I saw the Guardians of the Galaxy sequel twice on opening weekend: on Friday courtesy of my employer, and then on Saturday with Jill. So I’ve had lots of opportunity to think about what I thought of it.
The first time through, I was ready to give it a thumbs down. Ego’s grand plan (and the sacrifice he made along the way) made absolutely no sense to me, the final battle was way too long and pointless, and I was confused that Yondu – whom the first movie had set up as leader of the Ravagers – was now just some lowly minion getting kicked out by Sylvester Stallone. And when at least two plots are unsatisfying, what’s left to fall back on?
But as I thought about it more, I realized that this story was doing some things I often criticize stories for not doing: it fleshed out lots of minor characters, and it gave them believable motivations. I have a lot of respect for it, for that.
Even though the story’s A plot is about Peter Quill finally finding his father, Quill’s journey here was simple and straightforward. He really didn’t have a lot to do and he didn’t seem to have a lot of screen time to do it in. (At one point aboard the Ravager ship, Rocket even asks Kraglin to play one of Quill’s music tapes because we’re in a long Star-Lord-less stretch of the movie.) Even Gamora was a shadow of her former role, presented this time as more of a conscience, with very little chemistry going on. So it’s the secondary characters who really have a lot of room to develop. We find out exactly why Nebula wants to kill her sister. We see Yondu and Rocket connect on a surprisingly deep level. We even feel sympathy for Kraglin, who scarcely even had a personality in the first film. I always hate it when movies ignore perfectly good established characters just so they can bring in new characters to advance the plot – well, here’s a perfect example of that not happening!
Watching the movie the second time through, now I understood who the Ravagers and Stakar are. (Would have been better for the story to have established that a bit better early on, but oh well.) With that out of the way, and dismissing the Ego plot and the tiresome end battle, I got to enjoy the minor characters a lot more. Especially Drax, who was written with amazing subtlety for such a simplistic character; the scene with him and Mantis together in front of the pools had a lot of weight to it.
And I was very surprised at the long sentimental note the story wrapped up on – but it worked. It took a one-note character and gave him some depth. Not a lot of stories are able to accomplish that.