Terry's finally ready.
There's going to be full spoilers from here on out. So if you haven't seen Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, close this tab and get on it, then you can come back. I'm not going anywhere.
When I left my screening of this thing, I mused what my review would look like for this film. And after about five minutes of thought, I determined that I'd wait until next week when the dust settles. Because I don't think this movie can be properly talked about without spoiling the living shit out of it.
The opening's great, and I don't really feel like going into how much fun Groot was when he danced around during the opening credits. It's really fun. That's about as far as I can throw that ball.
What I do want to talk about is the middle, and how it almost completely lost me. I checked my watch -- about one hour into Guardians Vol 2, there's no sign of true antagonist or larger conflict pulling at any of these characters. We're literally adrift, bouncing between Peter having finally gotten everything he thought he wanted, and Rocket making plans with Yondu to escape another prison (this time, it's a Ravager ship)
How did this go so wrong? I thought to myself, at least three times, during this haze.
But then, the film solidified and found its foothold, and what was intangibly wrong with the film was revealed to be also felt by all of the characters. The stakes are revealed much earlier than Ego (Peter's father) turns out to be a supervillain that has to be stopped. They're revealed in an exchange between Peter and Gamora:
"I finally found my family!"
"I thought you already had."
Zoe Saldana's delivery was sorrowful, resigned, and perfect. And with that, the movie reveals its hand -- these people shouldn't be apart, and they need to get over their baggage.
Over on the daring Yondu/Rocket escape front, Yondu surprisingly admonishes the raccoon for being a huge asshole. He tells him again and again that his behavior going to drive his friends away for good. Because Yondu used to have a crew like Peter's, and he did the exact same thing.
Ego The Living Planet (Kurt Russell) turns out to be a diabolical asshole -- he wants to use his son Peter as a battery to power the expansion of "himself" across the known universe. This means wiping out humanity. Oh, and he also gave Peter's mom cancer. And as Rocket and Yondu come to the rescue, when they absolutely didn't have to, the theme becomes crystal clear.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is about putting aside the baggage of the people who really love you, because sometimes the people who can easily express that they love you (and give you gifts!) just want to use you. It's about overcoming abuse. It's about finding out what you want isn't what you need. It's about saying what you want before it's too late.
I've never cried while watching a Marvel flick, but when Yondu grabbed Peter from the jaws of death, and made sure he was safe before sacrificing himself, I was a snotty mess until the credits rolled.
"He may have been your father, boy. But he wasn't your daddy."
Moments like these are why we go to movies. And moments like that wouldn't have been earned had Guardians Vol. 2 not been constructed that way. The more I sit with it, the more I love this film.
Come for the Baby Groot, stay for the tidal wave of human emotion.
P.S. Marvel, if you keep taking actual risks like this movie did, I'll take back every mean thing I said about you.
Terry Erickson is a screenwriter, lifelong film fan, and all around good guy based in Baltimore, MD. He's driven across America twice, is obsessed with Back To The Future, and loves almost everybody.