While Volume 2 of Guardians of the Galaxy is still a bit reluctant to part with its delinquent spirit and doubles down on its off-color humor, it makes a surprisingly powerful bid for matters of the heart.
The gang is back. Star Lord (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax (Dave Bautista), Rocket (Bradley Cooper), and Groot (Vin Diesel) return for another round of shenanigans as the Galaxy’s unlikely heroes. Allow me to answer one of the burning questions – yes, Baby Groot is every bit as adorable as you thought he’d be. He wastes no time endearing himself to us as he continues the tradition of dancing to the opening credits.
Along for the ride comes Yondu (Michael Rooker), Nebula (Karen Gillan), Mantis (Pom Klementieff), and Ego the Living Planet (Kurt Russel). At long last, Peter Quill and his father are brought together.
Spoilers may follow.
Kurt Russell makes a competent contribution as one of the sequel’s newcomers. We finally learn more about who Quill’s father is, and the long awaited family reunion serves as one of the film’s primary plot points. One of the best things about Guardians 2 is its approach to Ego’s character. It’s a little more traditional to the comics than the trailers lead us to believe, and the result is pretty compelling.
Ego welcomes his son with open arms. Quill, though skeptical at first, works past some initial feelings of resentment as Ego promises to be the father that he always wanted to be. Peter experiences a sense of belonging that has been missing for most of his life. He may have finally found a home. But not all is well in paradise and some things are not what they seem.
Volume 2 has plenty of action and humor. A significant chunk of that humor, however, is considerably crass. There’s the typical amount of swearing, as well. Guardians 2 pushes the envelope with “adult” dialogue even more so than its predecessor. In that respect, the sequel takes a couple steps back from the original. But it also surpasses the original in some ways. Unexpectedly good ways. The movie’s character development delves deeper into the protagonists’ flaws, and how those flaws are more inhibiting than helpful.
The Guardians initially make use of themselves in more of a professionally respectable capacity and seem to be drifting away from criminal behavior. But for some of the crew, old habits die hard. This inevitably leads to trouble. Bickering ensues. Verbal shots are fired.
If you haven’t seen the movie yet and you’re still reading, I must warn you that I might drop some major spoilers here.
The story’s second act feels a bit slow, but the film does a sufficient job building up to a meaningful crescendo. Here and there seeds are planted about dysfunctional relationships, illustrating the havoc a lack of communication and empathy can reek. But the character flaw the film gives the most attention to is that of an overinflated ego. This comes into even sharper focus as a desperate struggle comes to a head.
When it comes to villains, the MCU has had its share of hits and misses. Volume 2 of Guardians produces one of the best antagonists yet as a conflict of interests arises. Elements of deception and manipulation are hard at work, and the safety of the Galaxy depends on the discovery of a disturbing truth.
The issue of ego is not just present in regard to Quill and his father (who, we find out later, has a serious god complex), but is really the all-encompassing conflict of the story. We see how an ego unchecked can lead us to hubris and selfishness, damaging our relationships and causing undue harm. We see it when Rocket steals batteries. We see it in Yondu’s account of the work he did for Ego. We can see how Nebula’s and Gamora’s egos have turned them into mortal enemies. Gamora’s own ego also keeps her from confessing her true feelings for Peter, which makes it difficult for her to get through to him when she can sense that something isn’t right. Quill’s unique origins and desire for a more “perfect” family feeds his ego and nearly leads to disaster. As for Ego himself? Well, that one could not be more loud and clear.
Like all temptation and sinful behavior, what is an enlarged ego’s greatest bane? Love. Selflessness. When push comes to shove, that is what ultimately wins the day. It wins when Rocket finds a kindred spirit. It wins when Gamora’s love for Nebula causes both to stop fighting and open up to each other. It wins when Yondu’s care for Peter makes him cut ties with Ego and eventually brings him charging to the rescue. Peter’s love for his friends and most of all his mother wakes him up to his father’s true character.
Love, selfless love, is what defeats Ego.
In addition to language and innuendo, there’s a scene in which prostitution is implied. For obvious reasons, this film shouldn’t be considered kid-friendly. Granted, some discretion would hopefully be exercised any time the PG-13 rating is given. On the upside, Guardians‘ second installment encourages us to consider the damage that an unchecked ego can cause. It also shows us that an overinflated ego can be defeated when we look beyond ourselves.
EDITED 5/16/17, following recent comments.