Everyone’s been saying that Guardians Vol. 2 is not as good as Guardians Vol. 1, and well they’re right. But, come on folks! That’s like saying eating grilled asparagus is not as good as eating grilled asparagus wrapped in bacon. Both are great! Is one clearly more awesome? Yes, but the increased awesomeness of one does not automatically make the other sucky or take away from the fact that, either way, asparagus helps you pee and Guardians Vol. 2 is a super fun movie.
I don’t really want to get into the nitty gritty of picking apart the plot, or arguing about which jokes fell flat, or pointing out minutes that could’ve been trimmed off the run-time. I, personally, had a blast. My personal expectations weren’t completely met, but that’s because I had been hyping them in the weeks leading up to my viewing by listening to Awesome Mix Vol. 2 nonstop and watching the trailer set to “The Chain” every time Donald Trump and his cronies did something odious (so, every five minutes). It’s hard to live up to expectations of perfection, and I want to appreciate Guardians Vol. 2 for the heartwarming efforts a group of broken people/aliens/raccoons made to accept each other as family, for some awesome jokes (Taserface! BWAHAHAHA!), and for some enchanting world-building (when I die, I want a Ravager funeral). So, let’s just all agree that Guardians Vol. 2 is a good (okay, not amazing) movie, and move on.
What I came here to talk about is the sleeper hit that is Dave Bautista’s performance as Drax! When Guardians Vol. 1 came out I was definitely one of those, “Oh no, not another professional wrestler trying to act,” naysayers. I stand totally corrected. Holy crap, but was Drax giving me some feels. I think what James Gunn did was write Drax as the extremely swoll anchor of the family and it was perfect. Rocket was busy pushing everyone away with his douchiness. Groot was busy being the cutest toddler ever. Gamora was conflicted over her relationship with her resentful younger sister, Nebula. Peter Quill/Star-Lord was overwhelmed by meeting a long-lost father. Drax was the only Guardian on solid emotional footing, and he helped steady and reassure his comrades (sometimes by laughing uproariously at their foibles, but it was laughter born of love).
*Spoiler in Next Paragraph!*
Character-wise the move makes sense, as Drax was the only character who knew what it was to have a family before joining the Guardians. Processing the grief of his wife and daughter being slaughtered made Drax cultivate an acceptance of pain and a willingness to move on and open his heart again. The best example of this is the connection that forms between Drax and Mantis, a new character who is an empath and has led a lonely existence as the sole companion and pet of Star-Lord’s mysterious and powerful father, Ego. Much like Drax, Mantis has trouble understanding social conventions and has an innocence to her. However, she is also cowed around Ego and seems to gravitate towards Drax’s aura as a protector and one who has gained wisdom from life experience. Whereas Gamora, who can tell that Mantis is hiding something, is hostile and threatening towards Mantis, Drax is open and patient with Mantis. His gentle openness creates trust between him and Mantis, which gives her the confidence to reveal Ego’s evil plot and join with the Guardians in fighting him. It is Drax who displays the compassion to welcome another lost soul to the Guardians of the Galaxy.
So, yeah, Drax is the heart of this movie for me. I think that’s a major part of why I feel so defensive of Guardians Vol. 2 amid all of the, “Ugh, it’s not perfect like the first one!” It is undeniable that James Gunn and everyone else involved loved the hell out of this story and these characters. The care they put into crafting it resulted in something as awesome as Drax’s emotional depth. A shirtless, muscle-bound tattooed guy who laughed about how big his own turds are made me ache for the father figure that I never had as he reminisced about time spent with his slain daughter. And for that I say, thanks to James Gunn and Dave Bautista. I also say, totally go see this movie.