The Marvel Cinematic Universe: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)

| April 20, 2019

For better or worse, a generation is now growing up with the movies of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and whatever that says about the direction of Western Civilization will be left to history depending largely on who writes it.  Avengers: Endgame brings the hammer down on this series on April 27th, so for the next few weeks I am going to take a look back at the films that have built a massive phenomenon.  Are they any good?  Let’s take a look . . .

Image result for guardians of the galaxy 2

If, perhaps, there is a tiny window into my thinly guarded insecurities, it may be revealed in a question that I am often asked about the MCU.  Which is my favorite?  I get this a lot.  My snap go-to response is always Iron Man, but somewhere deep down in my heart, I know that the best film to come out of this series is Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.  I’ve been ashamed to admit it because I have had a difficult time explaining why.  When it came out two years ago, I dreamed up every available reason to find flaws in it but now some time has passed and the deeper emotional caverns of the movie have really come home to me.  Yes, in my opinion, this is the best of the MCU canon and now I think I understand why.

The MCU is fraught with characters who are flawed.  Marvel Comics itself is built on this notion, which is what sets it apart from DC whose characters are pained but also painted up to be gods among us.  The Guardians (on screen anyway) are so flawed that they come off like a group of squabbling siblings suffering under the weight of a crushing inferiority complex.  Each has a dark and unsettling story to tell, each has an origin that Shakespeare could have written and each had a pain for which they struggle to compensate.  Peter has a displacement issue in being raised by his abusive adopted father Yondu.  Gamora is constantly locked in battle with her genetically altered cyborg sister Nebula.  Drax’s family was murdered.  And Rocket was the product of scientific experiments.  The clever thing is that they are all compensating in some way.  They lash out.  They’re self-serving.  And they look for an outlet.

The reason that this character structure is so unique for this series is that it never offers an easy answer.  The pain that each is suffering doesn’t come packaged with an easily padded emotional Deus ex Machina nor a distraction of having to fight some roaring inter-dimensional mon-gord in order to arrive at a ‘you-got-your-money’s-worth’ action climax.  Yes, there is an action climax but the movie earns it by digging hard and fast into Peter’s origins and unearthing some hard truth that he is forced to confront.  The issues presented for these characters are not easily drawn.  They are all grounded in real personal issues that we can all relate to.  What do we do?  We lash out.  We’re self-serving.  And we look for an outlet.

And here’s another brilliant move: When the movie is over there isn’t a single personal problem among the Guardians that can definitively be said to have been closed and done away with.  All of these characters suffer and open emotional wound but by the end there are no easy answers only people who are forced into self-reflection.  They are forced to confront those issues and, tough as it may be, to forgive.  Peter confronts daddy issues.  Gamora deals with sibling rivalry and also daddy issues.  Rocket deals with physical abuse.  Drax deals with loss.  It is all part of a very big picture that ebbs so deeply into these character’s psyche that it is ingrained into the narrative – their issues are the movie and that’s an original idea in a series that is largely about characters overcoming their issues by fighting something from another galaxy.  This is a real film, a character study; harsh at time and often difficult to watch, but one that is much deeper and much more thoughtful about its characters then it ever has a reason to be.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
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