People have been raving about Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, praising the film for its laugh-out-loud humor and wonderful character development. Truth be told, I liked it more than the first film, mostly because it was nothing like the original at all.
In Guardians 2, director James Gunn has made the Marvel Cinematic Universe's best and most emotionally powerful film yet. Not to mention, it features one of the MCU's most compelling and charismatic villains, something that's been missing so dearly from past films.
While the film is great for conventional comic book-y reasons, Guardians 2 is much deeper than your typical superhero fare. There are a lot of laughs sure, and more colors than a Jackson Pollock painting. But the film is especially good because Gunn didn't shy away from tackling tough concepts head-on, from child abuse to loneliness.
Below are five reasons that make Guardians 2 such a memorable film. Oh, and note that there are spoilers ahead.
Dominic Toretto would be proud of the Guardians, who have become the most dysfunctional family in the galaxy. Drax is still numb from the death of his family, Rocket acts out because he's afraid of being alone, and Gamora's relationship with her sister Nebula is more fraught than ever.
Yet, despite each member's hardships, the film does a fantastic job emphasizing how much this motley crew needs each other. They are who they are because of each other—and ultimately rely on each other to get through difficult situations. It gets a little cheesy at times—Drax pretty much utters a line straight out of a Fast & Furious movie—but it works, and it ultimately brings these characters together in a satisfying and believable way.
Even if you're not surrounded by blood relatives, the movie is a reminder that who you surround yourself with is just as important. And each character was developed so well that it made their interactions that much more riveting. Their dysfunction isn't manufactured by a political struggle, or because a brainwashed soldier did something awful in his past.
They're dysfunctional in completely human ways, which ultimately makes us care about their well-being. I know I won't be the only one who is devastated when one of the core members ultimately dies.
Heart of darkness
The tone of the MCU has always been pretty light. Even with Earth's fate hanging in the balance, you never get the sense there's any kind of real danger. Sure, Iron Man 3 scratched the surface of Tony Stark's struggle with PTSD, and Age of Ultron had a few nightmare sequences, but Guardians 2 really upped the ante.
Every character in the movie, save for Baby Groot, had to confront their demons. As I mentioned above, Rocket acts the way he does so he never truly feels close to those around him. Gamora and Nebula, meanwhile, had to work through their childhood rivalry, which was forced upon them and encouraged by a diabolical Thanos.
In addition to the individual struggles, the film had a few really dark twists. As Ego reveals his plans to Peter Quill, Gamora and Nebula find a tomb filled with skeletons. We soon find out that Ego was literally killing his spawn because they served no purpose.
Speaking of which, Ego reveals he killed Peter's mom because he was becoming too attached. That's messed up. There were several emotional arcs like this, which have been missing from other MCU films. For once, the stakes were high, and it finally felt like these characters mattered, and weren't just vehicles to move the plot forward.
The mish-mash of characters in the original Guardians was already an odd group, comprised of a tree, a "trash panda," an assassin, a thief, and a destroyer. Quite the unlikely alliance. But things got even weirder in the sequel when Yondu joined the fray.
The turning point happens when Yondu, Rocket, and Baby Groot are imprisoned following a mutiny, which is lead by the hilariously named Taserface. It's here that Yondu and Rocket bond over their status as outsiders. It's a strong and emotionally powerful connection, providing great insight into both characters without getting too sappy or explanatory.
This propels the story forward and helps us better understand their motivations, eventually bringing the entire group together as they fight to take down Ego. If you want to look elsewhere, Gamora and Nebula form their own uneasy alliance as they come to appreciate each other and the struggles they've been through as daughters of Thanos.
I'll admit it's a little absurd to say the scale of Guardians 2 is small, especially when there's so much evidence to the contrary. With the vastness of space as the backdrop, the fate of the universe hangs in the balance; it doesn't get any larger than that.
Still, the movie's most impactful and intimate moments happen when things slow down and dive into what drives and motivates the characters. That ultimately makes the film appear much smaller than it actually is, even with threat of Thanos looming and Earth literally being consumed by a blue blob.
When the human condition bubbles to the surface, big action sequences and Infinity Stone locations suddenly seem much less important. Guardians 2 also tidily closed up many of the plot lines it introduced, rather than focusing on planning for what's to come.
There's a completeness to the movie, which hasn't always been the case in other MCU movies since there are so many other threads being crocheted.