Starlord returns to work through some daddy issues
By Kaely Monahan
Making a sequel is hard but Marvel has built an empire out of creating not just sequels but vast interconnecting storylines that somehow feed our inner need for a great action film. Even so, there’s always a chance the second film in a franchise will not reach a fan’s hopes and dreams. That said, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 comes nearly there.
James Gunn is at the helm was once more both writing and directing GotG2. Starlord (Chris Pratt) is back with his characteristic swashbuckling style and flair for the dramatic. The entire crew returns with Zoe Saldana as Gamora, Dave Bautista as Drax, Bradley Cooper as Rocket and the totally adorable Baby Groot, who Vin Diesel voices.
The film opens with a flashback to when Peter Quill/Starlord’s mother was with his father, Ego, played by a young-looking Kurt Russell. Some necessary plot points are planted here before moving on 37 years later. We catch up with the Guardians on a planet filled with a race of golden perfectionists. The Guardians are tasked with saving a shiny object—in this instance, batteries of some amazing power. They have to fight what looks a cross between a slug and an octopus—which shall henceforth be called a “slug-o-pus.” For whatever reason, slug-o-pus wants the batteries. Does he want to eat them? Does he want to wear them? Perhaps his phone needs charging? Who can say?
For all the spectacular action sequences, the film quickly zeroes in on its focus: family. If the first film is about finding yourself, this one is about finding your family. For Pratt’s Peter Quill, it means discovering who is father is and what his heritage means. For Gamora and Nebula, it’s realizing what being sisters is all about. Even Rocket goes through an incredible character arc in the short amount of time that he’s on screen.
The film isn’t afraid to question what family is. Peter has to decide if his family is the one he grew up with and created with the Guardians, or if it’s the relationship with his blood father. There is also a strong vein of forgiveness—even if you screw up over and over again.
James Gunn and fellow writer Dan Abnett put together a remarkably deep storyline despite the shallowness of some of the characters. At first glance, you might not catch just how introspective the story is.
What this Guardians film lacks is the magic of the first one. The initial film had a certain spunk and sparkle that took us completely off guard. The bar was raised very high, which means the second film must be beyond spectacular. GotG2 gets pretty close, but some of the jokes feel forced; there’s a few moments that feel flat. Baby Groot, for example, was really built up in the promos, but some of his novel cuteness seems to have suffered from too much exposure leading up to the film. He’s cute, but not that cute. His best gags were given away in previews.
The relationship of Gamora and her sister Nebula feel sacrificed for time, which is unfortunate. These are two powerful female characters in the Marvel universe and they hardly get time to work out their storylines. This is very unfortunate, but unsurprising. From the beginning, Marvel films have struggled to give due credit to the female heroes. (Where’s our Black Widow film??)
James Gunn and Dan Abnett had a real golden opportunity to give these women real depth but more screen time was given to a CGI raccoon and a blue alien. No offense to Rocket or Yondu. While the story arc for both Rocket and Yondu were great and emotionally satisfying, us lady fans of Marvel could really use a win for the superwomen in its universe .
Even Starlord’s daddy issues feel subverted by the emotional rollercoaster Rocket goes through. By comparison, these two get almost equal screen time. Baby Groot and Drax are reduced mostly to comedic sidekicks who have no real story, but then there’s only so much time you can devote when you have more than seven important characters.
In the end, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 accomplishes its goal of being an entertaining follow up on our favorite space heroes. Is the first one better? Yes. But this one holds up rather well and fans, for the most part, won’t be disappointed.
• Kaely Monahan is a radio producer, entertainment journalist, and the creator of Popcorn Fan Film Reviews. Follow her @PopcornFans and @KaelyMonahan.