Many people who have seen Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 (GOTGV2) have noted that the film, whether they enjoyed it or not, has a different tone than the original film. Some have even gone so far as to claim this sequel is to the first Guardians of the Galaxy film as The Empire Strikes Back was to the first Star Wars film. The reason for this opinion has to do with the more adult and darker mood oozing throughout Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 despite all the jokes and action. Is this a valid way to look at the movie? Consider the following and it goes without saying that major spoilers will be revealed…
In the second Guardians film, the title characters split up and go off on their own separate adventures in smaller groups and meet other people. Peter Quill, aka Star-Lord takes off with Gamora and Drax to join his newly found father Ego and later meets Mantis. When they leave with Peter’s father, Rocket Raccoon and Baby Groot are left with Gamora’s sister Nebula (who is at this point a prisoner instead of a full-fledged Guardian). The remaining trio then meet up with Yondu and his Ravagers. This encounter leads to Yondu’s powerful story arc, while Peter learns about his heritage.
A similar plot device was used in The Empire Strikes Back where after abandoning the Rebel base on Hoth, Luke Skywalker and R2-D2 go to Dagobah and meet the Jedi Master Yoda. As this happens, Han Solo, Princess Leia Organa, Chewbacca and C-3P0 spend most of the film evading Darth Vader and his imperial forces. Eventually they meet up with Han’s old friend Lando Calrissian. Both groups are changed forever by their separate adventures just like in GOTGV2.
Even though some people have issues with Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2, these critics agree with fans that the second film does a better job of exploring the characters. Writer and director James Gunn took time to delve deeper into what makes the core group and the supporting characters tick. By the time the film finishes we understand the Guardians and their associates much more than in the original film. They are no longer stock character types. Instead, they are more rounded and we know how and why they act and feel like they do. This leaves us with more relatable and believable characters who enhanced our enjoyment of the film.
The same thing occurs in The Empire Strikes Back. Everyone loves the second Star Wars film for its focus on the characters and making us care more about them. From joining Luke in his painful spiritual journey to understand the Force and the ways of the Jedi, to observing the growing love Han and Leia have for each other. In both films, while the dazzling special effects and sounds are out of this world, what we take away from the viewing experience is our love of the characters.
Fathers and Sons
The main character and story arc in GOTGV2 is Peter Quill’s relationship with Ego. Before meeting him, Peter and the audience did not have any idea of who his father was. When the two men meet it’s a joyful reunion as Ego fills in Peter about where he came from. Naturally, Star-Lord is excited to learn that he is a demigod. But sadly, the occasion turns sour when Peter and his friends discover Ego’s true nature and plans. The man is actually a monster who murdered not just his own children, but Peter’s mother. To make matters worse, Ego has plans to massacre countless people throughout the galaxy in order to spread his seeds.
Everyone knows about Darth Vader’s infamous and legendary revelation to Luke that he is his father. Like with Peter, Luke was devastated to find out this horrid man was his father and both sons actively rebelled against their father. It’s a classic story twist that reflects the timeless strife between a father and his son as both turn against each other due to different values and beliefs. Every son and father can relate to this idea.
There are differences between the two films about this theme. In The Empire Strikes Back, the revelation didn’t come until the end of the film and left Luke and the audiences with burning questions that would not be answered until the next film. In the next Star Wars film, Luke goes about on a quest to reason with Darth Vader and try to redeem him by bringing him back from the dark side of the Force.
In Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2, this issue is faced head on by Peter who turns against Ego. Unlike the Star Wars films, Ego is never redeemed; Peter does not reconcile with his father as Luke did. Instead he realizes that he had a surrogate father figure all along: Yondu, the Ravager that kidnapped Peter from Earth when he was a child. Originally, the Ravager was hired by Ego to abduct Peter after his mother died and turn him over. However, Yondu, who knew that Ego murdered his other children, could not bring himself to do this and kept Peter. Of course, Yondu was not an ideal role model, but he was there for Peter and raised him. In the end, Yondu redeemed himself as he aided the Guardians and sacrificed himself to save Peter.
Strange Talking Characters and Redemptive Arcs
Both sci-fi sequels share many other similarities and anyone can make all kinds of comparisons. For instance, both films feature characters that are redeemed in the end. Namely, the aforementioned Yondu and Lando Calrissian in The Empire Strikes Back. Then there is the fact that both films have small, cute, scene-stealing non-human characters with distinctive ways of speaking. Of course, we’re talking about Baby Groot with his “I am Groot” and Yoda with his peculiar way of wording sentences like “Size matters not.”
We can go on all day talking about similarities, but it should be noted that both sequels set out to be different than the original films and they succeeded. They did this by not repeating the same, safe formulas that worked in the first films. They took risks and devoted time on the core essences of the characters. In the end for The Empire Strikes Back, it is now widely considered the superior Star Wars film. As for Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2, opinions are all over the place, frankly. This has happened before with now-well regarded sequels like Back to the Future, Part II, so the final verdict on GOTGV2 cannot be stated now. The film needs time to settle in before a final consensus can emerge and take hold. But it has so much going for it that it is hard to imagine this film not being well regarded in the future.
Lewis T. Grove