Guardians of the Galaxy: Eye Candy and Daddy Issues

Yondu and Rocket come to an understanding.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 may be the most eagerly-awaited sequel outside the Star Wars brand, and James Gunn has delivered a winner. Some online critics feel that it doesn’t live up to the first, but I believe they are confused by the fact that the first one was an unexpected surprise they didn’t know they wanted, and this one is an eagerly anticipated treat that they are pumping up high expectations for. Since that joy of discovery is replaced by expectation, which can’t really compare, they are feeling a self-inflicted disappointment that is unwarranted. I loved it. Gunn still has some tricks up his sleeve.

This time out, there’s no McGuffin for our heroes to chase after, making for a less linear story structure. Instead, there are multiple intersecting storylines, all intended to illuminate the characters and their relationships, since relationships are the central theme this time out. The first film was your classic “getting the band together” story; this episode is more about how these misfits fit together and bridge the gap between team and family.

The intersecting storylines:
The Guardians have been hired to protect some assets by the most obnoxious race in the galaxy, The Sovereign, a society made up entirely of genetically perfect golden-skinned supermodels with a Trump-level sense of entitlement. After successfully securing the property while bickering constantly (except for Baby Groot, who dances obliviously through the battle), Rocket decides to help himself to some of the goods, thereby turning clients into enemies and provoking a vendetta that continues to escalate throughout.

Ayesha: Paris Hilton goes to space.

Meanwhile, Star-Lord is reunited with his father, who turns out to be Ego, the Living Planet, a celestial who has taken on human form.

Also meanwhile, Yondu’s band has been exiled from the larger Ravagers group by their leader Stakar (Sylvester Stallone) for breaking the Ravager Code, specifically the prohibition on trafficking in children, more specifically young Peter Quill, whom Yondu had been hired to abduct 25 years earlier. As part of their effort to get back into the Ravagers’ good graces, they join in the Sovereigns’ bounty hunt for the Guardians, which in turn leads to a mutiny.

Also also meanwhile, Gamora is reunited with her sister Nebula, a seething bundle of anger and bitterness who burns for revenge; while all that’s going on, Drax is developing a friendship with Ego’s pet empath Mantis, and Rocket is finding a kindred spirit in Yondu, all of these characters exploring different facets of the concept of family.

Now she all mad. Nebula comes back looking for a hand.

Family looms large over the film; one of the earliest scenes shows us the romance between Meredith Quill and the spaceman who would become Peter’s father. Not long afterward, that same spaceman shows up, older but still resplendent in a flowing mane of graying hair, to rescue the Guardians from their irate former clients, after which he announces that he is a celestial named Ego.

Inevitably, these storylines converge on Ego’s world.

Nice place, but there’s something hinky about it.

That’s a brief overview of what happens, but that’s not what Vol. 2 is about. What it’s about is choosing your family, forgiving some and removing others as necessary, building and maintaining the bonds that allow a motley crew of misfits to become a family while at the same time letting blood relatives sever ties without hesitation or regret. Those of us who had less-than-admirable fathers may find the film a rather cathartic exercise. We understand the concept of a DIY family, the difference between a family and relatives, the incredible difference between being a father and a dad, and the difficulty of finally admitting that one’s father is, to use Quill’s word, an a-hole.

But it’s not all Oedipal angst.

Pro tip: If dad says his name is “Ego” that might be a red flag.

There’s a lot of comedy here, and of course the pop-fueled soundtrack keeps things moving. This time out, some of the songs are integrated into the plot, the 1972 hit “Brandy, You’re a Fine Girl” taking on particular significance, as well as Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain,” while Jay and the Americans’ “Come a Little Bit Closer” provides the perfect accompaniment to Yondu’s relentless walk of retribution. A number of other ’70s and ’80s tracks, some obscure and others almost forgotten, fill out the soundtrack album, which will no doubt be on repeat in a lot of cars this month. I suspect that a few of these oldies-but-goodies will end up back on the Top 40 again, or in some cases, for the first time.

Gamora and her BFG.

Now to the important stuff, as spoiler-free as I can make it. If you’re paying attention, and you know your 1970s-90s Marvel Comics, you may very well notice some familiar faces, some more prominently placed than others. If you find yourself pointing excitedly at a minor character while your mundane friends wonder what you’re so excited about, look around the theater for the other guys pointing excitedly at that same character; you may have found some new friends. If you subscribe to a certain fan theory, there’s a scene you may enjoy. If you’re a fan of Howard the Duck, keep your eyes peeled when they go to the alien version of Vegas. And naturally, this being a Marvel movie, you’re not going to leave your seat until the lights come on. (Who ARE these people who just get up and leave? That’s like walking out of a Springsteen concert before the encores.) This time, there’s not just one or even two scenes inserted in between the credits; there are five. A couple of them are just fun, one is a bit of minor character development (so to speak), and at least one is a portent of things to come, either in Avengers: Infinity War or Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. It’s one of those scenes where a large segment of the audience will turn to their nerd friend and ask “what the hell is that?” but their friend will not hear the question because he’s too busy yelling “oh hell yes!” In short, both my movie-loving and comic fanboy sides were well satisfied by the time the screen went dark.

And now the countdown to Vol. 3 begins. Fortunately there’s a kickass soundtrack to enjoy while we wait.

Rocket and Groot

16 Comments

  1. M-Wolverine

    Have my tickets for tomorrow night. Can’t wait. I think you’re right in that people can only be “surprised” by something once. And I think GotG was a surprise not just to general audiences, but even a lot of the faithful. I watched it again this week, and while nothing is ever as funny as that first time in the theater with hundreds of other people laughing, the interaction and heart holds up.

    I do wonder if we’ll ever have a day in the future where there’s an article about ANYTHING that doesn’t have to mention Trump/Obama/Flying Spaghetti Monster.

    1. Le Messor

      “I do wonder if we’ll ever have a day in the future where there’s an article about ANYTHING that doesn’t have to mention Trump/Obama/Flying Spaghetti Monster.”

      Yeah, I got real tired of Trump jokes real fast. I’m not a supporter of his, but I just don’t like them. (Largely because I think of him as an embarrassment to everyone who isn’t hard left.)

      The worst was when I watched a local production of The Addams Family musical a few months ago. Something that was written before he ran, produced in a small town in Australia, based on a property that never got political… and they still didn’t resist.

  2. Le Messor

    I saw it a week ago and loved it! Great movie!

    “Some online critics feel that it doesn’t live up to the first, but I believe they are confused by the fact that the first one was an unexpected surprise…”

    I feel the first is better, but part of the reason for that is because the first was so unexpected and I knew what I’d get from the second.

    “except for Baby Groot, who dances obliviously through the battle”

    Oh, that was such an amazing scene! I usually don’t like it when the movie turns away from the major stuff to focus on something unimportant, but this? Wow! 😀

    “breaking the Ravager Code, specifically the prohibition on trafficking in children,”

    This bit sort of got to me – Yondu was taking a kid home to his father, as far as he knew, so to get in trouble for that seemed a bit much. (And when he found out something bad was going on, he recanted.)

    “the Sovereigns’ bounty hunt for the Guardians, which in turn leads to a mutiny.”

    A mutiny of the bounty?

    “If you’re paying attention, and you know your 1970s-90s Marvel Comics, you may very well notice some familiar faces,”

    Yeah, but I don’t know if I like that they did that. I’m not sure those faces belong in this movie’s continuity.

    “If you subscribe to a certain fan theory, there’s a scene you may enjoy.”

    I don’t really think that scene backs up that theory, (though it definitely nods to it), but others do.

    “If you’re a fan of Howard the Duck, keep your eyes peeled when they go to the alien version of Vegas.”

    Keep your eyes peeled? IIrc, he was front-and-centre on camera! (Do Irc?)

    1. M-Wolverine

      I don’t completely disagree that Yondu’s exile was maybe a bit thin, but from the outside it certainly looked like he had kidnapped and kept Pete (to steal or eat) rather than was “saving” him at all. The original contract may have been justifiable, but the keeping him probably violated both contract and rules. Now could Yondu have explained himself? Sure, that would have made for a similar timeline. But Yondu also doesn’t seem like much of an explaining guy. (And Michael Rooker seems like an almost one note actor, but damn if he isn’t completely effective in every role he does. There’s just something about that guy that’s magnetic and gets you into whatever he’s doing).

      If it’s the same characters I think you’re both talking about (and not other characters that could qualify) I almost think they were setting those people up for a Guardians of the Galaxy spinoff in case Gunn does in fact end their story in the trilogy. And if not it’s just a fun aside wink on the idea of setting off spin offs.

      OK, having seen the movie, I’m still not sure which fan theory the two of you are talking about. It might just be because I haven’t heard the theory, or maybe I’m not picking up on it in the movie. If anyone’s still into this post in after a weekend of everyone viewing it maybe you can let me know with spoilers at that point.

      Yeah, Howard was right there, and had a line. I will say, sorta in relation, even if there weren’t a record number of end credit scenes (and really, Marvel should do this with every movie), the end credits themselves were worth watching on their own. Maybe they did it because the figured if people were staying for ALL the credit stuff we might as well not have them bored with all the credit stuff in between.

      1. Le Messor

        I almost think they were setting those people up for a spinoff

        Oh, yeah, it certainly looked that way. I just might have preferred them to be able to get their comic book origins – which they can’t, now.

        I’m still not sure which fan theory the two of you are talking about… If anyone’s still into this post in after a weekend… maybe you can let me know with spoilers

        If you remember to repost then, remind me. I won’t remember on my own. :/

        the end credits themselves were worth watching on their own

        They really made them fun! 🙂

        1. M-Wolverine

          I don’t know…I’ll never say never with Marvel because they made Guardians of the Galaxy a hit, and just did Ego. But I’m not sure we were ever going to get Guardians 3000. They might leave the time travel to the Flash. 🙂 And after we already had Yondu we probably weren’t getting the original versions ever anyway.

          Now if they wanted to do an animated movie….

          1. Le Messor

            My point being, they aren’t in 3000.

            My secondary point being, unlike Yondu, several of their respective species shouldn’t exist yet because of that – some of them are artificially modified humans, designed to colonise the solar system, not aliens.

          2. M-Wolverine

            That’s a good point. Yondu is one who wasn’t a “Guardian” by birth, so he could have just been an a related or unrelated ancestor of the Guardians Yondu. For all we know that name is “John” in Zatoan. It actually makes a nod to the comics without preventing them. So we could imagine it could be real.

            I guess you could do the same with the others. Three aren’t given names except in the credits, and the other is just his name, never really “Starhawk.”

            But I can see what you’re saying. I’m still a tiny bit cheesed we’re never going to be able to get a real Mandarin either.

          3. Le Messor

            It’s also because they took away the ‘real’ Guardians for the sake of cameos. It’s not like their presence was all that important.

            (I’m complaining about this way too much; I actually don’t mind seeing them onscreen and stuff, but this niggles at the back of my mind.)

            The real Mandarin was hinted at in one of the MCU One-Shots. (What happened to them? They are literally the reason I own a BluRay player.)

          4. M-Wolverine

            Yeah, they gave some fan service when people were pissed. But you knew they were never going to do anything with it.

            The one shots are a loss. Feige has said different things about why, mainly blaming how many more movies they’re making a year now. But every time a new blu-ray comes out he gets asked if they’re coming back, and never completely closes the door. Though lately it seems like that if they were to come back it’d be in online format and not on the movie releases.

  3. Terrible-D

    Kurt Russell as Ego was all I needed to hear to know that I would see this movie. I was not disappointed. I also want to add that of all Marvel Studios output, Gunn seems like the one director most willing to embrace a “comicbook” sensibility. The living plant, on film, done well. Never thought I’d see the day.

    1. M-Wolverine

      After seeing the film, that was my first take. I couldn’t believe I actually saw Ego, The Living Planet, on the big screen, in something that wouldn’t only be accepted by “comic book nerds” but the general populace. I mean, 20 years ago we couldn’t even get masks on the X-Men (still, can’t but that’s another story…) Now something even comic book fans find somewhat silly, if silly in an AWESOME way, is headlining in one of the biggest movies of the year.

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