Guardians of the Galaxy 2 Is Marvel’s First Real Comic-Book Movie in Years – The Atlantic
In Marvel lingo, Guardians 2 feels like a great six-issue arc, the kind of storytelling that used to be the backbone of superhero comics. It resolves the question of Peter’s parentage (his father is Ego, a celestial being whose true form is a giant planet), a mystery introduced in the first film and fully resolved here. Like many a classic team story, it breaks the Guardians up for most of the movie, sending them on separate but related missions, then reunites them, their bonds tested but stronger than ever. And it takes full advantage of the series’s intergalactic setting, layering in the wacky psychedelic imagery and boundless imagination of classic ’70s space comics (like Silver Surfer or Journey Into Mystery).
The franchise would be wise to draw from this old-school well more often. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 features no appearances from other Marvel superheroes or villains for basically the first time since the series launched with Iron Man in 2008. It ends with several post-credits scenes, but they’re all in-jokey nods to events that happened in the movie, rather than teasers for unrelated, upcoming films. And it’s centered on an emotional arc about family—in which Peter comes to terms with Ego’s villainy, and accepts the more conventionally flawed Yondu (Michael Rooker) as his real father figure.
But the Marvel Cinematic Universe cares more about imitating the current mode of storytelling for comic books, where vast, intertwined story arcs that draw in every A-list superhero title compel the reader to buy any and all related issues to keep up. One could just watch Marvel’s Thor movies, or every Captain America entry, and avoid the rest, but each film makes references to a half-dozen others, as if to make them almost impossible to understand on their own. It’s a careful, calibrated approach—that so far hasn’t applied to the Guardians movies.
Soon enough, Peter Quill and his friends will be drawn into the bigger morass. The entire Guardians cast is taking part in Avengers: Infinity War, 2018’s superhero-laden extravaganza that will center on the cosmic Infinity Gems and the looming villain Thanos (Josh Brolin), who appeared briefly in the first Guardians movie. Gunn has promised to return to an already greenlit third Guardians, and he may be able to continue sheltering those movies somewhat.
Still, the franchise is more important than the sub-franchise: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 could be the last movie where Rocket Raccoon doesn’t buy a drink with Doctor Strange, or Ant-Man doesn’t hitch a ride on Groot’s back. A comic-book film used to be an unusual enough event to generate interest on its own; now, it partly exists to hype another five coming attractions, like some never-ending pyramid scheme. Guardians 2 isn’t getting enough credit for breaking that mold, but it’s a distinction viewers may soon cherish.