Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 announces its intention to be different from other Marvel Universe movies with its opening fight. As the majority of our heroes (Star-Lord (Peter Quill), Gamora, Drax, and Rocket) take on a giant tentacle creature seeking some interstellar battery things, Baby Groot connects the two wires to start a music track. As the fight rages on around him, the camera follows Baby Groot happily dancing around the platform.
Any other movie would have followed the dramatic action of the team fighting a giant monster, with occasional cuts back to Baby Groot for comedic effect. Guardians does the opposite, effectively announcing that while this is a movie with tons of action, it’s not about action, it’s about characters.
In a prelude, we see Star-Lord’s father (played by Kurt Russell) romancing Peter Quill’s mother and planting some sort of seed (no, not that seed. I mean, that too, but OTHER seed. Intergalactic plant seed. It’ll all make sense later). Star-Lord’s father shows up later, riding atop an egg-like starship to save the Guardians crew from certain death at the hands of a fleet that they, specifically Rocket, had double-crossed by stealing the batteries they’d been paid to protect.
A crash-landing on a remote planet, followed by the arrival of Quill’s father and the reveal of who he is sets off the central act and conflict of the movie. Who is Quill’s father? Is family defined by blood, or who you choose to call family? In a lot of ways, the central themes of Guardians echo those of The Lego Batman Movie. Truth be told, you could superimpose the end credits “Friends are Family” sequence from the latter onto the former, and it wouldn’t be out of place.
Guardians, obviously, is a more mature movie than Lego Batman. The action set pieces are fantastic, particularly a long sequence where Rocket demonstrates his absolute mastery of speed, cunning, and booby traps. Also, if you happen to subscribe to the head canon that the Guardians of the Galaxy are the Avengers’ D&D game, then I leave it up to you to decide who exactly is playing Nebula in Guardians Vol. 2. (My money would be on Squirrel Girl, but that’s just me.) Another highlight is the Sovereigns’ take on space combat – an arcade-like system of remote piloted ships that turns life and death battles into a video game, complete with trash-talking.
The soundtrack is a huge throwback to classic tunes from the ’70s. It’s completely appropriate for the movie, though listeners’ enjoyment will depend heavily on how much you appreciate music from that era. The action sequences, mercifully, are mostly free from shaky-cam inanity, though a few of them I found a bit difficult to follow. In a rare departure from most MCU movies, this honestly felt like a movie that could have stood to be longer, with a lot of the plot points given at least a few minutes more time to develop before the climax.
Kurt Russell does an excellent turn as Quill’s father, Ego. Michael Rooker, reprising his role as Yondo gets a lot more screen time this go around as well, and really gets some great opportunities to humanize the character. Of course, I’d also be remiss without mentioning Bradley Cooper as the voice of Rocket, who puts far more character into a sentient raccoon than could be expected.
Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol 2. then, is a movie with something for everyone. Appropriate for anyone over 10, it’s got great action sequences, humor, and a heart that’s hard to find in a lot of MCU movies. Plus, if you happen to want a head-canon where Tony Stark fires up “Friends are Family” after the final epilogue, well, just know that you’re not the only one.