By Stan Sy
If you’re here for a Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 spoiler, then I’m sorry to disappoint you. What sane person would even do that in a space like this?
What I am here to tell you, however, is that before you step into the theaters this weekend to catch Guardians Vol. 2, you need to take all your expectations from the first movie and flush them down the toilet. Start fresh and just strap on for the ride. That’s exactly what I did when I joined SnippetMedia’s special advanced screening of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 this past Tuesday. Here’s why.
Let’s start off with the fact that Guardians Vol. 2 has got to be the most emotionally-heavy of all the films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe thus far. We’ve seen past MCU films tug on our heartstrings by putting our favorite heroes through trials like Captain America’s battles with Winter Soldier, and then later, Iron Man, or Ant-Man’s search for acceptance. And while daddy issues, for lack of a better term, are nothing new to the MCU—looking at you, Tony Stark—Guardians Vol. 2 takes that tired old trope, gives it a spin, and takes it to a whole new planet.
That said, the dick jokes, cuss words, and general crude humor that you loved in the first movie are all still there, and if your general maturity level hovers somewhere between that of a 12-year-old or a 16-year-old, then you’re still going to laugh your ass off throughout the film. However, the general lightness of the sophomoric dialogue underscores the fact that at its core, the Guardians of the Galaxy film franchise revolves around the central theme of family.
Vol. 2 picks up right where the first film left off, with the Guardians relishing in their status as heroes and high-end bounty hunters, following the Battle of Xandar. Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) is still the same, smarmy prick with the hots for Gamora (Zoe Saldana), who clearly has no patience for his antics. Drax (Dave Bautista) is still the same lovable yet tactless muscle, and Rocket (Bradley Cooper) is still every bit as sneaky and foul-mouthed as he was in the first movie. The only difference on the team when the film begins is Baby Groot (Vin Diesel), who’s pretty much learning how to be Groot again under Rocket’s care and protection—a clear reversal of their roles in the first film.
Throughout the film, we’re also reunited with characters like Yondu Udonta (Michael Rooker) and Nebula (Karen Gillan), both of whose relationships with Quill and Gamora, respectively, are well-fleshed out. Whereas the first film portrayed both characters as more one-dimensional than we’d like, the second film gives us great insight into their actions both as individuals and towards their respective foils. The entry of new characters like Ego the Living Planet (Kurt Russell) and Mantis (Pom Klementieff) into the franchise adds a new layer to Peter Quill, particularly with regard to his own search for his biological father and what family means to him.
If you were a fan of the music in the first film, then you’ll be glad to know that the Awesome Mix tape is back with Vol. 2 and that it was put together in the same spirit. There’s a good mix of tracks from the ’60s and ’70s interspersed throughout the film, some of which are instantly recognizable, while others aren’t as well-known. If you want to know what’s on the tracklist, I’ll let you Google that for yourself, just so you don’t say I spoiled you in any way. Suffice it to say that the soundtrack brings the same kind of texture that the first mixtape did, adding to the overall viewing experience. I was pretty disappointed, though, that we didn’t hear “Hooked On A Feeling” at all during the movie.
[pull_quote]At the end of the day, the characters don’t necessarily resolve all of their issues by the end of the film, but as a viewer, there’s comfort in knowing that you leave the cinema with the same takeaway about family that the Guardians do: sometimes, what you’re looking for has been right under your nose all this time.[/pull_quote]
Where the film ultimately lacks is in how it sets the table for the larger MCU films in Phase Three. The first Guardians movie introduced Thanos to us as a tangible character, while also acquainting us with the Infinity Stones and how their power—when used with the Infinity Gauntlet—can pretty much destroy the universe in the wrong hands. The sequel focuses more on the immediate and direct plotlines surrounding the main characters, leaving the larger myth-making to the five post-credits scenes. Having said that, don’t drink too much throughout the movie because you won’t want to have to pee as soon as the credits roll. (Take it from me: I kinda missed the second post-credits scene. Thanks, bladder.)
All in all, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is a solid summer movie that does its best to maintain its signature lighthearted form despite its heavier issues. The emotional rollercoaster comes off surprisingly poignant, even with the irreverent humor that the franchise has become known for. Ultimately, the sequel doesn’t deliver the same level of badassery that the first film did, which is a bit of a letdown considering all the hype that went into Vol. 2 after its predecessor’s surprising success. For a movie that’s all about taking you on a journey through the galaxy, the movie zooms in on these personal issues too much, while not necessarily setting up the larger plot as we move towards the Infinity War.
At the end of the day, the characters don’t necessarily resolve all of their issues by the end of the film, but as a viewer, there’s comfort in knowing that you leave the cinema with the same takeaway about family that the Guardians do: sometimes, what you’re looking for has been right under your nose all this time. It’s just a shame that we spend too much of the movie looking right under our noses instead of up at the stars.