I saw Guardians of the Galaxy 2 again today and noticed a bunch more things on the rewatch.
- First of all I was expecting to be bored at least some of the time (I mean, I just saw it a little over a week ago), but I never, ever was, not even once. This movie uses every minute so well. (Unlike the first one, where most of the Ronon and Thanos scenes dragged horribly even the first time, and were completely skippable on a rewatch.)
- I love how the end of the movie recontextualizes some of the earlier scenes. For example, Mantis’s misery and fear is so obvious when she first meets the gang, and in most of her scenes afterwards. The first time you watch it, her anxiety is easily read as nervousness around strangers. The second time, though, it’s such a gut-punch to see her standing behind Ego, wringing her hands, and knowing why.
- Drax mistaking Yondu for Peter’s actual father is another of those fantastically recontextualized scenes. The first time, it’s funny, just a tossed-off joke. The second time, though … right in the feels. Because Drax, for the most part, doesn’t get the whole concept of people pretending to be something other than what they are. He watches Yondu and Peter interact with each other and he totally gets the actual relationship in a way even they don’t.
- Speaking of which, there is some really brilliant editing in this movie. This time around, I noticed how it cut from Ego’s “I’m your dad, Peter” right to the first installment of Yondu’s storyline (which also involved interacting with his parental stand-in, Stakar). And none of the significance of this is clear if you don’t know the characters’ emotional context! You basically can only pick it up after having seen the movie once.
- The pacing on all the emotional arcs is so, so good. I didn’t even really notice, the first time around, how strong the Peter-Rocket arc is, from their fighting in the beginning, through Rocket not wanting to leave him on the planet, to their little moment of connection at the end.
- I still can’t get over how this movie has eight major characters (not counting Ego; let’s not count Ego) and every single one of them has a) an emotional arc of their own, b) at least one strong platonic relationship arc with a beginning, middle, and end, and c) at least one scene in which they get to be awesome and do something important. EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM. Even the noncombatants. Even the baby!
- The first time around, I didn’t really notice how brutal Gamora and Nebula’s fight is. @sheronm pointed out how incredibly OTT Gamora picking up the ship cannon is (in a way female characters rarely get to be) but the whole fight is like that: brutal, dirty, vicious, and not sexualized in the slightest. Speaking of which …
- The only shirtless scenes in the whole movie are guys (Peter on the ship, and Yondu at the brothel). The closest the movie comes to a romance arc is Peter and Gamora flirting and dancing. I still adore how Mantis and Drax make it explicitly clear that they aren’t into each other in a sexual/romantic way, and yet the most important relationship either of them has in the movie is with each other, and he’s willing to die to save her in the end. The movie doesn’t completely ignore romantic love (the Peter/Gamora relationship is still important), and it is true that there are a few sexist jokes (like Peter hitting on the Sovereign queen – though he apologizes for it, which is a rare thing). But overwhelmingly, this is a movie that never dismisses its female characters to “love interest” or sexualizes them any more than the male characters are.
- When I saw this movie the first time, I thought the soundtrack and use of music was better in the first movie, but now that I’ve seen them both back to back, I was so, so wrong. They both have great music, they both have some great musical scenes, but I think it’s mostly that the first movie has a faster, more actiony soundtrack, while the second movie has a slower, gentler, more emotional soundtrack that I didn’t fully appreciate at first. But in the first movie, the music is mostly a (well-done!) melodic accompaniment to the action, while in the second movie, the songs are very carefully fit to the scenes in which they occur – whether the important thing is the peppy/awful contrast (“Come a Little Bit Closer” over the murder montage), or the whole point is that the song is so terribly, cheesily on point (“Brandy”), or sometimes because the song fits the emotional tone of the scene in the best fanvid kind of way (“Father & Son”, or the repeated use of “The Chain” for the characters being separated and then coming all back together in Peter’s love-epiphany/Power of Friendship™ moment at the end).
It’s just sooo goooood. I really didn’t expect a bombastic, ridiculous musical comedy in space to genuinely be one of the best movies I’ve seen in ages.