I think it’s safe to say that if you paid attention to some of the subject matter here at Fan Fest (like any of my Pull List columns) or over at my blog I Am Geek, then it would be kind of obvious that I was a wee bit excited for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. I even went so far as to say on episode two or three of the podcast that it’s the movie I’ve been looking forward to the most this year. That means more than The Last Jedi, more that Spider-Man: Homecoming, and more than just about any other movie. There is just something about Guardians that really gets me in my heart feels. So, when last Friday came around I was ready with months and months worth of anticipation, but I was also super tired. Work was long and kicked my ass and a part of me just wanted to curl up and go to sleep. But I wouldn’t let that get in the way. I was seeing Guardians come hell or high water. And I did.
When it comes to my relationship with the first film, I can’t help but think about how I saw it during a super transitional time in my life. I was still recovering from the passing of my father and the ending of a really rough three year period of my life. It was one of those time frames that you become so accustomed to the shit that when it ends you’re not really sure what to do with yourself. I was working hard at trying to find my path and to heal, and then I saw Guardians for the first time and it was like this giant hug. I don’t know how to explain it but I felt that Guardians helped me turn a corner in some ways. Within that story I found something to relate to. That opening scene, with the passing of Quill’s mother, and her appearance at the end of the film were two scenes that kind of spoke to me on that one to one level. I understood that pain of trying to deal with the passing of a parent and that need to see them again while letting go of the anger and saddness. In some ways I felt that the film was speaking specifically to me, and it helped. But there was more here.
Every Guardian is a bit broken in their own kind of way. Each one of them. Whether it’s Drax searching for revenge for his lost family, Rocket who wants to be viewed more than just a science experiment, or Gamora who wishes to distance herself from her “father” Thanos, each Guardian carries their own baggage that makes them seem like outsiders. These heroes are not perfect and when they come together and form a team the sum of their parts is more then what they can offer individually. There’s these reluctant feelings of acceptance. Something that has been so foreign to this cast of characters, and I took that to heart. There was a great part of my life I spent feeling like I was on the outside of things, and it wasn’t until I opened up and accepted the things I loved that made me really appreciate who I was. It has taken a lot of time and a lot of hard work but I’ve gotten myself to a very good head space, and I saw something incredibly relatable in the first Guardians. One of those types of things that says, “hey, you’re not alone” and it was something I very much needed at the time.
Over time the movie became something else. I always held on to those first few viewings and what they meant me, but over the course of many, many re-watches I just found myself loving the film. It made me happy every time I watched it. As a matter of fact I would go months purposely not watching it because I didn’t want to dilute the feelings that it gave me. I’d give myself a few days of rotating it on and then it would go back on the shelf. That’s right, I still buy blu-rays. I just like holding physical copies of things, makes them easier to love. My blu-ray collection isn’t what’s on trial here.
With the second film I wasn’t looking to recapture those initial feelings, not that it would be possible any way, as I am in a way better space emotionally/physically/mentally but I was looking for those feelings of overwhelming joy. There is something in this universe, between these characters, that pulls on my heart strings and makes me feel comforted. Maybe a part of me will always feel a bit like an outsider and there is solace to be found with the Guardians of the Galaxy or maybe it’s just I get these characters because I share some of their traits. I can’t pin point it, or maybe I don’t want to be overly confessional, but these character… they resonate.
Is there an easy way to describe my opinion on Vol. 2? Sure. I loved it. Does that capture exactly how I feel? No. I don’t want to get into spoilers, as the movie hasn’t been out a week yet and that’s not fair, but I will say that there is a high level of emotion that still hit home with me. It seems that the Guardians of the Galaxy movies speak to me in ways that the other Marvel movies don’t because the other heroes in this universe don’t see life the way the Guardians do. How could they? There’s an every man quality to each of these characters that you don’t really see in the Tony Starks, Steve Rogers, or Stephen Stranges. That’s not to say that those characters aren’t great, they are, but they aren’t rooted in that sense of reality that the Guardians are. Yes, I’m aware that I said a movie that takes place in outer space and has a talking raccoon and tree is based in reality, but I’m talking character traits.
I was surprised with just how emotional Vol. 2 was, and honestly, I didn’t fully appreciate how emotional it made me feel until the following day when I, finally, listened to the soundtrack. I’m so glad that I waited to listen because those tracks not only enhanced the story or specific scenes, but also highlighted their emotional impact. It allowed you to bring the story outside of the screen and digest it. And that’s when I really started to fall in love with Vol. 2. As the day unfolded I thought more and more about it and those story lines and emotional highs and lows really stuck with me.
The feel between Guardians 1 and Vol. 2 are completely different, but the exploration of character isn’t. Each character in this movie is given a moment to shine and has some sort of emotional payoff or resolution. Characters like Nebula and Yondu really shine in this movie (Nebula for me especially) but the personal conflicts of Quill and Rocket provide the emotional backbone of the film. Yes, baby Groot is as adorable as you want him to be and he comes across as a character and not a way to move merchandise (his existence enhances the film not exploits it). Yes, Drax steals a lot of the scenes he’s in and provides a great deal of humor and heart. But those moments are eclipsed by the emotional payoff this film provides. I mean, that last scene. Hits you hard.
Maybe it’s because I’m an emotional guy who falls in love with fiction that speaks to him on a personal level. Maybe it’s because Guardians is a super hero franchise that wants to sell you more on the characters than the spectacle. Maybe it’s because these characters entered my life at a moment where I kind of needed them. I don’t have the legit answer. Maybe it’s all of the above. What I do know is that Guardians of the Galaxy is a story that’s bigger than a bunch of rag tag characters trying to save the galaxy. It’s a story about finding yourself and allowing yourself to accept who you are while finding comfort in others. In a lot of ways it’s beautiful. It makes my heart happy knowing that there is a group of super heroes out there who represent me emotionally.
I know I didn’t really touch on the specifics of the movie at all, but on the whole I found it to be awesome. Visually stunning and felt like nothing else in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I say that as a huge compliment. Personally, I can’t wait to see again. The second viewing is always the more relaxed viewing where you can appreciate the movie for being a movie and not an event. But above all that it made me feel and that’s the best gift that any form of fiction can give, and for that I’m thankful.
We are Groot.
Images from Disney/Marvel