Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 ★★★★½

“Of the many mistakes I have made in my million years of existing, Peter, I promise you, you are not one of them,”

My relationship with the Guardians of the Galaxy films, unlike the rest of the MCU, have been quite uncomplicated. And that is why I love them. 

Peter Quill’s story is very much my own story. I had a dad who left me too, and when we finally reconnected, he abused both me and my trust. I found out some heavy shit (heavy enough that even *I* won’t share it) that irreparably destroyed our relationship, and I cut him out. Unfortunately, I did not get to turn into Pac-Man and beat the shit out of my dad, so this is more of a figurative parallel, obviously, but that doesn’t stop me from feeling a cleansing sense of catharsis from this movie’s finale. The subsequent send off of Yondu is another thing that tugs at my heartstrings, to put it lightly. Peter’s speech and Rocket’s acceptance are things that, in theory, should be fucking absurd and frankly, kinda dumb... but that’s the magic of movies for you.

I hate to bring it up, because I do it a lot when talking about the occasional superhero film that manages to win my favor, but since this is right before Endgame, I can’t really help but constantly think about it. The two Guardians movies are the only films I really considered going back to before it. However, rewatching this confirms my tepid thoughts on Infinity War. It’s a wall of sound and fury that pisses me off because it attempts to have the emotional weight of films like this without earning 1/1000th of it, and goes for broad exploitative misery instead of focusing on a few, poignant, well developed ideas and themes. It’s long, bloated, empty misery porn that I dislike the more and more I think about it and it’s UNFATHOMABLY frustrating to be in such a state, to say the least. It’s not devoid of good, but it’s devoid of anything that I as a fan of filmmaking and storytelling, like or appreciate. I hate to say it, but Endgame is a film I have to go into feeling biased, because a lot of good will is gone, enjoying a ‘Part 2’ and not a ‘Part 1’ is a clunky situation to be in, and frankly, I’m sick of it. Constantly second guessing myself, feeling like a jaded asshole, because you know what? I fucking love this goddamn movie. This colorful, stupid, funny, bizarrely relatable and stupendously entertaining movie. In my eyes, any Avengers film is a spin off of Guardians of the Galaxy, and not the reverse. 

The movie ain’t perfect, then again, what movie is? A lot of the exposition in the first act is real obvious and blatant, and like literally every single Marvel movie, even the good ones, it’s pacing is awkward as hell. However, even through these flaws, Gunn always makes sure you’re having fun no matter what. The movie itself is, visually speaking, absolutely unbelievably beautiful. Like holy shit what on earth happened for this movie to stand head and shoulders above all of the others like it does? The effects are great, sure, but the COLOR, the vibrancy, the texture, the camerawork, it is PRECISELY the kind of shit I want from a comic book movie, especially a goofy space romp like this. Visually speaking the movie is a home run in every department. It’s a James Gunn movie first and foremost.

I remember when this came out and the reaction to it was sorta mixed. Some people just didn’t really like it at all, and everyone thought the first was superior in most ways. Some people said the humor didn’t work for them. And while I didn’t agree, I wasn’t AS huge on this as I am now. I liked it a lot, but the first one was still my favorite of these by a wide margin. Then, I think the turning point came when YouTuber Lindsay Ellis made her video essay ‘the complicated feels of Guardians of he Galaxy Vol. 2’ and sort of recontextualized the movie for me. It went from a silly but resonant space comedy to being a genuinely intelligent exploration of the effects of abuse, chosen families, and dealing with your own flaws by finding solace in others. Every character in this movie is someone who is damaged or broken in some way, a misanthrope whose issues stem from trauma in some way or another. If there’s one storytelling trope that speaks to me above all else, it’s overcoming trauma, nearly everything I write is about that in one way or another. As well as people dealing with their own personal issues and trying to grow. So in a way, this is absolutely catered to me in every way. 

So I’ll cave, Marvel. I’ll give one of your movies a 4.5/5. James Gunn earned that much. After all, not many movies can have me pumping my fist to a Fleetwood Mac needle-drop one moment, and then having me sob my damn eyes out when that fucking Cat Stevens song plays. It takes something of considerable skill to be this unique, beautiful little adventure but also push my buttons the way it does. Guardians of the Galaxy as a franchise reminds me just why I love Blockbusters, and Hell, movies and adventure in general. Movies that make you laugh, make you cry, go through the entire spectrum of emotion, all while making sure you have a wholistic experience with a film in general. I’ve seen this six or seven times and I still laugh, I still cry, I still smile, and I always leave happier than when I came in. It makes things like the MCU worth it, a franchise I find myself connecting with less and less, frankly, if all the other movies were total trash and this was the only good one? It would be worth it. It’s at the top of my list of movies I dream of watching one day if I’m lucky enough to have kids, so maybe I can pass on that level of pure and overwhelming joy. 

Some movies claim to be about family, and it rings hollow, it sounds trite, and frankly, it’s fucking cheap. So that means it takes a movie of considerable love and talent to feel like it really is about family, and to do so very smartly. 

The absolute best scene in any of these movies still gives me chills. From one line. A clunky, silly, but still powerful line followed up by an classic song. A perfect encapsulation of this perfectly imperfect movie.

“You shouldn’t have killed my mom and smashed my Walkman,” 

I’m not a mistake. And neither are you.