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May 20, 2017

Guardians of the Galaxy, Volume 2

Filed under: Uncategorized — Benjamin Vulpes @ 9:17 p.m.

The second issue in the Guardians of the Galaxy series is the most thickly dad-tastic flick I've ever seen come out of the modern American movie-making machine. Where the first movie makes light and gentle references to the bastard's feelings about his own illegitimacy (but only enough to satisfy the fandom's expectations in re: hewing to the canon), some wise producer somewhere let the writing team entirely off-leash and bought himself a movie about fatherhood, sacrifice, family, love and redemption that somehow doesn't actually suck1.

GotGv2 is the only kind of modern American movie to even consider seeing in a theater; it contains orgies of explosions and space-vehicle shoosting engagements, entirely-competent stunt-doubles, and (let's be real, the only reason to go see a show like this) an endless cornucopic phantasmagoria of the most syrupy and over-the-top special effects ranging from whatever that canon's equivalent of the hyperspace jump is, to epic battle scenes played out in the background as of a rotoscoped Vin Diesel dances around as an animate baby tree2. It's great! If you're into dad shit.

Returning to the topic of narrative design, the writers lay down thick beads of dad theme thick and fast from jump street: the overarching story moralizes on the evil of the man (hilariously ham-handedly named Ego) who'd drain the life force of his own children to further his own goals, while smaller arcs cover the damage done to sons whose fathers abandon them, the bond of sisterhood forged under abusive tyrants, the father who returns years too late to develop an actual relationship with his son, the value of any kind of fathering to the budding child, and the exaltations due the father who overrides his own rev-limiter and burns his tanks past empty stoking the fires of the worthy heir (which, hey, maybe "Star Lord" isn't that worthy outside of the movie's framework but within the narrative it's his second time very nearly dying to save the universe for a bounty of basically epsilon).

The writers want you to know that ignoring your kids until they can hold a conversation with you is terrible parenting3; spend a few delightful frames on the two sisters working through the vicious shit their father put them through and then hugging it out before setting out to kill him4; and that the family that lets its own members be their shitty selves provided they recognize how shitty they are and actively work to not be quite so much that all of the time can save the universe. Love is the greatest force in the world, etceteras etceteras.

Surprisingly for The Times In Which We Live, there are a few scenes that verge on being downright dark: Diesel's tree-baby catching the new-cabin-boy treatment from the mutinied pirate crew is sure to pluck the heartstrings of tender-hearted babes in your life, and might even bring the mothers to tears; and while the spacing of the temporarily-ex-captain's loyal lieutenants one by one could have been significantly more morbid and morose, we're going for a PG-13 rating here. To the writing team's credit, and one of the things that makes the movie in my opinion, when the pirate captain retakes his chair he hunts down and kills each and every single remaining mutineer aboard with palpable glee, demonstrable cruelty, and just the appropriate dash of theatrical flair.

For all the film's narrative upside, the Department of Rainbow Sparkles and Sparkly Rainbows would have benefitted from just a hint of discipline. In particular, the funereal fireworks display was unjustifiably bad, except as a throwaway callback to the redemption theme. There's absolutely no sense in following fifteen minutes of well-produced and -executed knock-down-drag-out god-vs-plucky heroes battle with a limp-wristed fireworks display.

GotGv2 is a fine piece of dad entertainment, and I'm endlessly amused that I saw it with my father, both of us entirely naive to its narrative makeup. It's got space battles, good versus evil, loss of honor and the quest for redemption, fruitless years of labor in the mines, love, and plenty of the classic "good ol' American family values". Not much by way of tits though, and the single whoring scene was so bad as to insult the profession.

  1. The "mother" figures attempt to guarantee the best possible progeny, while the fathers are first and foremost men making their tiny best of a shitty life in a hostile universe, discovering that hey maybe some of the kids aren't entirely a waste of everyone's time after all, and ensuring that at least they're not releasing children into the world who've never been punched. []
  2. Everyone parents the tree-baby. It's adorable, and an excellent example of dovetailing the comic relief character into the overarching themes of the movie. []
  3. Which, duh. Teach your kids at least two languages like a cultured human, s'il vous plaît []
  4. Doubly funny because a) deliberate middle-finger to Bechtel whiners, b) even the storyline about sisterly love and redemption by excuse of women doing whatever it takes to survive ends up being about a shitty dad. []

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