[Fair warning: I didn’t really think about spoilers while writing this, so spoilers below!]
I know at some point we’re going to hit superhero fatigue. I have friends who are already there. What once was a random occurrence in theater now feels like a monthly routine, with Marvel, Fox and DC all trying to compete with connected universes and bigger stars.
Fox is releasing three X-Men films next year and a whole slew of mutant tv shows. Netflix has four superhero shows plus a fifth that combines them all. The CW is home to Arrow, The Flash, Supergirl and Riverdale which yeah isn’t a superhero show but it’s based on comics so it gets included. This year in theaters we’re seeing Wolverine, Wonder Woman, the Guardians and Spider-Man.
Those are just what I could remember off the top of my head.
In a world full of superheroes on the screen, most fall in the middle as far as quality. We’ve seen enough blue beams into the sky to last us a lifetime, not to mention mindless alien robot monsters we can see destroyed without mercy. You have some that exceed expectation, like Logan, and then others like Suicide Squad which is possibly the worst movie I’ve ever seen.
All of this to say, it takes a lot to stand out, which brings us to Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.
As a Parks and Recreation fan, I was stoked when Chris Pratt was brought into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Obviously his incredible transformation made it even better (plus the joke on Parks and Rec when Ben asked him how he got so fit and Andy replied he stopped drinking beer). I enjoyed his first turn as Star-Lord/Peter Quill and overall really enjoyed Guardians of the Galaxy. I couldn’t get over how real Rocket appeared (for real though, is he actually real??) or how funny Dave Bautista was or how much I loved a tree.
For the most part, Marvel does sequels well. Captain America just keeps getting better, which is insane. Iron Man 2 is pretty good, but let’s ignore Iron Man 3. Sure, Thor: The Dark World wasn’t as high of a note, but Ragnarok looks incredible. I know there are faults to Age of Ultron, but I still really enjoy it as a film. We care and enjoy these sequels because of the character development established by the MCU.
We don’t see these people as isolated characters in one movie. Their presence is felt everywhere and we care because so much effort is taken to make sure we know and understand the motivations and relationships and there are so many movies at this point we have evidence of the bonds created.
This is what made Guardians 2 so dang good.
I went into this film expecting to giggle at some points and care, but I didn’t realize how many emotions I would feel. I laughed. Out loud. I cried. Real tears. Even though I knew it would be okay because the Guardians are definitely in Infinity War, I still worried for their safety and wondered how it would all work out in the end.
It starts on a really high note, with Baby Groot dancing around like the angel he is, trying to wave to his team members while they battled a giant monster. I was instantly hooked. A fear I think I shared with many would be the reliance on Baby Groot given how cute he is, kind of like how the minions took off, but he never felt overused. His baby-ness definitely played into several plot points, but it never felt like ‘NOT AGAIN!’
The concept of family is a big deal as well, with every character dealing with some aspect of the idea. Nebula is angry at Gamora because she just wanted a sister and only received an enemy. Peter’s found his father, but is blood really the most important family? Rocket is an a-hole to everyone because of personal issues about deserving love. Drax opens up about his family more, but is much more at peace because he knows he’s found a new one in the Guardians. Baby Groot just clings to them all for love and care and they’re all there for him. It’s all pretty powerful and I definitely cried in several of these moments.
Basically the plot is the Guardians fight this interdimensional squid creature who wants batteries from the Sovereign’s planet. The Sovereign being gold people who breed people specifically who are perfect, so naturally they’re a very proud race. Rocket steals some of the batteries to sell which isn’t just a one gag thing. As a result, the Sovereign are offended and begin showing up trying to kill the Guardians. One fight leads to the Guardians crashing their jet on a planet, but only after a mysterious tiny man on a spaceship blows up the remaining ships chasing them.
Turns out, he was only tiny from a distance and is actually Ego, Peter Quill’s father. He invites him back to his planet to teach him about his heritage, and Peter goes with Gamora’s encouragement. Side note: but I love how we actually address the Gamora-Peter relationship, even if it isn’t happening. The movie doesn’t pretend like there aren’t real feelings). The team splits up, with Groot and Rocket plus some friends getting captured by Ravengers.
After some really great scenes, the team reunites to take down the real bad guy and there is a death, which is really sad. The movie doesn’t end with a jump back into adventures, but a real moment where the team is feeling the loss and Baby Groot is cuddling with all of them. At first I was a little bummed because I didn’t want to leave feeling down, but the credits fixed everything. There are like five end credit scenes and then there are random little clips of the characters dancing and honestly it’s worth staying through to watch. Plus some of the words are changed to ‘Groot.’ You have to love the attention to detail.
Mostly, I think this movie succeeds because it’s not as formulaic as others in the MCU. I mean maybe in the pacing and how we have the opening battle, the splitting of the team, the final come together to destroy the enemy moment. But it feels refreshing and not so focused on boosting up infinity stones. It’s a different world filled with endless color. Plus, imagine how great it will be when the team meets the Avengers. Basically anytime Drax interacts with people I’m all in, and I think he’ll have a good time with Tony Stark’s sarcasm. I’m also hoping Teenage Groot will bond with Spider-Man.
Overall, I think the MCU will continue to be better than DC because we actually care about the team. It spent years carefully crafting everything and building these stories, whereas DC made Superman and thought it could achieve the same thing with Justice League after Batman v. Superman and Wonder Woman.
I know it sounds like I’m a Marvel fanboy and whatever, it’s your opinion. Some of my oldest memories are watching Batman VHS’ with my dad so I want to love what DC does. Not to mention they’re doing the first solo female superhero film. But they just haven’t got it right yet, and I’m worried Wonder Woman will be the same, even if the trailers are good. All the trailers are good. The movies are garbage.
Like Suicide Squad. I’m not sure if a trailer has ever made me more hyped than the one with Bohemian Rhapsody, but the movie was basically too many intros, terrible musical cues, poorly constructed conflict and Cara Delevigne awkwardly waving and creating a machine that does ????
Whatever. Tangent. Sorry.
In a nutshell, Guardians 2 was great. People I know who don’t even like movies like this enjoyed it. James Gunn, you are a master. You plus the Russo brothers give me hope for the MCU’s future.