By: Caitlin Elam
The Guardians of the Fricken Galaxy – Starlord (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista), Rocket Raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper), and Baby Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) are back for Volume Two, directed by James Gunn, also of GoTG, Volume One.
Of course of all the days to watch Volume 2, Sam and I picked the day that was absolutely the most gorgeous this year so I’m writing this in the sunshine of Alaska, enjoying the rest of this 50-60 degree weather while I can.
Sam works up on in the Arctic Circle for two weeks straight at a time and then comes home for two weeks off. If that sounds like a cake schedule, try working it sometime and you might sing another tune. For this reason, we value our time with each other when he’s home and Abby and I thrive on routine and keeping ourselves productively busy while he’s away. It’s a team effort and we’ve made it work fairly well for the year and a half that he’s been working. I truly feel for the families who have to do this with the military and other jobs for months, if not years, at a time.
Because we cherish our limited time as a family, we don’t like to see movies that suck. While sometimes it can be kind of fun to see a crap movie at home in jammies, it’s definitely not worth the money to go to a theater. On top of which, sometimes finding childcare for two or so hours isn’t worth the cost of the ticket to go see a more “grown up movie”. Our child can handle PG-13 and under movies generally depending on content and some kids are different – we don’t judge as long as it’s not a 2 year old screaming in terror in “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” or something (which I have seen happen and this is my personal “fuck you” to those parents).
When we all saw Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 1, it was a real treat because it had everything we wanted in a movie as a family: action, comedy, drama, romance, science fiction/fantasy, and plenty of “Easter Eggs” from comic books dropped in.
We went into the movie this time with a little trepidation the movie might just be an extension of the first and rely too heavily on the predecessor for plot/flow or not space out the stories/characters for equal storytelling in a two hour flick. Fears were assuaged immediately when the second sequence (after the dramatic first sequence, as in the first movie) wasn’t Peter Quill rummaging for an artifact like in Vol. 1 but rather the Guardians fighting as a team against a giant squid monster for the High Priestess Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki). While Ayesha and her people seem like a comedic and ancillary characters, they end up being a bigger part of the story than one is lead to believe. That’s one of many aspects that Gunn does outrageously well; he really makes use of the characters and makes them connect and/or clash in a tangible way.
The Volume 2 edition of this rag-tag team of space travelers is absolutely everything the first edition was and more. It starts off where the last movie left things and doesn’t ignore that the team still has more than a few enemies on their tails after defeating Ronan. When you add Nebula (Karen Gillan), Mantis (Pom Klementieff), Yondu (Michael Rooker), and Starlord’s biological father, Ego (Kurt Russell) to the ensemble, it heightens the amount of story/plot/enemies. There’s that “enemies become friends and friends become enemies” element, as well, which isn’t as tired a theme as one might believe. Nebula and Yondu, especially, have some very interesting back stories that are fleshed out more and add depth. The Ravagers (lead by Starhawk, played by Sylvester Stallone) have more of a “honor amongst thieves” guild with a code as opposed to the shameless pirates Vol. 1 depicted and Nebula has a lot of pain and torture behind her actions as opposed to just being a black and white psychopathic “daughter of Thanos”.
I think what struck me the most was the fact that, while they were fighting together in the scene with the squid monster on Ayesha’s planet, they still had quirks as a team to work out and communication issues. They were and are the perfect example of a family: they have their individual issues to resolve within themselves and with each other but there is real love and loyalty there. Another boon was that Gunn made sure that everyone had equal story and screen time. It wasn’t “The Baby Groot Gymboree”, “The Starlord Special” or “Drax Extravaganza” but a little bit from every character, which paired them with each other perfectly to form a buffet of fun and, moreover, feels.
Oh, those damn feels. Sam always laughs at Abby and I because we get more emotionally invested in plots and characters than he does. We’re feelers and he’s, well, decidedly not (thanks, Marine Corps). If (hopefully “when”) you see the movie, think of my dearest husband as Drax and myself as Mantis in this regard. Abby, being six years old, gets more emotionally involved than I do. I usually end up hugging/holding/soothing her every time someone’s parent dies in a film. This seems to happen quite a bit; when we saw Annie, she ran around for a week telling every stranger we met that her whole family was dead…so thanks for that, Annie. This movie has feels aplenty for everyone, even if it doesn’t speak to you personally based on your own experience, it’ll still hit your heart…unless you’re like Sam.
The whole movie is, quite plainly and in a nutshell, about family and how sometimes family isn’t exactly blood related but who is there for you when times are tough. This same “chosen family” often knows you better than you know yourself. I don’t have any kind of bad relationships with my blood relatives but it still spoke to me because I’m blessed with friends I regard in a familial way, as well. There’s some romance, as well, as I expected there to be but it’s not the main aspect of it; it’s rather a side story that is important but not eye-rollingly done to death or sugary to the point of diabetes.
If this sounds too heavy for your standard movie fare, don’t worry because the ensemble packs on laughs a-plenty. There’s dark comedy aspect of Yondu, Rocket, and Groot’s orchestral symphony of death amidst the backdrop of “Come a Little Bit Closer” by Jay & The Americans, which was reminiscent of the ear chopping scene in Reservoir Dogs. There’s the endearing comedy of Baby Groot’s childlike innocence, which was a lot of fun and evoked a lot of “awww’s” in the theater. Watching Rocket and Yondu try to explain to Groot what they needed him to get from a room full of sleeping foes was almost exactly like reliving a thousand conversations I’ve had with Abby when I needed her to fetch something for me or Sam. There was also the sequence where Rocket is trying to explain how to arm a bomb he made for Groot to set off. Both scenes had Sam and I looking at each other knowingly, laughing our asses off, and pointing to the young child sitting between us.
There’s really dry, sardonic comedy, which is a speciality of Rocket’s…sort of (wink wink). There’s also really overt sarcasm and insulting/ribbing, such as Quill referring to Rocket as a “trash panda” because Rocket didn’t like being referred to as a “raccoon”. Gunn played up but didn’t overplay the angle that a lot of what Peter Quill knows of Earth/Terra when he lived there as a child is stuff that the rest of his team absolutely does not understand; it’s like being in on an inside joke with Starlord, knowing who/what David Hasselhoff, Knight Rider, Pac Man, Heather Locklear, Skeletor and “some weird shit” was. His stunted and archaic knowledge of Earth also calls attention to the fact that he was pulled by Yondu as a child when all of those nostalgic aspects were in vogue (music especially). The first movie makes this connection many times, as well, and is a central theme but is not annoying.
Whomever made the soundtrack for this movie deserves a damn Oscar for it, by the way. It was amazing to not only hear music that I love and have loved for years (“Flashlight” by George Clinton, “The Chain” by Fleetwood Mac, and “Brandy” by Looking Glass were my favorites), but hear it so perfectly and creatively applied to a movie. The first movie nailed this, as well, and the trend continues with Volume 2.
As for the geekery, there’s no shortage of that, either. Even as a comic book fan that generally knows the Marvel Universe(s) quite well, there were a lot of moments for me where I gasped and yelled, “Whaaaa?”, as well as my husband, so be prepared for a few shocking reveals. And Easter eggs? Break out the baskets, boys and girls, because there are a plethora to collect to supply your little nerdy souls for the rest of the year (or at least until another Marvel movie hits the theaters).
My only gripe? The dude trying to strike up small talk after the five (yes, five – yay!) post-credit scenes had wrapped. Generally, I don’t mind talking to anyone about anything but he was trying to imply to my husband that something in the movie was reminiscent of Doctor Who. Huh? No, man – this ain’t a mashup. The only tie to Doctor Who is that Karen Gillan is in the movie. That’s it. Trust me.
Sam said something noncommittal and pretended to need to accompany Abby out of the theater quickly and sacrificed me to this fellow moviegoer’s conversation for five minutes of my life I can’t get back – thanks, Sam…dick.
If that is my only gripe about the movie, trust me, you’re going to have a good time. Even my husband, who has no heart or soul, said he wished there was more and would have easily sat through another two hours of more story. Abby, meanwhile, can’t stop yelling “I AM GROOT” at the top of her lungs.