(This is a sponsored Blu-ray/DVD review)
I am going to talk about one of my favorite movies of the year, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. In case you didn’t get the hint, be warned, there are spoilers ahead. This week we received a preview copy of the movie that was released this week from our good friends at Marvel Studios. I had taken my family to see it, on Father’s Day as it so happened, and was excited to watch it again with my boys in the comfort of our own home. (That should be read as in a place where I can pause the movie and answer questions). I usually go watch the Marvel movies on the weekend they are released, by myself, and then shortly there after I go back with anyone in my family who wants to go. That means the Marvel Universe generally speaking gets a lot of my money, which I am all too happy to fork it over. This movie, though, really was both a surprise to me and may very well be my favorite thus far.
Fatherhood is not Easy in the MCU
“Family” is a theme that is mentioned often through out the film, but the profiles on fatherhood really take center stage. It was made clear in Vol. 1 that Peter Quill was struggling to understand who his dad was and why he abandoned him. That set up a great opportunity to introduce Peter’s dad in this movie. We all kinda knew it was coming… given the fact that he could miraculously hold an Infinity Stone in his hand and not die. We really did need to know more about who Star Lord really was. However, as I watched this I was struck by the broader take on fatherhood, I think there is a lot to learn from the different examples in the movie. So I decided to break it down… by each “father”:
- Ego the Living Planet – He the biggest father (both in size and role) in this film. We are first introduced to him as a wistful traveler spreading a little of himself across the galaxy. Which is kinda creepy, and we should have clued in from that introduction that his character was suspect. We are reintroduced to him as a man searching for his son who arrives just in time to save the day and make a grand entrance. Unfortunately, for Peter… and the rest of the universe Ego is really a narcissistic sociopath whose “purpose” in life is to use his son as a battery to allow him to make the whole universe… him. Ego can’t see beyond himself and only sees his offspring as things meant to serve him and his end. Which of course leads to the inevitable demise of their relationship and a great climax for the movie.
- Thanos – Though he does not appear physically in the film is a very abusive parent… suprise, suprise! He and Ego really have a lot in common with each other. Except Thanos has a sadistic bent with his children, as he pits his daughters against each other to fight for his affection. This most likely will have some factor in his ultimate downfall. And like Ego Thanos engagement with his daughters has seemingly had the opposite effect, not only do they kinda find a way to bond over their victimization, they both end up devaluing his affection.
- Stakar Ogord – While this one may have been missed Stakar (played by Sylvester Stallone) ends up as a surrogate father to Yondu when he rescues him from the Kree. There isn’t a lot here but there is an element of misdirected tough love here. I mean Yondu was breaking the Ravager code by kidnaping Ego’s children for him… so that clearly does give Yondu a leg to stand on when complaining about being exiled from the Ravagers. It is clear that both Yondu and Stakar recognize their faults in each other. However, it seems like there is just a little too much male ego getting in their way to mend fences.
- Yondu – Yondu clearly has some messed up daddy issues, but who wouldn’t after being sold by your parents into slavery only to be rescued then disowned by the only other father figure you have ever had. There is, however, some semblance of a moral compass in Yondu and this movie is in part a story of how he is finding his way to following it. When he realizes what Ego is up to he doesn’t turn Peter over to him and instead, in his own messed up way (with no real idea of how to do it), tries to raise Peter. For all of his failings, the hero that Peter becomes is due in a large part to Yondu’s best attempt at raising him. And in what can be the best way of summing up what a good dad is, When the chips are down, Yondu seems to always be there for Peter when he needs him the most.
- Drax – Drax is probably the noblest example of a father. There is no doubt that he loved his family deeply and though driven to vengeance he has become a unifying and stabilizing force for the Guardians. He has assumed a paternal role with the team, sometimes giving odd unsolicited bet well-intentioned advice, protecting them and looking after everyone, and making sure everyone gets back to the ship after each stop. He has made peace with the loss of his wife and daughter but we get a glimpse into his depth of character as Mantis touches him while he talks about them. Though he remains stoic she, feeling his sorrow weeps for him. That moment is when Mantis realizes that the Guardians are good people and her master Ego probably is not.
- Peter Quill – Ok so Peter isn’t exactly a father, but he is being put through his paces (along with the other Guardians) as they raise Groot. What I think is awesome about what we see in Peter is the willingness to realize that each member of the team doesn’t have all the answers, but they all love Groot. They do their best and they ask each other for help and create a network to raise him. Outside of Drax the team doesn’t have stellar examples of fatherhood, but they aren’t letting that hold them back from raising the little tree-man as best they can. They each do their best, ask for help, and share the responsibility when they need to. My guess is that Groot is going to turn out to be a pretty heroic fellow… Again.
- Zardu Hasselfrau/David Hasselhoff – This one is an important inclusion even if it is a little silly. We all have an idealized version of what we think a dad should be. What we wish our dad had been like. Any father is going to have a tough time living up to that. It is important to realize that, because for many of us are in, or we will be in that role soon enough, and our children will have both their actual dad and the idea of who their dad should be. We aren’t going to be able to realize that idyllic version, and if we did it probably wouldn’t be very good for our kids. We need to fill the role that they need. We won’t hit the mark all the time. We are going to fail here and there. We are going to make our kids cry. Our children will not enjoy our discipline and will think we are mean. In those moments they will wish for their ideal dad, their Zardu Hasselfrau. Soon enough though they will be in our shoes and with the power of 20/20 hindsight they will see the truth, that anyone can father a child, but it takes a lot more to be a child’s dad.
(Disclosure: I was given a copy of this movie in exchange for writing this review. Although the post was sponsored the writing and opinions in this post are my own.)