This article contains spoilers for Guardians of The Galaxy Vol. 2 and the wider MCU. This article comes from Den of Geek UK.
Guardians of The Galaxy Vol. 2 sits in a slightly odd position – narratively, chronologically, critically, geographically… (If a movie that takes place partly inside one of the main characters doesn’t strike you as geographically odd, you lead a more interesting life than we do!)
Guardians of The Galaxy Vol. 2 was released about halfway through Phase 3 of the MCU, in between Doctor Strange and Spider-Man: Homecoming. However, if you’ve paid close attention to the movie, you’ll know that it sits much earlier in the timeline.
Guardians 2 takes place only a couple of months after Guardians 1, while Baby Groot is still a baby, only 34 years after Peter’s parents met. If you’re watching the MCU movies in internal chronological order, Guardians 2 comes immediately after Guardians 1 and before Avengers: Age Of Ultron.
The film actually benefits from this viewing order. Guardians of the Galaxy was one of the best received films of Phase 2, with only Captain America: The Winter Soldier and the rather late-to-the-party Ant-Man offering it any real competition in that respect. It was fresh and funny, and it offered up a significant milestone in terms of the on-going story, as it was the film that actually explained to a non-comic-reading audience what the Infinity Stones were.
Guardians 2, on the other hand, was probably the least well-received film of Phase 3, which has become something of a golden age for the MCU. Unlike the first film, it doesn’t contribute in any significant way to the on-going story, despite being released during the three year build up to the (presumably) climactic events of Avengers: Endgame.
Where the first one felt completely different to anything we’d seen before, the second basically does more of the same – and by the time audiences were partway through Phase 3 and had just been introduced to wizards, they were ready for something different.
Watching Guardians 2 immediately after its predecessor, though, highlights a lot of its better qualities. It may have felt like more of the same when watched some time after Vol. 1 – compared to the ructions of Captain America: Civil War or the later Thor: Ragnarok, it obviously doesn’t shake things up in the same way, and most of the other Phase 3 films (except Ant-Man & The Wasp) introduce new characters entirely.
However, watching the two Guardians films back to back highlights the fact that there are subtle differences between them, and the second does, in fact, do something a little different – it just isn’t quite so far removed from its origins as its immediate neighbours.
This is a deeper film than Guardians of the Galaxy, fleshing out the characters of Rocket and Yondu in particular. The overall plot is a little messier, but individual sequences stand out even more, helped by even more great music choices. Underneath all the color and spectacle, it’s a dark story – one of the standout sequences features a main character enjoying murdering a large group of people in spectacular fashion, and the climax revolves around the revelation that Peter’s father killed his mother.
Most of all, though, this is a film about fatherhood and about fathers and sons, culminating in a music choice (Yusaf Islam’s “Father And Son”) that is no less emotionally affecting for being entirely predictable. Like the first film, the emotional climax features some beautiful final words from a main character that are guaranteed to break your heart into a million pieces: in this case, “He may have been your father, boy, but he wasn’t your daddy”.
Guardians 2 suffers a bit from middle volume syndrome, as Part 2s often do. Some of it is busy tying up loose ends from Vol. 1 (resolving Gamora and Nebula’s relationship – which it was required to do to set up Infinity War – showing Baby Groot growing into Teenage Groot, explaining who Peter’s biological father was, and resolving Peter and Yondu’s relationship).
Some of it is busy setting up Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 – Elizabeth Debicki’s Ayesha pops up several times without any real resolution, to reappear in Vol. 3, which will presumably also see a clearer resolution to Quill and Gamora’s relationship – the events of Infinity War notwithstanding – and Groot Junior will mature to adulthood.
Vol. 2 is held together, however, by Kurt Russell’s Ego, who largely belongs to this film and to this film alone. This is the story of how Peter found – and lost – his dad and, as such, it stands on its own two feet, despite the amount of work it’s doing linking in to at least three other films.
There’s so much to enjoy here – the excellent de-ageing work on Kurt Russell, more great cameos (Hasselhoff! Stallone! Yeoh!), more great music and colorful space opera. Watched back to back with Guardians 1, Guardians 2 reveals itself as not only “more of the same,” but as a deepening and further exploration of the characters introduced in Vol. 1 – which is exactly what a sequel is supposed to do.
Standout scene: How to choose? Yondu killing the deeply unpleasant mutineers with his arrow to “Come A Little Bit Closer” is a delight, and Rocket asking everyone if they have tape in the middle of a crisis is genius. But, just like the first Guardians film, this movie’s signature scene plays during the opening credits and it’s even better and more elaborate. Baby Groot dancing to “Mr. Blue Sky” while everyone else battles a giant tentacled monster sums up everything that’s joyously bonkers about the Guardians of The Galaxy franchise.
Best quip: It’s possibly even harder to choose just one great quip from this movie than it was for the first one, and never would we have guessed the line, “I’m Mary Poppins y’all!” would be both so funny and so touching. But perhaps the film can be best summed up by Groot and Rocket’s joint welcome; “He says welcome to the frickin’ Guardians of the Galaxy – only he didn’t use ‘frickin.’”
First appearances: Ego the living planet has officially come and gone from the MCU. The universe is expanding, as we meet Ayesha and the gold-skinned inhabitants of the Sovereign. The credits stings also reveal that Ayesha has created a being called “Adam” – this is certainly Adam Warlock, a comics character with multiple ties to Gamora, Thanos and the Infinity Stones, but who is unlikely to reappear in the MCU until the delayed Guardians of The Galaxy Vol. 3.
So long, farewell: Phase 3 of the MCU has been much more trigger-happy and willing to kill off main characters than earlier phases (even apart from Infinity War) and predictably, parents and mentors get the worst of it (T’Chaka, The Ancient One, Odin).
Guardians 2 gets in on the theme in a big way by depriving poor Peter Quill of not one, bur two fathers. No one is likely to miss Ego much, as he was clearly a villain, but Yondu’s death hurts. We also say goodbye to all the Ravagers that were loyal to Yondu, followed shortly after by all the mutineering Ravagers except for Kraglin.
It’s all connected: Howard the Duck obviously managed to escape The Collector and got himself to a brothel.
Of all the MCU films, this is by far the least connected to the overall narrative. The first Guardians film revolved around an Infinity Stone and featured several characters connected to the wider MCU (Thanos, Ronan, Korath, The Collector).
This film, however, deals with Peter’s birth father Ego and explores the Guardians characters themselves in more depth. It fleshes out the world of the Guardians’ story in ways that will doubtless play into future Guardians films – we learn a lot more about the Ravagers, for example, and we’re introduced to the Sovereign.
The only real links to the wider MCU, though, are the conversations Gamora and Nebula have about Thanos. Having said that, there are a few connections here:
Mantis, Kraglin, and Nebula are added to the Guardians of the Galaxy team. Nebula goes off on her own mission to kill Thanos, but her relationship with Gamora is repaired and that particular goal will inevitably bring her back into the story.
We learn why Peter was able to hold an Infinity Stone for a short time – though since he seems to have lost that power this isn’t overly useful going forward.
Gamora acknowledges the “unspoken thing” between herself and Peter which will… have consequences in Avengers: Infinity War.
Jeff Goldblum appears in character as the Grand Master, his character from Thor: Ragnarok, in the 80s yearbook-style credits.
Credit check: This film appears to be trying to break some kind of record for credit stings – there are five of them!
Immediately post the “will return”: We see Kraglin trying to learn how to fly Yondu’s arrow.
Mid-credits: The Ravagers get back together as a team – the original Guardians of the Galaxy from the 1960s comic books – to “steal some shit.” Hopefully (considering they include Sylvester Stallone and Michelle Yeoh in full Mirror Universe Empress mode, a glorious combination) this will play in to Guardians 3.
Second mid-credits: The High Priestess has created a “more powerful, more beautiful” thing specifically to destroy the Guardians of the Galaxy, unoriginally called “Adam.” This is Adam Warlock from the comics, and will presumably form a plot point in Guardians 3.
Nearly at the end credits: Teenage Groot plays computer games all day and won’t tidy his room. He even says “I am Groot” in classic teenage boy grunts.
Final end credits: Earlier in the movie, we’d seen another fun development of the wider MCU. Audiences knew by now to look out for cameos from the late, great Stan Lee but this one was a bit special, because it implied that in all the other Stan Lee cameos, he was, in fact, playing the same character – an alien Watcher called Uatu who was assigned to observe and record Earth’s history.
It’s a lovely little addition to the mythology for those in the know. In Guardians 2’s final credits sting, we see Stan Lee – or Uatu – asking the Watchers how to get out of there (they appear to be hanging around a random asteroid) because they were supposed to be his lift home. It’s funny if you don’t know the comics context, but it’s even funnier if you do.
What are your thoughts on Guardians of The Galaxy Vol. 2? Have we missed your favorite moment or reference? Let us know in the comments below…