Where do we start? I’ve discussed with my fellow comic-book loving friend that it’s sheer lunacy to think that of the most well-loved movies in the very well-regarded Marvel Cinematic Universe, near the top and maybe even at it rests Guardians of the Galaxy. To think that the general movie-going public would be blown away by the adventures of a group of galactic misfits including a genetically modified raccoon and a walking, talking tree is crazy talk. But crazy is the big draw here. In the original Guardians, as well as this sequel, the operative word is irreverence: through the dialogue, imagery, and even how it plays against the expectations we’ve placed on comic-book movies. At least on first viewing, we don’t know what we’re going to get with these guys. That carried through in this sequel.
Being that this is a sequel review (coupled with my aversion to providing spoilery information), I’m going to assume most of the major players in this film are known by the reader; I will also only skim the plot. The theme here is one of family, and it is strong throughout: Peter is confronted with answers to the questions of his parentage, Yondu and Rocket bond over similarities in their pasts, Gamora and Nebula hash out years of sibling issues, and Drax connects with another damaged character (in ways and conversations that only he could). Oh, wait…did I forget about Groot? Trust me, you won’t either. Baby Groot is front and center, and you’ll either love it or hate it. Throw into the mix some new locales and characters, one of which is Ego, played by Kurt Russell. I had forgotten how much I missed seeing him on the big screen; what he brings as an actor to this film (and all of his films, really) can’t be overstated. What I’m saying is, “Kurt, we should do this again sometime.” Hashing out the plot much more than that would bring spoilers, so I’ll just say that there will be surprises throughout, one of which is just how much heart this film has.
In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I love the interconnectivity of all the films to each other, but I’ve gotta say: this film is probably the most self-contained film of them all. It obviously builds off of plotlines started in the original, but the director James Gunn (who is also slated to direct Vol. 3) is creating something special in his own little corner. While the original film really gave moviegoers their first substantial look at the imminent threat found in the Mad Titan, Thanos, I expected more plotlines (forced or otherwise) leading into the next Avengers movie. It ain’t here. If that’s a spoiler, I’m sorry, but it struck me how unique that is in this series. We are several layers deep into the goings-on of the MCU, and here we have a movie that is solely telling its own tale. There were no clever asides that popped up in dialogue aimed at past or future movies, just a straightforward tale with a definite beginning, middle, and end. You know, like films have been for decades before all the synergy that’s taken over in every studio developing franchise films. It was honestly refreshing to see, and now, after the fact, I respect James Gunn even more for telling a story that was told without any obvious concessions. He made gutsy choices here, and that doesn’t always happen in summer tentpole releases. Now, of course, there was a Stan Lee scene; in fact, there were two, with that one being the most important one he’s ever had (online conspiracy theorists, I salute you). Basically, you’re getting what you came for here: a funny, zany action-filled romp, but peppered in is strong character interactions with a surprising level of relatability, even if its set lightyears away from us. If I left out the respect I felt for Michael Rooker here, I would be remiss. He does phenomenal work as Yondu here, and I hope the world recognizes that.
The music of these films deserves consideration all to itself. Gunn masterfully arranged familiar Classic Pop/Rock/R&B tunes in the first film, and as a result, that film’s soundtrack was a hit right alongside the movie. I eagerly anticipated this film’s soundtrack, but I avoided even viewing the tracklist prior to watching. I would recommend the same for any reading this, as he takes songs that are both incredibly familiar and obscure and each fits where it is used. In fact, with a few of them, you’d swear that the song was almost prophetically written for the movie, decades prior. Everything here feels more eclectic than the first go-round, and I know that’s divided some listeners to judge it as an inferior record. I don’t feel that way at all, and I’ve been humming/singing the songs for days. In my opinion, the song choice was another home run. From the film’s incredible opening action sequence’s usage of one of my favorite retro bands, ELO, I knew I was in for something special.
About that opening sequence, the special effects in this film are incredible. James Gunn has always had an indie sensibility show through in his films, but seeing the incredible sophisticated visual effects here, we get the best of both worlds. That said, both the original film and this one do seem to get lost in their final acts, even if it’s only slightly. Space films tend to build to huge stakes, but those scenarios often feel at odds with all the strong, smaller-scale interactions for the time spent prior. As a parent, I cautioned myself to not take my daughter to this one without seeing it prior, and I’m glad I did. That irreverent sensibility I brought up earlier shows through in much of the dialogue, and while many a toy store is shilling Rocket masks and Groot dancing dolls, there is quite a bit of inappropriate talk for younger ones to be hearing. I mention that as a caution to any considering bringing their children.
Having addressed the content and not being made as explicitly Christian, I know these movies are popular worldwide, and I don’t limit God on what He can use to effectively relate truth to people. I would urge any who watch the film and are interested to feel free to use the FREE Bible Study I prepared for Geeks Under Grace that uses the film to help relate some great Scriptural truths. You can find it by visiting the link found HERE.
Overall, I’m glad to say that the Guardians series continues well here in Vol. 2, giving viewers more of what they expect in the unexpected. There is a level of seriousness and pathos with the characters that might be offputting to some only looking for fun, but by film’s end, I can honestly say I felt this movie. Yes, a comic-book movie this crazy brought some tears. Expect the unexpected, indeed.