Three years ago, if I had asked anyone to name the members of the Guardians of the Galaxy I am pretty certain the most common response would have been, “Who?” Now I think I would get the correct answer from a large majority. It is credit to director/writer James Gunn and the actors who made the roles that this is so. Now comes the opportunity to see if they can do it a second time with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.
This second version picks up after our band of misfit heroes have been living together a while. One of the main themes of this movie is the concept that the family you choose is as important as the family you are born into. The Guardians are family by choice; every decision they make throughout the movie is meant to protect that. The forces trying to wedge themselves in between are the family by blood of some of the characters. As each of these characters are faced with an option it plays on the idea of friendship over genetics. Mr. Gunn pens a funny fast-moving story but throughout is the same heart of a group of outcasts having found a home. It is that heart which makes both movies stand out among the other movies concerned with those who save the galaxy, world, city, or neighborhood.
There are two incredible performances which illustrate this quality. The first is the one you’ve seen in many of the commercials, Baby Groot; voiced by Vin Diesel. After Groot sacrificed himself to save everyone in the first movie he is growing back from a twig. In Vol. 2 he is a precocious toddler doing the things which end up on Facebook feeds i.e. being generally cute. It is the subtler moments as the rest of the crew protects him from danger and he reaches out for all of them, not just Rocket, for comfort. Groot saved them last time and this time he is their responsibility.
Michael Rooker as Yondu
The other performance is Michael Rooker as Yondu the Ravager who captured Peter/Star-Lord on Earth and instead of delivering him to his father kept him as part of his crew. That choice was part of something broader which is not fully explained until midway through the story. When that happens Yondu becomes something else than what we have seen previously. Mr. Rooker portrays the character quite beautifully becoming the largest confirmation that family by choice is best.
Mr. Gunn has written and directed a sequel which takes us deeper into every one of the Guardians past; providing new perspectives on each character. The fusion of seventies pop music with 2017 action moves is better this time. The title sequence done to the music of Mr. Blue Sky by ELO sets the mood and re-introduces us to the gang all in the time it takes to list the stars’ names.
I thought Vol.2 was better than the original movie because this time the Guardians were at risk of losing this family they chose. The personal stakes were higher even if the galaxy was once again being threatened. Mr. Gunn has made a movie about how he feels about that well worth spending a couple hours with. Just remember to sit through the credits as there are five extra scenes sprinkled throughout.