The long-awaited sequel to Marvel’s most oddball film has finally arrived, opening May 5 in the US, and it lives up to the promise of the first.
Visually spectacular, action-packed, with a surprisingly resonant emotional core, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 fleshes out the eclectic crew and their relationships, brings in new characters, and provides a big chunk of Oedipal drama to think about on the way home.
WARNING: MILD BEGINNING OF THE MOVIE PLOT SPOILERS
1. What’s it about?
After having formed a ragtag team in the last film, Peter “Star-Lord” Quill and his crew of “a-holes” have gone freelance, providing security and other services to the highest bidder; when the film opens, they’ve been hired by a society called The Sovereign to protect valuable assets from a ravaging beast; when Rocket makes an ill-advised impulsive decision, he turns their client into an enemy and their departure into an escape.
Into this conflict comes a man named Ego who says he’s Quill’s father. The body of the film is comprised of intersecting plotlines: Ego and Quill begin to establish a relationship, which impacts the entire team. When Gamora’s sister Nebula returns, the two of them are forced to work through their tumultuous relationship. Continuing the relationship theme, Drax finds a new friend in Mantis, Ego’s empathic companion (Pom Klementieff, impossibly innocent and adorable), while Rocket and Yondu form a friendship. In the second plot, the Sovereign are waging their vendetta. The third plot follows Yondu’s crew and their issues with the larger Ravager community, while they also deal with a mutiny in their ranks. Then it gets complicated and ‘splodey.
2.Will I like it?
What’s not to like? There are a number of incredible set-pieces to fill your eyeballs, action sequences to get your adrenaline going, plenty of genuine emotional storytelling to make it all matter, and a bunch of fun hidden gems for the hardcore Marvel nerds to find.
3. Will my kids like it?
They sure will. There’s a lot of comedy, wild action sequences, and a lot of heart. Rocket and Baby Groot are wonderful, as expected.
4. Is the rating appropriate?
“Rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action and violence, language, and brief suggestive content.” As adorable as Baby Groot is, he plays against a background of brutal violence, intrigue, and some disturbing imagery. There are a couple of scenes that will be pure nightmare fuel for sensitive young ones. There are poop jokes, a discussion of a Celestial being’s penis thrown in for good measure, and Drax continues to have no filter when it comes to discussing pretty much anything. Given all that, PG-13 sounds about right.
5. When is a good time for a bathroom break?
There really isn’t one. The RunPee app says to go at 1:05 (when Rocket asks if Kraglin has copies of Quill’s music on the ship), but I say nope, don’t go then, the scene that follows is pretty great, kind of important and one of the best uses of music in the film. Go before you get into the theater and don’t buy the large soda.
8. How’s the music?
James Gunn has an incredible knack for picking just the right song. There are some great tunes here; forgotten gems, obscure tunes, and a couple of classics, all used really effectively. “Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl)” by Looking Glass and Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain” in particular serve their scenes well, and Jay & The Americans’ “Come a Little Bit Closer” is used to brilliant effect in a horrifyingly beautiful action sequence. Just add the collection to your GotG playlist from last time and put it on repeat.
6. Do I need to have seen the previous movie to enjoy this one?
Not really. There are passing references to some of what came before, but Vol. 2 really stands on its own as a self-contained movie. The cast is reintroduced in a spectacular battle scene in which most of them fight for their lives while Baby Groot obliviously dances through the carnage, and along the way each of the characters gets a sequence to establish their persona and function on the team. From there, everything we need to know is either told or easily inferred through context.
7. Does it lead in to Avengers: Infinity War?
Not even a little bit. Gunn wisely doesn’t waste a single minute referencing previous movies or setting up the next one. Thanos is mentioned, but only as Gamora and Nebula’s father, not as an ongoing plot-point, and he is never seen. This movie is solely about the Guardians and how they relate to each other. There’s only one obvious indication of things to come in future films, and it’s entirely unclear whether that refers to Vol. 3, Infinity War, or both.
9. Is the 3D worth it?
Oh yeah. I’m not a big fan of 3D, and really not a fan of paying through the nose for it, but the film is visually spectacular, with broad alien vistas and elaborate space battles, and the 3D is used effectively throughout. If you’re not a tightwad like me, and money isn’t a major concern, go ahead and pony up for the glasses.
10. Do I need to stay to the end of the credits?
The standard answer here is “It’s a Marvel movie, OF COURSE there’s a post-credits scene!” In this case, there are a bunch of them. Some involve cute easter eggs that only people who read the Guardians comics back in the ’70s are going to really appreciate, a bit of amusing minor plot development (pun intended), a callback to an earlier gag, and the aforementioned preview of an upcoming plot wrinkle. Is that vague enough?