Let’s just start with the first thing: Baby Groot is adorable and I don’t care what anyone else says. I fully expect to see him everywhere, a la Frozen, but I don’t work in retail anymore or have children, so for me it is *great*. The second thing is that Guardians 2 is, thankfully, Good Enough. It has a story that is both self-contained to the Guardians Universe, and also sets itself up as a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). It is a film that revels in joy, with awesome action scenes, and a story that gives all of the characters their shine. It also deals with some heavy issues, ranging from child abuse to the meaning of the universe itself. Yeah. Let’s deal with the fun stuff first.
Baby Groot is so cute that I felt my hormones activating and I had a sudden desire to spend time with babies and toddlers. I cooed. I spent most of the movie stressed for the Baby, like the other Guardians, and I felt like I was being poisoned by love. For the unfamiliar, Baby Groot is the reincarnated Groot, a tree-like being who died protecting the Guardians at the end of the previous film. He only says “I am Groot” and is voiced by Vin Diesel. At the end of the film, he came back as a little sapling and stole my heart with his tiny dance moves in his tiny pot.
For Guardians 2, Baby Groot is able to walk and talk. He is essentially a toddler, who is discovering everything for the first time. He puts things in his little mouth that shouldn’t be there, he can’t really understand language yet, nor does he know how to handle a sequence of directions. When he travels with his companions, he sits on their right shoulder and clings to Gamora’s hair if things get too scary. Through the course of the film he becomes more like his previous incarnation, and we are reminded why he, too, is a Guardian.
OK, so maybe Baby Groot could easily be the contender for the most overt appeal to younger audience members (and me) to come out this year. But this is really not a wholesome and kid-friendly film. It is PG-13, with lots of dick jokes, and I was reminded that people still think teen boys are the only people interested in comics. It’s also very violent. Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and Nebula (Karen Gillan) balance out the immaturity of some of the male characters, thankfully, with their own immature sibling rivalry that results in a fantastic battle sequence from an empty field to a massive cave. Several battles are bloody and gut-busting, and Yondu’s (Michael Rooker) arrow trick gets an upgrade that allows him to kill even more people with a single arrow.
The entire premise of the Guardians series is pretty dark: Starlord/Peter (Chris Pratt)’s mom dies in the first 10 minutes of the first film, and he immediately gets kidnapped by Yondu, a Ravager, who was going to sell him off but kept him instead, because he was skinny and could fit into small places to steal things for him. Peter finally gets to meet his dad in this movie, and his dad is Kurt Russell! Between them and Gamora and Nebula, it’s just one big family reunion. Of course, that doesn’t mean that all is right.
Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper) still likes to steal and fight. He steals a set of batteries from a world of genetically curated gold people called The Sovereign. They also are very cool, but the coloring was pretty off in one scene with Chris Pratt – he was tinted gold – and we probably will see more of them in the MCU, based on one of the end credit scenes. The ruler of the Sovereign also had a blue carpet that is rolled out for her everywhere she walks off her planet, and that has become a life goal for me. Even though the Sovereign seem to be very important to the larger MCU, they will likely only be remembered for how gold they are and their methods for intergalactic battle. Their battle ships are individual pods that are operated remotely from an arcade game-style war room.
There’s a lot more to it than this, but it’s worth it to just go. It seems like real life is just too intense in 2017, so it’s the perfect time to escape with familiar characters in a new adventure for a couple of hours. I suspect that some parents should discuss the birds and the bees with their kids before bringing them to the film, or maybe just cell division, as some of those jokes may just go over their heads. After all, the film is about family… but it’s also all about Baby Groot.