8 Questions After Watching Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Warning: Here be spoilers.

1. Back in January, Mike and Matt answered the question, “Will the second instalment [of GOTG] continue to feel fresh and original or will it feel like more of the same?” Mike said “No,” and Matt was a coward did not answer the question definitively either way. So, now that the film has actually been seen, answer the question again~!

Matt: I was broadly optimistic last time, damn it! Anyway, I think the sequel felt plenty ‘fresh and original’, continuing to be a healthy antidote to the dour tone of most modern superhero films and even action films more generally. Obviously it was playing in the same wheelhouse so there were some deliberate retreads, but it didn’t feel like they were making a sequel just to make one in my opinion, and nor do I think they’ll be doing so when Vol. 3 rolls around. The Guardians, as their name suggests, lend themselves to wacky adventures across the galaxy, so there’s nigh-infinite possibilities with characters, locations, and concepts in a way there simply isn’t with say… Iron Man. The cast expanded nicely without anyone feeling left behind, and the film felt like another chapter in the book of the Guardians, not a spend-more-money and up-the-ante numerical sequel.

Mike: The sequel definitely did not feel fresh and new in the way that its predecessor did. That being said, this did not feel like a gratuitous or unneeded retread like so many other blockbuster sequels these days.

This kind of felt like a holding pattern move for the GOTG corner of the MCU. Gamora, Nebula, and Rocket got some nice character progression. Peter learned something major about his past and will probably have to unpack them some more in the future. Yondu’s arc came to a close. Drax and Groot provided lots of comedy. And that’s just about it, no?

That’s not to say this was not a worthy chapter in the overall GOTG galaxy, nor is it to say that it was not executed very well. It just seems this volume did not move a ton of things forward, as the need to hold off on pursuing Thanos (clearly a villain that the Guardians should be tackling on their own) really did not leave a whole lot of room to maneuver.

2. What was your favourite scene in the movie?

Matt: While it wasn’t the most emotional or the funniest scene in the film, I’m actually a huge fan of the opening credits. Baby Groot stomping around to Mr. Blue Sky while an elaborate battle with a squid monster played out in the background, almost getting in the way of Groot’s tiny adventures was delightful. I can’t imagine how much time and effort it took the special effects teams to animate that at times barely visible fight all for the sake of an extended gag, but I loved the dedication to the bit. It built on what they did with Peter dancing around in the opening credits of the first film and raised the bar.

Mike: Despite one of the major gags being a core element of all the trailers, the scene where Peter, Gamora, and Drax learn about Mantis’ powers was very much my favorite scene. It was such a great little slice of character work and humor that captures the brilliance of this corner of the MCU. Much like the scene Matt discussed in his answer, GOTG is all about zagging when most action movies would zig. These characters are some of the most fully realized and charming in the entire MCU right now, and it’s always just a treat watching them interact with each other and learning something knew about them.

3. A huge part of this film was about unpacking the pasts of the characters and having them reconcile some lingering issues. Which character arc was the most effective?

Matt: I legitimately thought every single one of them bar Groot and Mantis had a healthy amount of pathos. If forced to pick just one (and save myself from Mike dragging me in a future edition of this feature) I’d say the Rocket/Yondu co-story worked best for me. Assholes realising their assholes in time to make a change is always compelling, and it was a pretty solid writing decision to pair the two up. They didn’t seem overly connected in the first movie, and yet when Yondu made the link it made perfect sense. They made each other better people sentient organisms, and the triumphant reconciliation between Yondu and Peter followed by the funeral scene had me tearing up.

Mike: Matt, you might be shocked to discover this, but we’re in complete agreement on this one. Not only did the Rocket/Yondu dynamic work out perfectly, but it also stood out in contrast to the very rushed developments in the Gamora/Nebula and Peter/Daddy Issues stories. Rocket and Yondu got just the right amount of time together for the payoff at the end to feel completely earned and organic. The other two big pairings took giant leaps forward without earning them entirely.

4. A popular (and accurate – MT) complaint levied toward the Marvel Cinematic Universe is that the villains aren’t very good. While this is an exaggerated criticism (it’s not – MT), Ronan the Accuser was as shallow as they come, so was Ego an improvement and moreover, a satisfying movie villain?

Matt: Kurt Russell was pretty great in this movie. His story was in no way original, wanting to conquer everything and build his own new universe and whatnot, and his name is literally Ego so nobody should have been surprised by the reveal, but he felt like a fully three dimensional character to me. He was charming, funny, articulate, they got some pretty cool fight scenes out of him, and his inevitable turn made sense within the story they were telling, thanks to his status as a life form beyond  normal comprehension.

Mike: Yes and no. Ego was certainly a more satisfying villain than the majority of the ones that have populated MCU films. Kurt Russell is one charming motherfucker, and he was generally enjoyable on screen from beginning to end. You would expect any character in such a film to be enjoyable though so that should not count for much. And being better than other MCU villains is certainly all relative because the MCU has had some goddamn uninspiring villains over the last decade (it’s ONLY been a decade of MCU films???).

Now for the ‘no’ part. Ego was not a particularly satisfying villain (though it’s impossible to not appreciate the film’s ability to actually pull off EGO THE FUCKING PLANET). Ego’s “turn” though from ideal absent father to evil planet god who is attempting to kill the entire galaxy was not exactly executed seamlessly. He needlessly and foolishly revealed that he killed Peter’s mother. His reaction to Peter’s actions to take him down made him seem more cartoon than character (could the dude maybe be a little more hurt and less indignant about the whole thing, maybe?). Finally, the Superman/Zod (or Neo/Agent Smith if you prefer) final confrontation with Peter was absolutely soulless and the complete opposite of what GOTG has been about in the first two films.

5. Roughly speaking, where does this film sit for you in the general pantheon of superhero movies?

Matt: From talking to people about it afterward I think I’m higher on it than most, so feel free to roll your eyes at the rest of this answer. When the first film came out a discussion about whether it was the best film in the MCU gathered a fair amount of steam, which I don’t think will happen this time, and nor should it. I’d put it in the upper echelon, but below the likes of The Avengers, Winter Soldier and Civil War. Obviously it’s no Batman Begins, but it’s lightyears (get it) ahead of the most recent entries from Warner and Fox.

Mike: If we’re just talking MCU, then it’s clearly in the top half of the films just for the fun factor but not really on the level of the franchise’s best work (which includes this film’s direct predecessor). In a broader conversation about all superhero and/or comic book films though, this will be a largely forgettable chapter or even footnote when it’s all said and done. It did not introduce anything that truly made this film stand out in any extraordinary way. It did not change up a proven formula. The story certainly did not go in any fresh directions. It simply was a well-executed piece of Marvel work.

6. Moving forward, what do you want from the Guardians of the Galaxy films?

Mike: A really cool idea briefly explored in this one was the concept of separating the team for a portion of the film. By the time Volume 3 rolls around, they will have a pretty wide cast of characters to play with and pairing off random characters in different corners of the galaxy could pay off hugely in terms of humor and bringing out something different in all the characters. Also, it would be great if the next movie could not literally be about saving the galaxy. “Guardians of the Galaxy” could also be a more metaphorical title if they wanted, too.

Matt: Richard Rider. While Marvel have jettisoned the original Nova into the sun in favour of a teenage Sam Alexander, Richard Rider was a fantastic character and I think they’d be missing out on an enormous opportunity by choosing to pass on including him in a future instalment. A large amount of Peter Quill’s deal is that he’s the only human out in deep space interacting with aliens who find him weird/charming because of how different he is. By bringing in another Earth-man, and one that has assimilated ever so slightly better, you have a storyline that writes itself, with Star-Lord initially being jealous that someone is stealing his gimmick (and Gamora and Rider had a short fling in the comics too, so there’s that) only for the two to end up obnoxious buds. “Great, now there are two of them.” That kind of thing.

More generally, I just wanna see this ragtag crew have colourful, varied adventures that carry themes and character development forward, while remaining episodic in nature. Fun is infectious, and this cast and these characters have a LOT of it, so keep that going.

7. How did you like Awesome Mix vol. 2?

Matt: Honestly, while I totally respect that they wanted to go a little more off the beaten path and use some more subtle, emotional music, I wish there were a couple more bangers on the soundtrack. Fleetwood Mac and ELO are both awesome shouts, but look at the track listing for the first Awesome Mix and tell me with a straight face this one hangs.

Mike: There were a distinct lack of bangers in this one. Awesome Mix Vol. 1 was far superior. We can only hope the power of the Zune will be able to recapture the magic that was the soundtrack of the first film. I also hope the Zune is revealed to be an Infinity Stone.

8. Finally, was Baby Groot overdone or featured just the right amount?

Matt: I somewhat admire their commitment to keep him Baby throughout the entire film (not counting the post-credits Teen Groot, who had BETTER not be in the next film.) He was cute and funny, and they moved away from him every time it was starting to get a little much. He moves a tonne of merchandise and you don’t need to be cynical to notice how heavily they’re leaning into that aspect, but again, I’m cool with it given how much else is going on, so long as he’s Regular Groot in Vol. 3.

Mike: Baby Groot really seems like the BB-8 of Guardians of the Galaxy. Yes, the execution is often hilarious and adorable. It’s also just a bit too precious at the same time. With that being said, pretty much everything involving him works on one level or another and it’s definitely not overdone. Your reaction to BB-8 will likely match up with your reaction Baby Groot (and Baby Groot is likely no more).

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