Gunn was fired last July by Disney after alt-right journalists hyped a bunch of decade old social media missives that made light of pedophilia and rape. Persuaded by Gunn’s public apology and his handling of the situation after, Horn decided to reverse course and reinstate Gunn.
Gunn took to Twitter to express his thanks:
Gunn is also slated to do Suicide Squad 2, which is scheduled to be done before Guardians 3.
I saw Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 this weekend, and man, did I have a blast. Is it a 100% perfect movie? Maybe not – how many comics adaptations are? But is it a really solid comics flick, an excellent second chapter to the Guardians’ adventure, and one of the most fun Marvel movies out to date? Yes, yes, and yes! And was it also made by creators who had a love for the source material and the actual product itself, knew their audience wanted an even more epic Guardians story, and delivered without falling into the more-of-the-same-only-bigger-equals-underwhelming-sequel trap? You bet!
(Warning: some SPOILERS ahead!)
Guardians Vol. 2 paints its backdrops in broad strokes. It is, as it should be, a space epic. The Guardians planet-hop, crash spaceships, and, at one point, bounce through something like forty space jumps at once. There are also several other groups of space-faring folk to keep track of – different factions of Ravagers, the newly-introduced Sovereign, and, of course, Peter Quill’s long-absent father. And the scenery is vast, unusual, and visually stunning, whether we’re seeing the innards of a collapsing planet or fireworks at a rare Ravager ceremony.
But set into all of this are the smaller scenes that knit this movie together with one thread: family. The theme is everywhere – from the reminder that the Guardians, even when they’re fighting, have chosen to be a family; to the denouement of Peter’s tamped-down desire to know his real father and his confrontation of difficult parental issues; to the rivalry between Gamora and her sister Nebula; to the well-played new friendship that’s struck up between the overly literal Drax and the extremely sheltered Mantis; to the bloody and harsh conflict that plays out between the Ravager factions; to gruff Yondu’s bonding with the equally prickly Rocket, and the redemption arc of Kraglin’s relationship with Yondu; to, of course, everyone’s involvement with The Growing Up of Little Groot (who is, as in Vol. I, one of the best parts of any scene).
Although interactions with Little Groot (no longer a potted baby stick, but still dancing adorably, particularly when set against the intense space-monster battle of the opening credits) are cute as can be (except when he’s killing folk, or, to be honest, even when he is), most of the familial messages are not all sweetness and light. But the overall gestalt of the film is that although families can be dysfunctional, messy, and even sometimes irredeemable, the value of being able to be your true self and still rely on family – whether they be your blood relatives of simply the people who have decided to love you like they are – is the most important thing.
Writer and director James Gunn hammers this home by having characters straight out remind us that the Guardians are, in fact, a family, in a couple of perhaps unnecessary “telling instead of showing” moments. However, unlike in Iron Man 2 where we were told about how Tony had become a better person after the events of Iron Man but the “showing” didn’t really back that up, the moments that Gunn uses to build this movie really carry that message.
And maybe he’s also playing with that “tell vs. show” aspect. Quill’s “real” father tells him all about how much he wanted to find his son as he explains (using a hilariously plastic-y series of museum exhibit-like display pods) his courtship of Peter’s mother; but then shows how little value he has for family through his actions and the harm he brings to Peter. Whereas Yondu, who raised Peter, regularly told Peter fairly awful stuff (“You said you would eat me!” “I thought that was funny!”), but consistently, even to the point of losing the respect and loyalty of his crew, looks out for and will not harm Peter. Likewise, Drax tells Mantis, in his usual tactless way, that he thinks her appearance is ugly and disgusting – but he is consistently kind and gentle towards her, and looks out for her and patiently answers her questions. Gamora takes Nebula prisoner and Nebula swears revenge – but when push comes to shove, neither can let the other go. And Groot – well, Groot tells everyone that he is Groot, and we just love him for it, end of story.
In focusing on the characters and their bonds, Guardians Vol. 2 also avoids the trait I dislike in so many comics space stories (and crossovers). Often, these stories get so caught up in the Grandiose Larger Purpose of what is going on – this planet is fighting that planet which is fighting that other planet over there – that I really stop caring which Planet wins, because they’re all just planets. But Guardians doesn’t throw focus. It doesn’t neglect the spaces within the epic story that is, in fact, also happening as Peter’s father tries to take over the universe.
It recognizes the mundane moments that sometimes show who people are more than a grand gesture or epic fight, and that make the audience care. Gunn being who he is, I’m not surprised that he almost takes this to the next level, to the point where the characters spend several movie minutes searching for Scotch tape. Some moviegoers might be put off by this, but I see it as part and parcel of who the Guardians are, and the unique sense of fun they bring to saving the world. Pretty much like when Rocket assigned Peter to acquire a prisoner’s fake leg for a prison break plan in the Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. I, and then it turned out he didn’t need it and simply thought it would be hilarious to send Peter to get it (that still makes me laugh).
Fortunately, Gunn and the rest of the cast and crew didn’t lose that humor in Guardians Vol. 2, and in fact, in some places, amped it up in the best way. Drax (Dave Bautista), for instance, has been developed beyond the already humorous incongruity of his literal interpretations of the expressive way most people speak, to a character who is now more relatable but still unreasonably tactless and blunt at all the wrong moments. The result is that he gets some of the most subtly humorous but also human dialogue exchanges in the film, particularly with Mantis (Pom Klementieff, who is adorable, and stellar in keeping an equilibrium between Mantis’s sweet naiveté and the strong emotions she experiences as an empath).
Rocket (Bradley Cooper) is hilarious for the sheer fun he takes in mayhem and destruction (the scenes of him messing with the Ravagers in the forest are absolutely hysterical). Chris Pratt continues to balance Star Lord’s irreverence for serious moments and almost childlike sense of fun with the responsibilities of being the natural-born leader of the group. And Groot (in some magical combination of CGI and Vin Diesel that is definitely more than the sum of its parts) brings the house down while he tries and epically fails to bring his friends various objects to help them escape from a holding cell.
Of course, some characters are more suited to be “the straight man,” but even though Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Yondu (Michael Rooker), Nebula (Karen Gillan), Peter’s dad (Kurt Russell), and Kraglin (Sean Gunn) tend to be played straighter overall, each of them does a great job and also still gets at least a few moments of humor (and Michael Rooker has one of the absolutely funniest lines in the movie as they’re all falling to the ground towards the end). Heck, even the seriousness of the Sovereign, who exude gravitas and are quick to take offense, is undermined by the fact that they go to war by, essentially, playing space video games (Ender’s Game, anyone?).
But I think a point being made here is that life doesn’t have to be all serious or all fun – like this movie, it can contain everything from deadly Ravagers bouncing through the air like helpless popcorn at the hands of a “trash panda;” to poor little Groot being bullied and sadly squelching away (and boy, did that make me want to punch that whole mean crew in the face); to the leader of the saviors of the galaxy choosing to save that galaxy as a giant Pac-Man; to Yondu’s arrow snaking through the darkness in the most beautiful kind of 80s neon death I have ever seen as it kills those who betrayed him; to the universal trope of every teenager everywhere, no matter what species, being yelled at about their messy rooms; to the whole of space exploding into glorious fireworks to honor fallen family. This movie is, all in a couple of hours, ridiculous, badass, serious, not taking itself seriously, heartwarming, grim, riotously fun, incredibly sad, gloriously chaotic, seriously ugly, and vibrantly beautiful.
Which means that at its heart, despite the epic space setting and multitude of species, Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 is a very human movie – and as Peter says when his father informs him that turning his back on his legacy will make him only human: “What’s so terrible about that?”
Not a thing, and I’m glad that the Guardians will be returning so we can be reminded of that yet again in, I assume, Volume 3 (the soundtrack of which had better be played on a Zune).
Until then, feel free to check out this clip from my further discussion of Guardians Vol. 2 on the Fantastic Forum radio show (the whole episode of which will be up here shortly), and don’t forget to Servo Lectio!
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is an amazingly charming movie. The characters they’ve constructed over these two movies are each a delight. There’s an infectious camaraderie that makes it feel like it must be the best movie set to work on the there ever was. The infectious joy and prodigious joke density easily carries a slightly disjointed script through the murky bits. I don’t need everything to make sense or even be particularly important as long as I’m having fun and the rest of the theater is having fun. There aren’t many movies more infectiously fun than Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.
There are two separate stories being told in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. In one Star-Lord meets his father, Ego the Living Planet (Kurt Russell), and goes to his home planet (or his self? There’s nothing in the MLA rules about this) along with Gamora and Drax. Why do Gamora and Drax come with him? It would appear to balance the crew between the two stories because both of them barely interact with this story from the time they land on the planet until the third act. In the other story, Rocket Racoon and Groot are captured by Ravagers and are going to be turned in for some sort of bounty involving stolen batteries. This storyline is mostly about making baby Groot jokes and having people mistake Rocket for another kind of rodent. It eventually hooks back up with the rest of the crew— not because it needs to, but more because they’re done. These plots are not grand adventures in storytelling but rather a frame for character moments and jokes and they’re just fine for that, but I think they deserve to be called out for being a bit sparse.
The Guardians are such wonderfully distinct characters though. Drax’s laugh is the glue that holds the first half of the movie together. It isn’t what I thought would happen to the Drax character on the big screen, but he’s basically all comedy at this point with little action in sight. Bradley Cooper is never going to get any recognition for this, but he’s doing fabulous work as Rocket. He imbues a lot of humanity in to a character it would be so easy to not take seriously. Rocket has a tearjerker of a line near the end that could easily fall flat. The best scene in the whole film is between Gamora and Nebula talking about their familial relationship. I never thought it would be believable to transition Nebula to the side of the Guardians after all the bad blood in the last movie and they accomplish it in three lines. It’s the best scene between two women in any Marvel movie and I understand I’m not setting a particularly high bar. It’s high now.
James Gunn has made a great looking movie. There are so many shots with so much going on and they’re especially fun to take in in 3D. There’s this concerted effort to have stuff going on in the background of shots and it’s a great way to sneak stuff in. It looks an awful lot like a 1970s cosmic comic book. I wouldn’t say Kirby-esque, I think we’re too liberal with Kirby-esque, it doesn’t look like Jack Kirby drew it but it looks an awful lot like Walter Simonson and that’s no slight. The sequence that caps off the Rocket Racoon plot is the best of the whole film, it’s a great bit of elaborate camera work and fun violence. The climax of the main plot is a little less impressive if only because there are a lot of supposed to be dramatic moments of people facing down grey goo. Grey goo is not that scary.
Go see Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. It’s a great time. Get a big popcorn and a smaller drink (it’s a very long movie) and just enjoy being in an air conditioned room with other people having a good time. My wife remarked that the emphasis on family and reforming some former adversaries makes this Guardians feel like a step toward transitioning to a sort of Fast & Furious in space thing. I agree, and there’s nothing I would rather see from Marvel than something that leans so in to that kind of joy and absurdity. I hope they can do it.
If you think working in the greater comic book conspiracy is all fun and games – well… there’s a lot of truth to that. For example, where else can you go to the movies, call it work and then take the ticket price off your taxes?
Last Thursday, I joined fellow ComicMixers Adriane Nash and Joe Corallo in the wildlands of Milford Connecticut (where the phrase “Milf” was coined) for the debut of Guardians of the Galaxy Volume Two. We went for the full movie monty: IMAX 3-D at a ticket price that would cause Uncle Scrooge to quit working for Disney. When I plop my ass down in a movie theater seat, I am hoping I’m not wasting my time and all that energy I spent looking for a parking place. In the case of next month’s Wonder Woman, I will plop my ass down in a movie theater seat praying I’m not wasting my time… but I digress.
I had no such concerns for GOTG2. All the cast, crew and management had to do is jack up the action slightly and change the soundtrack and write some new gags. If Looney Tunes could do it for nearly four decades, James Gunn could do it twice. If, after seeing the movie, you find yourself debating whether it was as good as the first, not as good as the first, or better than the first – you’re thinking too hard. To paraphrase Joel Hodgson and Josh Weinstein, “It’s just a show, you should really just relax.” If you’re going to go to a movie like this with a stick up your ass, you’ll never get past the vicious furball who runs around carrying ordinance bigger than he is, let alone the pithy-yet-cute jumping twig that steals every scene he’s in.
In other words, we had a great time watching a very funny movie with an exceptionally high body count. If that sort of thing bothers you, don’t take your kids. Anyway, they’ll have more fun seeing it behind your back.
GOTG2 even made fun of the mighty Marvel movie method. There are five inter-credits scenes (they should start running the closing credits at the beginning of GOTG3) and more cameos than you can count. While it is impossible to translate a comic book property to the big screen without making some changes, GOTG2 came remarkably close to the source materials while maintaining the continuity from the first movie as well as the other Marvel Studios flicks. In fact, they even managed to do a quick tribute to Jack Kirby’s original depiction of Ego The Living Planet – they didn’t have to, but it was a nice touch for those of us who remember.
Remarkably, this movie fits squarely into the current Marvel Studios trans-flick story arc, and does a lot to set up next year’s Avengers: Infinity War. You are probably aware that the GOTG leads are all in that one, but then again, so is everybody else. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Ben Afflick in there somewhere.
And speaking of Ben Afflick, if that nightmare of a movie Batman v Superman degenerated into a story about heroes with severe mommy issues, then Guardians of the Galaxy Volume Two is about a hero with severe daddy issues. But unlike the aforementioned DC movie, Guardians makes it work without insulting the audience. Kurt Russell turns in a wonderful performance as god.
The soundtrack, built around the theory that obnoxious tunes from the 1970s sound much better forty years later, is different from the first film, as one might expect. What I did not expect is for them to include a tune I play about once a year on Weird Sounds Inside The Gold Mind: Lake Shore Drive, by Aliotta Haynes Jeremiah. It’s really a beautiful song about the remarkably calming major highway that separates the City of Chicago from the parkland that hugs the coast of Lake Michigan. Quite frankly, I would think Rocket “Raccoon” would hate it.
We had a swell time. What more could you want for the money? If you were expecting Citizen Kane Volume Two, you need to change your meds.
I have spent months telling everyone who would listen that I thought Guardians of the Galaxy would be the first flop of the Marvel Studios era. While Iron Man and Thor were hardly household names before their recent turns they were the practically Superman wearing a Mickey Mouse costume compared with Star-Lord and Groot.
There’s also the inherent tendency for cosmic stories to end up feeling pretty nonsensical, maybe not more nonsensical than the Asgard stuff but audiences didn’t connect with Green Lantern and that seemed to be the closest comparable movie. I thought this would be an emperor-has-no-clothes moment and would unravel the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe.
I’m happy to report I was a complete moron and while many of those ill portents might have been true James Gunn and his cast made such a thoroughly enjoyable movie that they don’t matter.
Guardians of the Galaxy is easily the funniest Marvel movie but it also derives its comedy in such a different way than most super hero movies. Every super hero movie I can think of either has one character that’s responsible for generating 90% of the laugh lines (your Tony Starks or your Lokis) or by sort of having moments of acknowledging the absurdity of the premise (this was way overdone in the later Schumaker Batman films). Guardians lets all five members of the team be funny and it helps so much. It helps the plot (and I’ll get to why the plot needs a little bit of help) but it also lets the actors shine in these characters.
I knew coming in to expect great things from Chris Pratt but I was not expecting Bradley Cooper to turn in the best performance of his career playing a mutant raccoon. I don’t even just mean he’s funnier in this movie than anything else, although he is, but he disappears in that character and I never thought I was hearing Bradley Cooper. Vin Diesel steals entire scenes despite only ever saying three words. This ensemble might not be better than Downey, Evans, Johansson et al. in the Avengers franchise but they fit their roles as good if not better than the big team and it’s stunning to watch.
I mentioned earlier that the plot needs a little bit of help and that’s not entirely fair. As someone who has been reading comic books literally as long as I can remember I had no problem following what was going on. The three people I went with who did not have that background had no idea what had just happened. They enjoyed themselves immensely, and that should be the real measure of a movie, but they could not tell me who the non-Guardian characters were, what their motivations were, or what an “Infinity Gem” did. They push through a lot of stuff without time for anything to sink in or without providing a lot of exposition and just relied on the general charisma of the rest of the film to carry the plot a little bit. It worked flawlessly and is the biggest difference from Green Lantern, which explained everything in laborious detail, and had no joy anywhere to be found.
I still think there are flaws in the MCU road map (honestly, who is clamoring for a Doctor Strange movie?) but I can’t doubt them any longer. I will anxiously await every movie they put out until they prove they can’t do it. I went in to this movie thinking I wouldn’t like it at all and walked out with only a minor quibble about the use of slow motion. Make mine movies Marvel.