Sound Off! Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Welcome back to Sound Off!, a semi-regular column where members of Speculative Chic gather together to chat about the latest BIG THING in entertainment. This time, “I am Groot” and discuss Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, which premiered in the United States on Friday, May 5, 2017.

Sound Off! is meant to be a reaction, but not necessarily a review. After all, while we are all individuals, even mutual love of something (or hate) can come from different places: you may find everything from critique to fangirling to maybe even hate-watching.

Now, join Nancy O’Toole Meservier, Merrin, Betsy WhittBarbara M. Barnett, J.L. Gribble, Carey M. Ballard, and Shara White as they talk about Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2! [Note: No spoilers to start with, then progressive warnings will appear. Read as far as you’re comfortable!]


Nancy: The success of Guardians of the Galaxy has been one of the happiest surprises in cinema over the past few years. To have a relatively little known director take such a niche comic and turn it into one of the most beloved branches of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is damn impressive. But as a result, it makes the stakes for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 sky high.

So, does Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 measure up to its predecessor? To be perfectly honest, it doesn’t. The movie isn’t as well-assembled as Guardians, so some of the set-up can feel a little clunky. On top of that, there are points when the humor feels a little misplaced, and while the classic rock-fueled soundtrack is great, the score itself is somewhat invasive.

But the weird thing is, none of that really matters to me, because Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is such a damn good movie as a whole, and a lot of that strength lies in its complex cast of characters. Vol. 2 is all about relationships, and the fact that these relationships do not to need to be perfect in order to be heartfelt and meaningful. The members of the Guardians, while exceptional in so many ways, are all flawed, messed up people who make mistakes and have complicated pasts. This adds a level of reliability to an otherwise wonderfully weird sci-fi movie involving living planets and talking rodents. It’s impossible not to feel for these characters; I know I found myself tearing up more than once. And weirdly enough it was Michael Rooker’s Yondu that elicited the most feels from me (yep — the blue guy with the mohawk).

Praise also deserves to be heaped on director James Gunn, and the movie’s FX team for bringing his vision to fruition. Whether it’s an exciting space battle, or a beautiful alien planet, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is visually stunning from start to finish, in a manner which is strikingly different than the rest of the MCU.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 doesn’t end up tying into the rest of the cinematic universe in a way that the first movie did, which is sure to disappoint some fans. And while I’m looking forward to seeing the Guardians and the Avengers finally meet up in Infinity War, I’m also really enjoying this cosmic universe that Kevin Feige and James Gunn are setting up on the side. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is a worthy addition to the MCU, and one that I suspect I will enjoy rewatching again and again.


Merrin: There are some things I expect when I see a Marvel movie: a lot of gags, at least one scene with one of the ripped heroes without a shirt on, a romantic subplot of some sort, and an epic battle to finish. There are some things I don’t expect, and one of those is crying into a napkin covered in queso and ranch.

Because I did, y’all. I cried so much.

I have a great family. I love them to pieces. I tell you that because I have no idea why the notion of “found families” hits me so very deeply, but it does. From Lilo & Stitch to freaking Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, I am here to cry all over your deep emotional attachments to the people closest to you.

So yeah. Ultimately, Guardians 2 is a lovely story about a not-that-lovely group of people who, through a lot of yelling, name-calling, misunderstanding, walking away and returning, discover that the treasure they’d been seeking was friendship all along   realize that learning to love each other was the greatest love of all once again save the galaxy through the power of friendship, family, and (sometimes incredibly on the nose) 70s and 80s power tunes.

I think what impressed me most about this film, even over the first installment, was the skillful way that writer James Gunn worked backstory in for characters beyond the Guardians. The most notable of these are Yondu, the Ravager captain who stole Peter from Earth, and Nebula, Gamora’s adopted sister. Without spoiling too much, I left the theater feeling very different things about those two than I’d felt when I walked in.

I also cannot write this review without mentioning Baby Groot at least once. I would cheerfully watch an entire movie where Baby Groot is the star and the Guardians are just in the background, occasionally translating one of the “I am Groot” lines. He was adorable, and the way that the characters interacted with him was adorable. Also, and this should go without saying, I would battle an entire ship full of Ravagers for Baby Groot.

In the hierarchy of Marvel movies, I’d place the Guardians of the Galaxy installments pretty near the top, if not the actual top of my list. Even when they’re being dark and serious (I mean, they quite frequently deal with galaxy-ending problems) they rarely ever take themselves too seriously, and that is just fine with me.


Betsy: Well, that was quite a trip. I’ll start by saying that yes, there were a couple of times when I felt like maybe they were drawing a joke out a little bit past its natural life, but in the end it balanced just fine. That’s because, though the irreverent, offhand comedy that made the first Guardians film so likable is still threaded through the second installment, there were also meatier fight sequences and pretty substantial character development for all five of the principal characters. That’s quite a feat, especially since it didn’t feel like there was too much wandering around in terms of the plot. I loved what they did with Yondu, and obviously Baby Groot is adorable, but I sort of wished he didn’t feel like he was there 90% for the cute factor. I was pleasantly surprised at the handling of all three principal females, and will be happy to see how things proceed in future appearances by the whole team. All in all, a worthy follow-up, thoroughly enjoyable for fans, but also clearly pointing toward More To Come.


Barbara: My anticipation for this movie has involved a lot of squeeing and giggling over the last several months. I’m pleased to say the squeeing and giggling continued throughout the film. Even at clips I’d already seen in previews.

Being the second outing for the Guardians, some of the novelty the first one had is gone. I knew what to expect from the pop-laden soundtrack this time around. I knew what the humor and the characters were going to be like. But that’s okay, because those things still worked for me despite no longer being the shiny, new kid on the movie block. So while I’m not doing the same level of Muppet-flail excitement I did after the first one, I still had a damn good time watching two-plus hours of ridiculous, visually delicious fun that even got me teary-eyed at one point.

If the first film was about this band of misfits coming together to work as a team, the second one is about them learning to operate as a family, albeit a rather dysfunctional one. Baby Groot is like the toddler being handed around from relative to relative at a tumultuous holiday gathering; it’s adorable. Even Yondu gets invited to the family party this time. Him and Rocket working together was the perfect thing I didn’t know I needed until I got it.

The film has a lot of characters to balance, but no one felt short-changed, even if most of the focus is on Peter and his dad issues. But even though everyone got a chance to do their thing, I still would have loved to have gotten more of Nebula. There are some good scenes between her and Gamora, and the squabbling sisters who don’t quite get each other but find an uneasy way to come together is something I can relate to. But Karen Gillan is a talented actress, and hilarious when given the material, so I’m hoping this film has laid the groundwork for her to get some development beyond angry and resentful.

And honestly, I could probably watch an hour-long version of the film’s opening credits sequence alone. Dancing Baby Groot + alien monster fight + ELO as musical accompaniment? That’s my kind of goofball fun.


MINOR SPOILERS
(No plot points, just some character stuff.)

J.L: Did I expect this movie to be as amazing as the first one? No, because the first Guardians of the Galaxy was so unexpectedly incredible that such a feat could not be recreated. Did I think Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 was still a delightful, fun Marvel movie? Absolutely. From the first moments of the fantastic cold opening, I knew we were in for a great ride.

Even though this film could have easily been titled “Guardians of the Daddy Issues,” the heavy(ish) subject matter was tempered by the irreverence of the characters. Some movies are funny, but I can’t remember the last time I literally laughed out loud so much in the movie theater at a film that wasn’t explicitly a comedy. I’m especially glad that we got to see more dimensions to Drax’s character, rather than letting him continue as the angry revenge guy who was only funny because of his disconnect with other alien species.

Also on the character front, I adored seeing how the entire main cast interacted with Baby Groot. Though he was no longer a “contributing” member of the crew, the way they still treated him as family reinforced that theme much better than a few lines of dialog that ended up feeling heavy-handed in comparison.

With the exception of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, I’ve noticed a trend in [Inset Hero Here] #2 of Marvel films where the relationships between characters are much more important than the external plots. Here, we saw excellent character development between Peter and Rocket, Gamora and Nebula, and especially Peter and Gamora. I was particularly pleased that the film ended at a point where this budding romance still contained so much potential rather than the indication that the couple is already riding into the sunset together.

I can’t wait drop the rest of the Avengers into this mix and see where things grow from here.


Carey: I went into the film knowing nothing about the premise of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 other than Internet hints about Peter Quill’s father, and ultimately I wasn’t as starstruck as I was by the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie. Guardians 1 was more of a light-hearted romp; this movie sometimes felt strained even before it started tackling far more serious themes. There’s plenty of laugh-out-loud humor, no doubt, especially where Drax and Groot are concerned, but a couple of times that humor felt forced. The Peter/Ego story line and its resolution wasn’t as believable for me as much as the relationship between Nebula and her sister Gamora, which was a great sub-sub-plot. But Guardians 2 was a good time.

To be fair, the movie’s overall theme — you make your family where you find it — is pretty serious stuff, so the tone is not the same as the first movie. While I had trouble believing the Peter/Ego conflict, I did feel the emotional impact(s) on Starlord at the bittersweet end of the film. I also enjoyed the whole “my enemies are now my friends” concept; without getting into too much detail, both Yondu and Nebula take the opportunity to redeem themselves — or get started doing so. There’s plenty of action, and plenty of irreverently ill-timed, swashbuckling humor and lightheartedness to go around. Look (or listen) for Sylvester Stallone, Ben Browder, Miley Cyrus, Ving Rhames, Michelle Yeoh, and oh yes, even David Hasselhoff in cameos and bit parts.


Who spoils the post-credit scenes?! Our Editor-in-Chic, that’s who!

Shara: Oh, where to begin? Actually, that’s really easy: with the beginning, with Baby Groot dancing his adorable way through the action-packed opening credits! There’s so much to love about this opening of this sequel: part of it being how it echoes the original’s opening but with a different character, and part of it being how that different character is just so stinking cute you just want to hug him and take him home. But also, those little moments when he turns utterly violent and attacks something or someone, or when he freezes when Drax is watching and won’t dance (yet another callback to the first movie), these are the things that had me cackling with glee from the very start.

So yes, I’m a huge Baby Groot fan. With Baby Groot alone, the movie made me so freaking happy, and the weird big brother relationship Baby Groot had with Drax was just so entertaining. If he wasn’t freezing in front of Drax, he was getting irrationally angry and trying to beat the shit out of the big guy. I loved it. Drax deserves getting the shit beat out of him.

Speaking of Drax: I did love how he stopped calling Gamora a whore all the time. That being said, is it me, or does his interaction with women still seem harsher than his interactions with men? Yes, he gets some zingers in with Peter, but his treatment of Mantis really straddled the line between cruel and funny. Poignant at times (“When you’re ugly and people love you, you know they love you for who you are. Beautiful people don’t know who to trust.”) and at other times kind of funny, but still, harsh. With Peter, it felt like Drax was ribbing him. With Mantis, it felt cruel. Perhaps because with Mantis, it was Drax was always commenting on her appearance, assuming her appearance was directly linked to her ability. Drax is always telling things like he sees them; it’s not truth, it’s just his perception. His perception is unique to him as an individual (as evidenced when he told the story to Peter of when he met his wife, and he knew she was the one), but his species doesn’t do metaphor. Straddling the line between humor and harsh is hard, I get it, so while I’m glad James Gunn got the message on the mistreatment of Gamora, I think Drax as a character still has a ways to go with his dialogue regarding other women.

But speaking of Gamora, how much did I love the story line with Gamora and Nebula? Quite a lot, actually. I could’ve used more of that, and a bit less of the “unspoken” story line between Gamora and Peter. Regarding that, I think Gamora’s reactions towards Peter’s actions in the film could’ve had the same impact regardless of whether or not there was something “unspoken” between them — if there’s one thing Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 drove home, it’s that family is important, but the most important family is the family you make for yourself, not necessarily the family that provided your biology. So Gamora’s feelings towards Peter being a result of this ragtag group being family would be more powerful than something “unspoken,” but at least we got the power of sisterhood between Gamora and Nebula, two women who were raised together as sisters, who shared an adopted father, and who learned a lot about the other in this movie. I can’t wait to see where they go next.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 was every bit as fun as Vol. 1. Great music, a lot of humor, and a lot of heart (no, I didn’t tear up at ALL during this movie…). I adore the cast, and it’s a movie I can easily see myself enjoying over and over. That’s important, because the recent Marvel movie offerings of late (Doctor Strange, Ant-Man), while enjoyable enough, haven’t been the kind of movies that have me wanting to go back for second or third helpings. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 absolutely has me wanting to go back again and again, especially for the FIVE (that’s right, FIVE) post-credits scenes. We get teenaged Groot, y’all, and it’s amazing.

4 Comments

  • Shara White May 9, 2017 at 1:20 pm

    In my defense, I was coming off of a VERY rough day. It’s a wonder I didn’t spoil more things. 🙂

    Reply
  • Ron Edison May 9, 2017 at 10:30 pm

    I continue to be impressed with the animation of Rocket Raccoon. I never thought I’d be able to lip read a raccoon, but it works.

    Reply
  • Lane Robins May 12, 2017 at 5:50 pm

    I think I am very much in the minority: I didn’t like the first movie all that much. I wanted to, and there were elements and scenes that worked really well. I thought Rocket was the most powerful character, and so on. But I’m just sort of neutral on the whole thing. I’ll be interested to see if Vol. 2 will make me love it or give up.

    Reply
  • Weasel of Doom May 15, 2017 at 11:32 am

    I saw “vol 2” on opening night, then rented “vol 1” to refresh my memory, then saw “vol 2” again this Saturday. Both the co-parent and I felt that the second installment was better than the first.

    Also, I want the shirt Peter is wearing 🙂

    Reply

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