” I didn’t get much impact at all from him. This should be a big deal. Quill is immortal, meaning he will have the misfortune of outliving every one of his friends. The implications of the statement are nearly endless. I got more of a feeling of Quill before he met Gamora when he was having one-night stands with women all over the galaxy, which, come to think of it, sounds a lot like what Ego was doing all along. He was trying to spread his seed and influence across the stars. While Quill was just looking for a good time, I wish they had spent more time with Quill thinking about his similarities to his father. They could’ve turned this into a nice scene between him and Gamora. Now that Ego is gone, Quill is no longer immortal, so this is a moot point.

Things they did well:

Quill and Gamora didn’t end up together.

I don’t think she likes him. I’m not sure why he likes her, other than “she’s hot.” Instead, we were treated to more of the same “will they, won’t they” schtick from the first film. And thank God there was no kiss at the end. I like Quill and I like Gamora, but I don’t see these two ending up together. I don’t feel like they have enough chemistry to become a couple.

Ego:

I found Ego to be a much more compelling villain than Ronan from the first film. His connection to Quill was important and Kurt Russell is a charismatic actor. I think the best thing about Ego might also be the worst thing. He became a creepy villain quickly, and I like that we learn his true intentions before Quill does. 

However, I didn’t feel much when Ego bit the dust, just relief that his evil was eradicated. Despite the fact that his death didn’t leave much of an impact, it might strangely be the best thing about the film. It allowed the father/son drama to shift from Quill and Ego to Quill and Yondu. The ending was powerful stuff, and it even reminded me of my dad passing. Though sad, I’m glad Disney-Marvel stuck with their emotional ending with Yondu’s death. When Quill receives the Zune and plays Cat Stevens’ “Father and Son,” I teared up. I tried to hide it from my buddy I was seeing the movie with, but that was a masterful decision to include that moment that almost makes me forgive the film for not developing Ego and Quill’s relationship like it could have. One of the clearest scenes in my mind of the movie is when Quill sits down on his bed, alone and plays that song. It was a beautiful moment that revealed everything about how Quill was feeling. He doesn’t need his biological dad in his life to have family. Yondu was more of a dad to him and now that he’s gone, he’s going to need his family even more.

I can’t wait for the next film. I really hope they go to Earth. Quill’s maternal grandfather, briefly seen at the beginning of the first film, might still be alive on Earth. This could make a great lead-in to that film. I really hope Avengers: Infinity War doesn’t feature Quill’s return to Earth after being gone for decades. An adventure like that needs its own time to breathe. God, I wish I could be on the writing staff for the third film. I have so many ideas. I can’t wait for Guardians 3.