Making a sequel to a movie loved for its uniqueness must be both the easiest and toughest job in Hollywood. On the one hand, you have a roster of beloved characters and situations. On the other hand, an audience that embraced the first move because of its originality may not settle for something that just retreads ground plowed by the first one.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2, the sequel to 2013 blockbuster, succeeds in building on the first film's legacy in a way that makes what is now familiar seem fresh, including the film's use of classic (and not so classic) hits from the seventies and eighties. After this film, you will never hear Brandi or Mr. Blue Sky the same way.
The film picks up three months after the first one, with the Guardians -- Star-Lord, the earth-born leader of uncertain parentage, Zemora -- the "daughter" of mega bad guy Thanos, Drax the Destroyer, the muscle of the group whose wife and daughter were killed by Thanos, Rocket the genetically engendered foul-mouth raccoon, and baby, Groot, the living tree. Adult Groot "died" in the first movie, but is regrowing and is this in baby form. Baby Groot provides some of the film's funniest moments. In fact, every time baby Groot utters the only words he is capable of saying, "I am Groot," you can't help but giggle.
The film begins with the Guardians protecting the power source of the Sovereign: a society where everyone is genetically engineered so they consider themselves to be perfect. The Guardians run afoul of the Sovereigns when Rocket steals some of their special batteries -- yes, the film begins with a dispute over special batteries. Watching the rag-tagged Guardians outfight and outsmart the so-called perfectly-engineered Sovereigns is something every libertarian will enjoy.
Guardians do have help escaping the sovereign -- in the form of Ergo, a living planet who turns out to be Peter's father. Ergo has been searching the galaxy for Peter, and takes Peter, Gomara, and Drax to his home planet, which is an extension of himself.
Ergo's motivation is because he needs Peter's help to fulfill his plan to remake the entire universe in his own image. Peter is thus forced to chose between his biological family (Ergo) and his real family the Guardians. Peter is also forced to choose between Eros offer of absolute power and immortality and his friends, family, and his morals.
Family is a theme throughout the movie -- from the relationship between Peter and Ergo, the relationship between Gamora and her sister Nebula, the relationship between Rocket, and well everyone else, and Peter's relationship with Yondu, the "reaver" who kidnapped him as a child but decided to keep him from Ergo because he was feared Ego will kill him the way Ego killed his other children when they proved useless to Ego.
The relationship between Gamora and Nebula also illiterates the evil committed by power-made authoritarians. Gamora and Nebula are not biological sisters, instead, they were both raised by Thanos, who took them after killing their families. Thanos forced the two to engage in combat, and the loser had part of their body removed and replaced by a
metallic part in order to make them stronger. Gamora always won the fights, leaving Nebula half-machine half-human and full of anger toward her "sister" and her "father."
Nebula and Gamroa reconcile when Gamora says she was scared and all she forced on was survival. Nebula's last scene in the movie sees her going off to find and kill Thanos, who is the big bad into the forthcoming Infinity Wars.
Of course, being a Marvel movie, there is a Stan Lee cameo -- one that winks at a popular fan theory that Lee is playing the same character in every movie: a watcher, one of the ancient race whose job is to watch and record every event. There are also mid-and-end credit scenes (five int total) that hint at future plot lines and characters in forthcoming coming Guardians movies.
To sum up, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is a worthy successor to the first film that shows Marvel is solving its "villain problem" that have plagued some previous Marvel films. It also explores the meaning of family and how the pursuit of power can corrupt family relationships -- a theme that libertarians and traditional conservatives should find appealing.
All that and Howard the Duck, what's not to love?
Tags: Liberty at the movies