The cinema worker came out of the empty theater. Three gray-haired men were waiting ahead of me. “You guys Guardians?” the worker said.
“Yes,” they said.
“Go on in.”
Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol 2, is as entertaining as the first movie. This series is the best of the Marvel films for me. It doesn’t set up profound, complex philosophical questions and then fail to answer them the way the Avengers series does. It doesn’t try to explain superheroes or supertech in a real-world context like Spiderman or Antman. And it looks, in the best sense, like a comic book.
I watched it in 2D, because I get a headache watching 3D movies. I have to say, this one is probably worth a headache, and the first in-space scene, a melee in the background and Baby Groot in the foreground, seemed a little blurry and was definitely designed for 3D. That didn’t make it any less exciting or funny. And overall, even with the long fireworks show at the end, these visuals were Dr. Strange-level trippy, and beautiful.
Spouse watches business news all the time when he’s home. Friday morning I sat and watched a little bit of a CNBC show. At the end they were talking about the Doritos tie-tin the movie, a bag of chips with a music player and earbuds attached to it. The female anchor Kelly didn’t get it (she hadn’t seen the first film). One of the arrogant, business-suited Friday guests explained to her that the earbuds and the player (“It’s looks like it plays cassettes!” she had said) mattered in the first movie. “It was important in the first film,” he said. “It was cute. If it’s in the second movie it’s going to be annoying.”
Well, excuse me, Mr. Guest Stock-Analyst Guy, you may predict the markets like a boss, but you don’t know anything about movies, (and spoiler alert, yes, it is in there).
When Rocket pilfers something from the supercilious, high-fashion Sovereigns, who hired the Guardians to protect a thing, the metallic-colored people come after them in full video-game mode. While attempting to escape, human Peter Quill and his friends are “rescued” by a being who says he is Peter’s father, the aptly-named Ego. Ego is a celestial, basically a god, and he tells Peter that he is one, too. He takes Peter, Gamora and Drax with him to his home planet, while Baby Groot and Rocket stay behind to try to fix their broken ship which crash-landed on a forest world.
Yondu, the Ravager who raised Peter, has accepted a bounty from Ayesha, the high-priestess of the Sovereigns, to bring the Guardians in. They capture Groot and Rocket, but from there things do not go as expected.
Two characters we met in the first movie, Yondu and Gamora’s adopted sister Nebula, have larger roles here and we see more of their personalities.
Along the way, we get banter, a little more exploration of Rocket’s background, Yondu’s and Peter’s; space battles, hand-to-hand battles, and gorgeous, beautiful special effects, especially on the world of Ego where they are over the top.
“Shall we sit here?” the teenaged girl caroled as she had her two friends entered the theater behind me and tried to choose a seat. There were plenty. “Here? Shall we sit here? Or here?”
“Stop being loud!” her friend said.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 is long, about two hours and twenty minutes (if you stay to watch the four or five mid-credit scenes. You really should stay for the credits. They are fun.). There were two places where I glanced at my watch to see how far in we were, and the first was when we land on Ego’s planet. I thought the exposition of the beautiful, Peter-Maxish, 1970s’ pipe-dream set went on a bit too long, although I loved that the vessel they travel on, which extrudes from Ego’s lovely egg-shaped ship, look like a denture plate.
The story is not that complex, but it does need time to allow all those great visual effects to blossom. And it takes the time to let us see Rocket’s struggle to figure out his place in the group, and learn from Nebula what life was like for her under the control of her adopted father Thanos. It also gives Gamora and Peter a few private moments.
The place where the film stretches the best, though, is with the additions of Mantis (and her confused conversations with Drax), and the storyline of Yondu and his new second-in-command. The scene where Baby Groot tries to rescue Rocket and another person from a cell might seem to go on too long, but it was just right, because it was funny, and also because of the climax of that scene. Mantis is empathic, but has been completely sheltered by Ego, and Drax has taken it upon himself to educate her. That is just about as crazy at it sounds. There is a scene near the end where Drax is trying to rescue her. He is sinking into the ground, and with his last breath he raises his arms, holding her up above his head.
If the first movie was about deciding who you are, this one is about who your family is, both literally with Peter’s father and Gamora and Nebula; and figuratively with Yondu, Groot and Rocket. I laughed 80% of the way through this movie, and in the last five minutes I was brushing tears off my face, in a good way.
By the way, the Sovereigns are villainous and clearly set up to be adversaries, but their costumes rocked it, and cry out for cosplay. Honestly, just gorgeous.
The other thing is the musical score. Like Vol 1, this movie is about the tunes, and the score is wonderful. Even the sappy, sentimental Cat Stevens song “Fathers and Sons” works here.
And stay for the credits; you deserve it.