Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2 is a superhero space movie and the third installment of Marvel Phase 3.
Back in the early 80s, Meredith Quill (Laura Haddock) drives with her boyfriend (Kurt Russell) to a secluded place. She is shown a special plant by her boyfriend as they confess their love for each other. The film then cuts to the Guardians of the Galaxy a few months after the events of the first movie. Peter “Star-Lord” Quill (Chris Pratt) leads the group as they defend high-quality batteries from some eldritch monster. Peter and Gamora (Zoe Saldana) approach their employers, the Soveriegn, for their reward: the captured Nebula (Karen Gillan), Gamora’s sister through adoption. Rocket (Bradley Cooper) steals some of the Sovereign’s batteries in an attempt to make more money. Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki), leader of the Sovereign, is made aware of the theft and orders they be captured. Their attempts are foiled by a lone spaceship piloted by Peter’s father, who reveals himself as Ego.
Meanwhile, Yondu (Michael Rooker) and his band of Ravagers are confronted by the high-ranking Ravager Stakar Ogord (Sylvester Stallone) for trafficking children, a call-back to Yondu taking Peter Quill in the previous film, ultimately sowing discontent among Yondu’s team. Ayesha approaches Yondu to capture the Guardians of the Galaxy. The Ravagers are able to capture half the crew, but the crew ultimately mutinies and throws Yondu in a holding cell with the captured Guardians.
The movie has a main plot and a smaller plot that converge together in the middle of the second act. The film sets up for a generic hero plot of the heroes being pursued by the villains until unlikely allies team up and save the day, but this movie takes a different and much appreciated approach. The pacing is well done, making it so the film does not get too dramatic or over-the-top comedic. It pushes against the edge of absurd and realistically sad, but pulls back at the right times.
With this being a sequel, much of the broad character development is already known to the audience, leaving time to finely tune their personalities or to introduce new characters. The movie does well to do both with the interactions of new characters to the already established, such as Ego with Peter Quill or Drax (Dave Bautista) and Mantis (Pom Klementieff). The relationship between Nebula and Gamora is also expanded, detailing their troubled childhood adopted and raised by Thanos. Among the new characters is Mantis, an empath working with Ego that channels emotions but largely unable to feel any by herself. She ends up spending a lot of time with the Guardians and discovers her own personality through them.
Keeping with space and planets largely unfamiliar with the audience, the movie will reference places and aliens without much context, though they do reference previous places like Xandar from the previous film. Also, though not as prevalent as I would have hoped, Groot (Vin Diesel) has spoken lines in the film, but have to be derived from the context of the situation or translated by Rocket.
The primary theme of the movie revolves around family, genetic or found. Star Lord is immediately questioned about his genealogy after speaking with the Sovereign. A moment later, Gamora is questioned about her relationship with Nebula, to which Gamora says that she’s more interested in Nebula’s bounty instead of being sisters. Ego is eager to reunite with Peter and Peter needs to adjust to meeting his father and catching up for lost time. The idea of family is touched on almost every level: those who are missing, those who are present, those we don’t want present, and making a family out of our closest associates.
The music is easily my favorite part about the movie. Much like the previous installment, the soundtrack features songs from the 70s and 80s. The songs not only help with the pacing of the movie, some of them are addressed directly in the film. Ego and Peter discuss the lyrics of “Brandy,” the song Ego and Meredith listen to at the top of the movie. Peter also has the opportunity to listen to “Father and Son” at one of the most emotionally invested moments of the film.
However, my absolute favorite use of music comes during the opening title crawl. While the rest of the Guardians fight the giant space squid, Groot takes advantage of the speaker system Rocket set up to dance to Electric Light Orchestra’s “Mr. Blue Sky.” The song itself has a way to make people happy, but mixed with baby Groot and his interactions with his environment, I found it impossible to be sad during that scene.
Since the majority of the movie takes place on alien planets, extravagant scenes and makeup were used to capture the setting of the moment. The Sovereign’s intense presence of opulence is capped off by their skin and their world covered in gold. Ego’s planet is bright and colorful, with the only limits being his imagination. Contained sets, like taking place on spaceships, gave a claustrophobic feeling of everything closing in on the characters. The worlds built and rebuilt in this film are something to admire.
All of the previous main cast return for the movie, while the special guest stars are big 80s icons. Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Karen Gillan, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Dave Bautista, and Michael Rooker return for their roles, while Sylvester Stallone and Kurt Russell each play significant roles throughout the film.
As a sequel, it’s very hard to get people interested halfway through the film franchise without the context of the previous film, or perhaps a general understanding of the 2008 run of the Guardians of the Galaxy comic books. Also, being the 15th film overall in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, a lot of it is counting on the momentum of returning fans and audience members instead of new ones.
As with the rest of the MCU films, this movie has extra footage during and after the credits. This movie is special, having 5 post-film scenes throughout the credits instead of one or two as is the norm. These scenes prep the audience for future interactions with the Guardians of the Galaxy (a third movie has been confirmed and the Guardians are planned on being involved with the Infinity War). My biggest take-aways from the film on its own is the message about family and Groot dancing to Mr. Blue Sky, now being one of the most memorable movie openings that I’ve ever seen.
Universe Galaxy Building
One of the most difficult parts of the film is carrying the momentum of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This film is set off of Earth, separating it from the Avengers. It’s also not tied with Thor, who also resides off of Earth, making their connection to the rest of the MCU very tenuous. The previous film briefly features Thanos, giving it a connection to the Phase 3 villain of the franchise. The connection is much less secure in this film, as Thanos’s presence isn’t at the capacity that it was for the previous film.