Dancing With the Stars: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Review

By Matt Raebel

There are plenty of movies out there that are fun to watch, but don’t necessarily give the audience much more than a fun way to kill 90 minutes. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with a movie that manages to be just fun, and there’s always room for more – just like there’s always room for more movies that aren’t necessarily in one’s comfort zone, but nonetheless manage to deliver a compelling and impactful message.

Then, every once in awhile, a movie comes along that manages to do both.

It’s a fantastic film full of heart and style and wholesale ass-kickery.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is a success, and not just in box office sales. It’s a fantastic film full of heart and style and wholesale ass-kickery. It’s relentlessly entertaining – when the plot slows down, the ride is smoothed out with some genuinely charming humor. When the funny parts have gone on for some time and the movie remembers it’s an action movie too, the audience is treated to another epic action sequence – all of which are set against classic music from the 70’s and 80’s… the music of Star Lord.

John Woo once described his technique for choreographing fight scenes as similar to how one would direct a dance sequence:

"When I shoot action sequences I think of great dancers, Gene Kelly, Astaire… In action I feel like I'm creating a ballet, a dance… In all the camera sequences I use music to help the scene, I use music to get inspiration for a scene. An explosion is like a happy drum beating. I like to see everything on the move. If an actor isn't moving, my camera moves. Music creates fantasy."

- From “John Woo: Ballet With Bullets”
New York Times, Feb. 22, 1996

Director James Gunn seems to have taken a page out of Mr. Woo’s book for Guardians Vol. 2. Many of the coolest scenes in the movie are epic fights set to classic pop and rock tracks from Star Lord’s Awesome Mix (Vol. 2). They sync with music video-esque perfection.

Yet, Gunn didn’t make this choice as a purely aesthetic stylistic choice, or merely as a reflection of Star Lord’s personality or his love of music. The idea of “two types of people”, that is, “Dancers” and those who do not “Dance”, is mentioned a couple of times during the movie. Those who “Dance” can be considered those who find joy in the little things, don’t take themselves too seriously, and perhaps most importantly, love others selflessly. There’s a scene in which Yondu, the outlaw and surrogate father figure of Peter Quill (Star Lord), cheerfully dispatches a ton of bad guys to the cheerfully upbeat, Come a Little Bit Closer by Jay and the Americans. This scene follows one in which he reveals that despite his menacing façade, he truly cares about Quill, and has stuck his neck out for the young man at his own expense in the past.

It is implied that those who don’t “Dance” are those who, instead of enjoying the little things, tend to be obsessive, ego-driven, even cruel. They are characters who do not truly love other people. They cannot let go of their pretensions, cannot allow themselves to be vulnerable around others – not totally unlike someone who is too self-conscious to dance in public.

The movie uses the cheerful and decorous motif of music and dancing to expand on the theme of family that permeates the plot.

Certain characters who take themselves too seriously, in addition to being prone to pretension, cruelty, or absurd levels of egotism, often end up being at odds with the Guardians throughout the film. Conversely, some who do not “Dance” are characters who are not necessarily malicious to the Guardians, or towards the “Family.” They simply find it difficult to open themselves to others, like Rocket. In this way, the movie uses the cheerful and decorous motif of music and dancing to expand on the theme of family that permeates the plot.

Yondu, Rocket Raccoon, Gamora, Draxx, and Groot may not be Peter’s blood-related “family”, but they are truly his family. I’ll leave it this way: it’s true having Kurt Russell as your dad is pretty f***ing cool… but let’s just say it can get even better than that.

Like the first movie, the film’s use of humor is prevalent and just as strong as the first time around. Early on though, a lot of it seems forced. While it never approaches the cringe-inducing level of Margot Robbie’s “stench of death” line from the first act of Suicide Squad, it occasionally gets obnoxious when the movie makes an obvious attempt at its trademark goofy humor, then lingers for a second or so, waiting for you to laugh, even if the joke wasn’t as funny as the movie thinks it was. That said, there are plenty of genuine laughs to be had here – it’s just that the action montages are where this movie really shines.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 also includes a wealth of Easter Eggs – there are a total of five scenes following the film’s finale. Some play during the credits, while others play post-credits in traditional MCU fashion. All of them are ambiguous, unless you’re up to scratch on your Marvel Lore… in which case, they range from exciting teases for upcoming character appearances to full-on conspiracy theory-level reveals, including one that seems to be James Gunn’s personal wink/nudge to a prevalent fan theory. Again, I won’t say which.

There are plenty of genuine laughs to be had here – it’s just that the action montages are where this movie really shines.

The world has enough Thors, enough Iron Men, enough Captain Americas, Black Widows, Spider Men and Hulks. That’s not to say all of the above aren’t awesome, but hey, it’s a big galaxy. There’s more than enough room for all those stoic, serious superheroes with tragic backstories as well as equally-awesome characters like the Guardians… people who aren’t necessarily heroes, but are just here to collect some bounties, dance, and be there for the ones they love.

Seriously, go see Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. Right now.

You already have? Go see it again. You won’t be disappointed.

9/10

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