Guardians of the Galaxy and Narrative Structure

There’s a lot to love about Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2, but what pulled me in was how intertwined all the character arcs were. Each character had room to shine and grow, as well as moving the plot forward. None of it felt bloated or needless.

But I want to talk about a few of my favourite aspects of the movie.

***Spoilers Below***

 

YONDU AND STAR-LORD

Yondu is the core of GotG2. The entire plot revolves around him, although it might not seem like it.

The relationship between Peter Quill and Ego (his celestial dad) occupies a lot of this movie. But I think its real value is in how it builds up the relationship Peter had with Yondu. With Ego, Peter starts to fulfill all his idealizations of what a father/son relationship is like, and in that it is a manipulative relationship in its too-perfect-to-be-real nature.

Yondu, on the other hand, is the hardass that threatened to eat Peter. Their relationship is the complete opposite of what Peter experiences with Ego. But Yondu is the one that was trying to protect him, and is the one that ultimately sacrifices himself for Peter, whereas Ego wants Peter to be sacrificed for him.

Yondu loses something to protect Peter, his reputation. His treatment and ultimate betrayal by the Ravagers is all because of his initial instinct to do right by Star-Lord. Ego is again on the opposite end, he takes something away from Peter, his mother. Though Yondu is a curmudgeony hardass, he gives to Peter as best he can, while the charismatic Ego takes from Peter as much as he can.

It’s a story about father and son, but without Yondu it would’ve only been half a story. Star-Lord pines for the perfect father/son relationship, so much so that he overlooks the one he had with Yondu. Yondu is the real, messy version of parenthood (with a space pirate twist), Ego is the larger than life pile of bullshit.

 

YONDU AND ROCKET

Rocket in GotG2 is starting to push his friends away, not because he wants them to leave him but because he’s falling into a defense mechanism. When he meets up with Yondu, this comes to a head. Yondu, being older, knows exactly what Rocket is doing and sees right through it. Rocket, after this, sees some of himself in Yondu. And there’s fear there, because Yondu has been cast aside by his Ravager crew, and that’s what Rocket is afraid his friends will do to him. It’s only when Yondu dies, and the Ravagers show up to his funeral to respect his memory, that Rocket realizes he doesn’t need to be afraid of dying alone in obscurity, because his friends won’t ditch him as long as he does the right thing, just like Yondu.

This is a great example of how the two character arcs are woven together. It comes off as though they’re just meeting up for some adventure, but heir meetup is necessary for their growth and the final moments in the memorial scene. It’s another reason I think Yondu is the heart of this movie, because his story intersects meaningfully with both Star-Lord’s and Rocket’s arcs.

 

“When in doubt, have a man come through a door with a gun in his hand.”

The gold people (I can’t remember their name, but I like calling ‘em the “gold people”) just kept coming back. In any other movie, they would’ve been relegated to a ten minute goof at the movie’s beginning, and then forgotten. Here, they are a constant threat, moving the story forward with each appearance. Their repeated failures even have long lasting consequences for the Marvel cinematic universe. Some reviewers thought they were a frivolous addition, but I think they added a lot to the movie and were a good way of propelling the story forward.

Nebula, much like the gold people, just kept coming back. But in her case, she had a close tie to Gamora, and their family conflict is integrated into the action, so that not only does Nebula act as a man-with-a-gun, but as development for her and Gamora’s relationship—as well as insight into what an asshat Thanos is.

Drax and Mantis have a similar function, but from the other end of the spectrum. Instead of conflict, they get along and learn about each other through comradery. Mantis, in a way, mirrors Ego’s disarming nature. And as we’re getting to know Mantis, we’re also learning that she’s hiding something. It’s her building relationship with Drax that pushes her to tell the truth. She’s both being developed as a character, building upon Drax’s character, and providing a revelation to the overall plot. (Also, Mantis is just dang cool.)

 

FAMILY AND FORGIVENESS

All of these threads come together to be about family and forgiveness. Forgiveness that’s earned through mutual respect (Ego doesn’t get a free pass for being a blood relative). Rocket, Yondu, Star-Lord, and Gamora and Nebula all fall into this theme. Each woven into separate threads that come together to a singular thematic point. Even when one of the plot threads has to go careening through warp space to get from one solar system to another.

No movie is perfect, and GotG2 has its flaws, but man, I really loved it.