Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2: Same Galaxy, Same Heroes, and Some Fresh Beats

Copyright © 2017 by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

I have to be honest, here. The last Marvel Cinematic Universe film I watched in theaters was Guardians of the Galaxy. Not that I’m not intrigued by what the studios have put out since then, but nothing else really matched the insane energy and ethos of that movie. It seems only fitting, then, that I hit the theater last week to watch its sequel.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 picks up pretty soon after where we left off with the first movie. Our heroes—Peter Quill, Gamora, Drax, Rocket, and Groot—are flying across the galaxytaking odd heroic jobs for money. After a job with the “superior race” of the Sovereign goes south (thanks to Rocket’s last-minute petty theft and snark), the Guardians find themselves hunted. Even worse, Gamora’s sister Nebula and the Ravagers under Yondu, Peter’s old mentor, take up the pursuit. Our heroes then split off when Peter encounters his long-last father, Ego (played by Kurt Russell). But Ego’s intentions aren’t what they appear to be, and soon the gang is striving to get back together, uncover the truth, and stop a maniacal plot that—you guessed it—threatens the whole galaxy.

I must admit that, when this film started rolling, I was a little bit thrown. It didn’t have quite the space adventure flair that the first Guardians film had. Vol. 1 (if we can call it that now) had an obvious Dark Lord, a quest, a magical item, and tons of space battles from start to finish. Vol. 2, meanwhile, has a more introspective take on its adventure. Sure, they’re saving the galaxy again, but it’s from a more personal threat. And in the meantime, they’re dealing with their personal issues, from fatherhood (Peter and Yondu) to estranged siblings (Gamora and Nebula) to self-worth (Drax, Mantis, and Rocket).

Not that any of this is bad, mind you. I mean, this is Peter Quill coming to terms with his heritage. That kind of soul-searching is expected (and, at times, a little obvious considering where the main twist was headed). But nowhere did I expect to love every single scene between Rocket Raccoon and Yondu. They were two of a kind in this film and I couldn’t get enough of them. Especially in the epic Ravager battle in the midpoint (you know the one, where the Jay and the Americans song starts playing up).

Meanwhile, I do like some of the new characters they’ve added. Mantis is a bit one-note at first, but her interactions with Drax and even Gamora add a lot of personality over time. She’s genuinely sweet in an otherwise cynical universe. And there’s the introduction of Stakar Ogord, a top dog Ravager, played by honest-to-God Sylvester Stallone. Honestly, the movie would be lesser without him in the role. He made it his own, and he has a great tie-in to Yondu’s story.

And on that note, let’s talk about Yondu. Without spoiling anything, he’s the unsung hero of this entire story. As much as I like Quill (and I do!), Yondu had a pretty good character arc. We learn a lot about his past and we get to see him grow a little. Which is appropriate when you pair him up with Rocket, and you learn that, between the two, Yondu’s a little more humane than his furry counterpart. But this is also a story about fatherhood, and Peter’s learned as much from Yondu as he has from his mother back on Earth. Watching their interactions adds a depth to the film’s central theme: that family isn’t about genetics, but who’s in your corner.

If you liked the first Guardians movie, then you’ll like this one, too. It has the same great characters, all shown in a new dimension, and it’s a rip-roaring series of twists from start to finish. It’s also a science fiction film with a good emotional core, beyond all the cool stunts and visuals. I wouldn’t quite say it’s better than the original, but at least it’s on par and I’d rather watch these outer space comic tours out of anything else Marvel is offering these days.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is available through Marvel Studios. It is currently playing in theaters.

Bibliography: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. Directed by James Gunn. Produced by Kevin Feige. Written by James Gunn. Based on the comic by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning. Perf. Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Bradley Cooper, Dave Baustista, Vin Diesel, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillian, Pom Klementieff, Elizabeth Debicki, Chris Sullivan, Sean Gunn, Sylvester Stallone, and Kurt Russell. Marvel Studios. Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures. US release date: May 5, 2017.


Why You Need to Go See The Guardians of the Galaxy Movie

Last weekend, I experienced something transcendent. Something that comic book fans, sci-fi geeks, and popcorn movie enthusiasts could only dream about before.

As both an installment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and as a film in its own right, Guardians of the Galaxy is amazing.

Copyright © 2014 by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.
Copyright © 2014 by Marvel Studios.

Where do I even begin? You want action? How about a thousand starships in a dogfight over the skies of Xandar, with a giant black warship in the background? You want romance? You’ve got the curious relationship between our young male lead, Jason Quill (Chris Pratt), and the sexy green-skinned assassin Gamora (Zoe Saldana). And if you’re looking for straight-up mayhem and wonder, I need only tell you about the following facts about this film (hopefully without too many spoilers).

You’ll get to experience:

  • A talking raccoon (Bradley Cooper) firing a laser cannon off the shoulder of a massive roaring walking tree (Vin Diesel)
  • More colorful aliens and cyborgs than you can shake a stick at
  • Fine performances by Benecio Del Toro and Nathan Fillion
  • A space station built into the severed head of a slain god
  • One heck of a great soundtrack with such hits as “Hooked on a Feeling,” “Cherry Bomb,” and “Moonage Daydream”

This is the kind of comic book movie that doesn’t try to be gritty or ultra-serious. It’s a thrill ride from start to finish, and yet, it’s got plenty of heart. Marvel could’ve just gotten away with making the Guardians a bunch of misfits thrown together for a simple purpose of fighting a fanatical Kree warlord (Lee Pace), but they didn’t stop there. As Peter Quill himself puts it, they’re people who’ve lost something and it’s worth every second of this film to see them fight hard and risk it all for a chance to gain victory in their messed-up lives in their messed-up universe.

Honestly, the only regret I have is the lack of “Spirit in the Sky” by Norman Greenbaum, which got a lot of play in the trailers, but doesn’t show up in the film itself. Also, the film opens with the death of Peter Quill’s mother in 1988, which is so heavy that it almost makes you forget you’re watching a movie with blue-skinned warlords and talking raccoons in space. But it’s a small price to pay for a rip-roaring action film that has a lot of spirit, brilliant comedy, and some memorable characters. I can’t wait to see how the MCU is going to try to fit these space oddities into the Avengers.

Guardians of the Galaxy is now playing in theaters and available through Marvel Studios.

Bibliography: Guardians of the Galaxy (film). Directed by James Gunn. Produced by Kevin Feige. Written by James Gunn and Nicole Perlman. Based on the comic by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning. Perf. Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Lee Pace, Karen Gillan, John C. Reilly, Glenn Close, and Benicio del Toro. Marvel Studios. Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures. US release date: August 1, 2014.

A Response to the “It’s Fun, Who Cares?” Defense

Copyright © 2014 by Walt Disney Pictures
Copyright © 2014 by Walt Disney Pictures

Earlier this week, Marvel came out with the first trailer for its upcoming summer blockbuster, Guardians of the Galaxy. This particular superhero team isn’t nearly as well known as other Marvel characters, but fan excitement for this film adaptation is running high and includes a celebrity-studded cast that promises some interesting performances.

Now, being a bit of a self-professed snob, I didn’t think much of the concept when I first heard about it (I mean, Rocket Raccoon? Really?). But friends told me to watch the trailer and I did. And I got interested real quick. Now I can’t get “Hooked on a Feeling” out of my head and have read up on the characters and the comics to get a better feel for what this film’s going to be like.

In scouring the Web for more details, here’s what I’ve read a lot from most fan and moviegoer responses:

Fan:This is gonna be awesome!

Moviegoer: This looks so dumb!

Fan: It’s a raccoon with guns and a walking tree-man! In space! What’s not to love?!

Moviegoer:Dude, comics are so weird…

And so and so forth. Perhaps the biggest line I keep hearing is, “It’s fun, so who cares?” when people talk about superhero films. I’ve heard this defense used from Michael Bay’s Transformers series to James Cameron’s Avatar to any number of anime or video game series. It’s a popular defense, but I’ve never given it much credit, even though I think the trailer for Guardians of the Galaxy looks fun enough for me to consider seeing it.

Here’s the thing: I like fun. I also can’t “switch my brain off” like some people suggest. So for me, the best stuff has an element of forethought to goes into every comedic moment or random plot element.

Portal is a game that’s fun for its own sake. You run around a lab, shooting portals onto walls, knocking out singsong turrets and solving puzzles. But there’s more than just that gameplay element. You also get a glimpse into the dark underbelly of Aperture Science and the true twisted nature of the AI called GLaDOS. It doesn’t stop being fun even when you’re being scared or pondering what’s really going on here. The developers and writers at Valve put so much effort into making the game fun and consistent, and that’s why I enjoy it.

The same can also be said for another of Marvel’s successes: The Avengers. The 2012 film was a culmination of years of hard work, bridging together so many unusual superheroes into a single movie that gave audiences plenty of action and over-the-top performances. It’s a film that pits the Shakespearean hamminess of Loki against the cool-headed badass-in-charge Nick Fury, with plenty of snarky Iron Man and Captain America tossed in for good measure. Yes, it’s built for action and watching stuff blow up, but you care about each character on the team. You care about the relationship between Hawkeye and Black Widow, or how depressed Bruce Banner gets until the end. You don’t have to turn off your heart or your head to still enjoy the scenes of the Hulk and Captain America smashing up alien hordes in Manhattan.

It sounds stupid to say, “I like it because it’s fun.” Why wouldn’t anyone like something that wasn’t fun? But fun is different for everyone. Some people like the Transformers movies “because they’re fun” and that’s okay. I don’t agree because I couldn’t connect with any of the human characters, but that’s fine. Some people really like the 3D effects in Avatar and that’s also okay, but for me that’s not enough. I like good visuals and comedy and all the other stuff counted as “fun,” but I like it when I can trust the people behind the scenes to give it their all and not phone something in, whether it’s a character, a plot thread, or a quick joke for the trailer.

So I’ll keep rewatching the trailer for Guardians of the Galaxy and anticipate when it comes out in summer (even though “Hooked on a Feeling” will be stuck in my head forevermore). I’ll keep playing Portal and going ecstatic over the climatic battle in The Avengers. And why’s that?

Because they’re projects of passion. Because they’re passionate about what they are and enjoy themselves the whole way through.

Because, at the end of the day, they’re fun.

If you’ve got your own ideas about Guardians of the Galaxy, other superhero films, or what constitutes “fun,” let me know in the comments below.