Written by David Holland
This week we go from the crazy multiverse world of Doctor Strange back to the far reaches of space with the Guardians. Next week is Ragnorak, so we are pretty much leaving the normal world behind for a while. For better or worse, the MCU is expanding into new worlds beyond the simple days of “Captain America: Winter Soldier”. We’re not going to New Jersey, we’re going to Ego, a world of untold horrors.
This time our journey involves an expanded role for the Ravagers, the return of Nebula, and the closest thing to a Field of Dreams moment we have had to date in the MCU, so let’s jump in.
This film was announced a week before the release of Volume 1 in 2014, demonstrating either considerable foresight or hubris on the part of Marvel. Director James Gunn returns to helm this installment, intent on answering the questions leftover from the first film. Returning star Chris Pratt revealed that the film helped him deal emotionally with the death of his father, which occurred while filming “Jurassic World”. As I will address in the Theme section, fathers play sort of a big role in this movie, and Pratt said that it actually gave him a fair amount of catharsis. Volume Two includes an Awesome Mix just like Volume One, and music yet again plays a great role in guiding the audience’s emotions through important scenes.
Kurt Russell joins the cast as the evil Ego, along with cameos by Sylvester Stallone, Ving Rames, Seth Green, and Rob Zombie. Just like the previous version, Vin Diesel’s only line is “I am Groot”, but he never phones it in. Instead, Gunn created a “Groot version” of the script, with English translations of Groot’s lines so that Vin could communicate different ideas using only his volume and inflection and no digital alteration – he pulls off Baby Groot’s high pitched voice all on his own. Oh, and he translated the phrase into sixteen foreign languages for releases abroad. Not too shabby. Similarly, Bradley Cooper expanded the role of Rocket with Motion Capture instead of simply providing his voice.
How Does it Hold Up?
The “Guardians” series doesn’t mind taking viewers on a journey through a large, strange universe without very much explanation. I imagine there is a lot on the cutting room floor of Volume Two, especially surrounding the Ravagers. This is the first time we learn that Yondu is not a Ravager in good standing because of his kidnapping arrangement with Ego, and a hint at this in the previous installment would have been helpful for context. We also meet the Sovereigns, a proud, obnoxious, vindictive people who are apparently fans of “Goldfinger”.
Volume Two follows a traditional style for an ensemble sequel: now that you brought the group together in the first one, pull them apart in the second. The tension is mostly around the relationship between Quill and Rocket, who go their separate ways for a while. As Quill deals with his father-issues, Rocket deals with the fact that the Guardians are the first people he has ever come to depend on. This fact makes him uncomfortable, and in turn makes him unpleasant. The highlight of the second act is Yondu’s, Rocket’s, and Groot’s escape from the Ravager brig, featuring Yondu’s arrow as the MVP. Everyone, including Gamorra’s villainous sister Nebula, gathers for the final confrontation in Ego’s core, where Quill sacrifices demi-god status to save the universe from his lunatic father.
There’s a lot of father baggage on the Guardians team. Gamorra hates her adopted father Thanos, for good reason since he is a homicidal maniac. Even though Thanos never appears in the movie, he looms large in the confrontation between Nebula and Gamorra. Rocket doesn’t really have a father, he has basically had to raise himself since he is the result of scientific experiments. And Peter has never met his father, which is sort of the point of the whole movie. The only one of the group with a decent father is Baby Groot, whom James Gunn revealed in a tweet is not the same Groot from volume 1, stating: “First Groot is dead. Baby Groot is his son.”
When Quill meets Ego, it seems too good to be true. Not only does Ego want to help unlock godlike powers in Quill, he seems genuinely interested in an actual relationship with his son. This is what Quill thinks he has been searching for – and now that he has it, he believes he will be happy tossing baseballs made of light with his dad on Ego-planet forever. But of course, Ego is too good to be true. In his quest to create a worthy heir he slaughtered thousands of his own offspring and, presumably, their mothers (considering he admits to implanting the tumor in Quill’s mother, it seems safe to assume he killed all of his children’s mothers).
That’s when Quill has to acknowledge that Ego may be his father, he was raised by Yondu. The blue-skinned arrow slinger may have broken Ravager code by abducting young Peter on Ego’s behalf, but he raised the future Star-Lord like his own son, disguising his true love for the boy with rough edges and stories of preventing him from being eaten by the crew. Sure it wasn’t exactly a normal childhood, but it was the one that made Star-Lord the man he is, the sort of man who would not only have the backbone to stand up to Ego, but would have the skill and brains to do so.
I’m sure Gamorra’s father issues will be solved just as easily…