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Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2: How Should We Feel About Ego?

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Rating: 8/10

Andrew Walton

4 thoughts on “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2: How Should We Feel About Ego?

  1. I found it interesting how they addressed the god (emphasis on the little g) issue. It seems that Marvel has created their own mythology and their own pantheon, obviously borrowing heavily from the Norse and even the Greeks if you read the comics.

    But like the gods of the Greek and the Norse, the Marvel gods have very human foibles. This became very apparent when Ego started talking about trying to find his purpose and the meaning of his existence. It’s also expressed in Nebula’s character. This topic is touched on a lot in the Agents of SHIELD show as well. I think the reason these characters resonate with audiences so well is that so many of the viewers are also trying to find their purpose and meaning to life. It’s a little sad to watch people struggle and relate to these issues when we, as Christians, know that we have a purpose given to us by God.

    The other interesting topic I noted was answering a lot of the Why? questions. People always ask, why do bad things happen? For Peter, it was Why did my mom die of cancer? Why did my father abandon me? Why was I stuck being raised by Yondu? Since this is a contrived story, Peter gets answers to all of his questions, but these types of questions are something else to which audiences can relate. In real life, people don’t always get the answers and they are frustrated by that, but as Christian we can have confidence that even if we don’t get the answers, we know that God works all things for the good of those who love Him.

    • Great insights. Thank you for your comment.

      I actually read an interesting Q&A a few days ago with James Gunn regarding how they decided to use Ego:

      *SPOILERS FOR ANYONE WHO HASN’T SEEN THE MOVIE YET*

      How did Gunn decide on using Ego in the first place?

      Quite honestly, I had discussions, Chris Pratt and I, early on about what we were doing with the second movie. I think that, in the wake of the first movie, both of us experienced this tremendous lift in our egos where we went from … he was the chubby, supporting actor on a sitcom and I was a guy directing cult, low-budget movies and suddenly, after that, I could direct any movie I wanted and he could star in any movie he wanted … I really think that the movie, in a lot of ways, is about us and our relationship to that ego, and not being destroyed by it, and allowing ourselves to still be ourselves and stay who we were before we started making the movie. That’s really, to me, the personal story of Vol. 2. … For me, it was just about his ego taking over everything. It was about “Brandy”, that song that they discuss and how Ego sees that song.

      This really sharpens the perspective of the movie. It’s not necessarily that Ego really is a god, but is perhaps symbolic of the temptation we feel to see ourselves as something greater than we are when we taste success, or in Ego’s case, when he grows in power. He represents, I think, how full of ourselves we can become if we allow our egos to run wild and the destruction that can cause to innocent people. I think the light that Ego tells Quill to harness isn’t necessarily meant to be something spiritual, but may be symbolic of the limelight that Pratt and Gunn were in danger of allowing to puff them up. Just thought I would share that. :)

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