Without a doubt, the biggest movie coming out this weekend is Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 from Marvel Studios. The first movie in this franchise within a franchise was a surprise hit, and one of the best of the Marvel movies. How did its sequel hold up? Meet me after the hyperspatial jump for my thoughts. Heed my warning, folks, there be spoilers ahead.
Okay, I admit it, I had fun, but I had mixed feelings about Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 when The Bride and I left the drive-in. Notably, the film was showing again right after, and we did not stay to watch it a second time for free. The original film is one of those that I watch every single time I catch it on cable, every single time, as it is infinitely rewatchable. This one, not so much.
Most of the plot revolves around Star-Lord finding his father, or rather his father finding him. His parentage was a minor plot point of the first movie so this was a natural starting point. It should be noted that director James Gunn has gone in a different direction with the identity of Peter Quill’s father. In the comics, as in the animated series, his father is J’Son of Spartax, who I’ve talked about before. Here we are presented with Ego as Quill’s father, played oh so well by Kurt Russell.
Ego, The Living Planet
I was introduced to Ego, the Living Planet, waaay back in the early 1970s in Dynamite magazine from Scholastic. Back in those days, other than the Avengers comic, I wasn’t a Marvel guy, so learning about ‘Thor’s arch-nemesis’ in Dynamite‘s monthly feature on comic book superheroes was a revelation. This guy was a planet, literally a living planet, and he was powerful enough to give the thunder god a hard time. In the Guardians animated series, the team may have even crossed paths with a pseudo-Ego.
Kurt Russell is pretty amazing here as Ego, giving Peter Quill all he was looking for in a dad before revealing his sinister side, even training Star-Lord in his inherited power of creation. There’s a sweet Field of Dreams moment where they play catch that borders on sweet and silly. Of course, Ego’s endgame is galactic domination, and Peter and his team aren’t playing along, and end up saving the galaxy a second time. I have to admit that if I had not known that Ego was a super-villain, this would have been more shocking and a turning point in the plot. So as comics fans might have been let down by Ego’s turn by expecting it, non-comics fans probably loved it.
The other plot points beneath Ego are the Sovereign and the Ravagers. The Sovereign is a new creation for the Marvel Cinematic Universe as far as I know, but their leader Ayesha is not. Having gone by other names such as Her, Kismet, and Paragon, she is related to Adam Warlock, who is created in one of the five end-credit scenes. We’ve previously seen Warlock’s cocoon in two previous Marvel movies, and is currently the McGuffin in the Guardians animated series. She, and Adam, were initially created as ‘perfect beings.’
Here in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 The Sovereign are a golden-skinned race (I love the Barbarella vibe going on here) who track and attack the Guardians by remote almost videogame like control after Rocket steals the batteries the Guardians had been hired to protect in the opening sequence. That opening by the way is a lot of fun as our heroes fight a space octopus while Baby Groot dances to ELO’s “Mr. Blue Sky.” And it needs to be said, yeah, Baby Groot is adorable here, but for me, after this bit, it was just too much, and annoying.
Following along with the family theme of the film, we also have Yondu joining up with the Guardians after being excommunicated from the Ravagers. We learn that Yondu had worked for Ego, collecting his children so that the living planet could burn them out enacting his plan for galactic domination. In truth, Yondu kept Quill around so he wouldn’t be killed by his real father. In a very real sense, this makes Yondu more of a father to Quill than Ego.
Yondu’s turn from bad guy to good guy is completely believable (unlike the healing of the rift between Gamora and Nebula), and his death at the close emotionally real. Yondu is genuinely likable and makes a very good team with Rocket, who gets only a little of a likable spotlight during his scenes with Yondu. I also liked that the space pirate puts on his ‘prototype fin’ for his good turn as it resembles his look as the Yondu Udonta from the original Guardians of the Galaxy comics. And Taserface is hilarious, loved it.
Speaking of the original Guardians of the Galaxy, they actually show up in the new movie, but in no way as one might expect them to. First and most visible among them is Stakar Ogord, with Sylvester Stallone miscast in the role. I don’t understand this, or the sad placement of the Guardians as Ravagers at all. It makes no sense. Why include an Easter egg like this that will only make fans angry? Trust me, no one appreciates this action.
For the record, the other casting is inspired, but wasted (as is the potential for a Tango and Cash reunion, but that’s a completely different gripe altogether). Toward the end of the movie, when the Ravagers come to pay their respects to Yondu, we see Ving Rhames as Charlie-27, Michelle Yeoh as Aleta, Michael Rosenbaum as Martinex, and (make sure you’re sitting down for this one) Miley Cyrus voicing Mainframe. At least Seth Green returns to voice Howard the Duck, and that’s awesome. Howard is seen coincidentally on Contraxia, home planet of the mother of Avenger Jack of Hearts.
If I’m not saying much about the main cast, it’s not a slight. All the regulars are just as great as they were in the first flick, some better. Dave Batista’s Drax showed growth as a character that I hope the animated series picks up on, rather than playing him so one note. Chris Pratt and Zoe Saldana have a romantic chemistry that is subtle and works best unpushed. Bradley Cooper’s Rocket, when he’s not playing the joke is smarter and meaner, which is how I like the character.
I love Mantis but was puzzled by exactly what she was doing there. Her look was great, as was her portrayal by Pom Klementieff, but I wanted to see her kick some butt and say “this one,” as in the comics. All she really got to do was play comic foil to Drax most of the time. And although not blatant, we got subtle confirmation that all of Stan Lee’s cameos in the Marvel movies are connected, as he is the same person – an informant to the Watchers. That makes a certain sense. I also like the David Hasselhoff cameo, and his rap on “Guardians Inferno” is one of the highlights of an already awesome soundtrack.
There are a mind-boggling five post-credits sequences in this Marvel movie, so stay until the end, okay, folks? There’s the creation of Adam Warlock, first and foremost, then the revelation of the original Guardians, slapstick with Yondu’s yaka arrow, Stan Lee needing a ride home, and teen Groot. The thing about these scenes is that a couple of them could have been played out and been more interesting than the Ego A plot, especially Adam Warlock.
The film isn’t perfect, and it wasn’t as funny, or as exciting, or as entertaining as the original. It had entire sequences that were so slow and talky. And what was the point of showing Earth in danger when there was no way anyone in the film could have been aware of it? After all that, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 was pretty good, not top three or top five Marvel movie ever like the original good, but pretty good. I’d see it again, just not right away. What did y’all think?