So I really didn't enjoy the first Guardians of the Galaxy (see ranting here), but Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2? I totally loved and would recommend. Go figure.
- With one exception, they appeared to work hard at fixing all the issues that made the first one unbearable to me and took Vol. 2 to a deeper emotional place for all the characters and also for the plot itself. It just felt more adult and well thought-out, with some interesting world-building, great character development, and a plot with an important message.
- They added an interesting female character in Pom Klementieff's Mantis and developed the ones they already had, making Gamora and her sister Nebula able to bond over their shared abusive childhoods. The trauma/body torture that Karen Gillan's Nebula went through is fleshed out and just hearing her talk about it is actually terrifying, making Thanos more scary just by the effects of his actions. Not showing him onscreen was a great choice.
- The exception: I didn't like and actually rolled my eyes at how obvious the relationship between Drax and Mantis was, and I was pretty disgusted at the repeated jokes that Mantis was ugly to Drax. They could have played it once at the beginning and then showed us how Drax comes to change his mind about how he perceives her looks as he sees how beautiful she is on the inside, and that would have been cheesy but meaningful. But to have it constantly undercut her character was gross and totally unnecessary. As Mantis is played by a half-Korean actress, it also came off as racist. One step forward, two steps back, Marvel.
- Baby!Groot is amazing in every way. Teen!Groot (in one of the end scenes) is fantastic. They developed the idea of his other-ness in his lack of understanding while keeping his humanity in a way that I didn't sense as much from the first one.
- The violence didn't seem as senseless this time. I don't even remember any random civilian collateral damage either, which is great. At times the violence was stylized as to be beautiful (the scene with Yondu's arrow trick was wonderful).
- Like the first one, the 1970s music was spot-on. In Vol. 2, though, the characters actually take the time to analyze some of the music (the sexism in the lyrics of Looking Glass' "Brandy (You're A Fine Girl)" was actually broken down and studied in the movie, which blew my mind).
- The overall plot with Kurt Russell's character, whose name is, and I am not joking, Ego. Initially presented as a hero, we slowly learn that he is actually one of the most insidious villains. Ego is literally rape culture personified, and Marvel bashes us over the head with it. He styles himself as a god out to spread his seed wherever he can and hopes to make mini versions of himself by sleeping with as many women across the galaxy as possible. Then when he feels emotionally vulnerable because of Peter's mother, he kills her. He wants to teach this code to Peter as well, showing him that he is alone and apart from puny mortals and can use them and abuse them as he sees fit. Peter rejecting this message and embracing his own humanity and the love of his friends is a great moment.
- I also love that these shared powerful-but-abusive daddy issues give Peter and Gamora something to bond over.
- So overall, with the exception of the Drax-Mantis issues, I would recommend it and am glad Marvel is actually tackling issues of importance again! Let's see if they keep it up.