Friday, May 19, 2017

Worth Mentioning - As Long as the Light Burns Within

We watch several movies a week. Every Friday, we'll talk a little about some of the movies we watched that we felt were Worth Mentioning.

Cody dedicates a movie viewing to his mom.


I would always make sure to watch each of the Marvel Studios superhero movies with my mom. They weren't exactly the sort of movies she might seek out on her own, but they were movies that were important to me, so I wanted to share the experience of watching them with her. She would always say that they were good, but her favorite thing about them was probably just the fact that we were watching them together.

Mom and I only missed seeing a couple Marvel movies together at the theatre, and I intended for us to catch up on them at home. One of the movies we didn't manage to see on the big screen together was Guardians of the Galaxy, but our schedules were going to line up so we could see Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 together - I was going away at the end of March, but I would return at the beginning of May, just in time for the release of the sequel. Since we would be seeing Vol. 2 as soon as I came back home, I wanted to catch mom up on the first Guardians before I left.

The movie begins in 1988, with a young Peter Quill visiting his mother, terminally ill with a brain tumor, in the hospital. As soon as mom saw the sad interaction between these characters begin, she said, "I'm not sure I want to watch this." But the scene passes quickly enough, opening the door to the rest of what I find to be an excellent, very emotionally involving film.

Peter Quill never knew his father, a man his mom described as being "an angel, composed of pure light." In 1988, the Earth boy was abducted by a group of space travelling thieves called the Ravagers, and when the story of the first film catches up with him 2014, he still hasn't met his father, nor has he ever returned to Earth. But that film does show him becoming a hero and forming a team with the aliens Gamora and Drax, talking raccoon Rocket, and sentient tree (with a limited vocabulary) Groot. Also revealed is the fact that the Ravagers had been hired to take Quill to his father in '88, but then flaked out of the deal.

The mystery of "Who is Quill's father?" is solved very quickly in Vol. 2, which picks up just a matter of months after the events of the first film. By this time, the Guardians - played by the returning Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, and Dave Bautista, with Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel providing the voices of Rocket and Groot - are heroes for hire, and a foolish act causes a fleet of warships to chase them through space. Those warships are quickly wiped out by a ship piloted by Quill's father: a man called Ego and played by Kurt Russell.

Vol. 2 feels like it plays out on a much smaller scale than its predecessor, because Quill, Gamora, and Drax spend the majority of the running time on a planet that Ego, who is a Celestial being (some may even call him a god, small g), created himself. If Ego were played by almost any other actor I might have taken some issue with this, but Russell is one of my favorite actors, so I have no problem watching him for as long as writer/director James Gunn wants me to.

While father and son bond, Drax befriends Ego's companion Mantis, a quirky alien empath endearingly played by Pom Klementieff, and Gamora has uneasy dealings with her villainous sister Nebula (Karen Gillan). These members of the Guardians are separated from Rocket and Groot for a large portion of the film, as those two have their own subplot going on in which they're captured by the Ravagers, who have turned against their leader Yondu (Michael Rooker).

Yondu has a larger part in this sequel than he had in the previous film, as the story is all about Quill and his father figures. His biological father and the man who actually raised him. One might not be as pleasant as he seems, while the other might be a better man than we thought. The Guardians do end up having to save the galaxy again, but this father/son story (with the memory of Quill's mother looming over it all) is at the heart of the conflict.

Overall, I didn't find Vol. 2 to be quite as satisfying as the first movie, but it is still a highly entertaining, emotionally involving film. These are a great group of characters who are a lot of fun to watch no matter what they're doing, even if it doesn't seem like they're doing quite as much as they did last time. The way things go between Quill, Ego, and Yondu is really engaging and touching, and there are some shocking revelations.

There are things in Vol. 2 that might make you tear up, but it's not likely other viewers will be crying as much during the movie as I was. I had reasons beyond the film to cry, because my mom wasn't with me when I saw it.

Mom and I were supposed to see Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 together, but the last film we saw together in the theatre was Kong: Skull Island. The last movie we ever watched together was the first Guardians of the Galaxy. My mother passed away on the morning of May 5th. It was very sudden and totally unexpected.

There's nothing I can write here that would properly convey even a small fraction of the sadness and devastation I'm feeling over this loss. My mom and I were very close, she was a single mother for most of my life and she was a very dedicated mom - not just to me, but to my siblings. She was also a dedicated grandmother. She lived her life for her kids and her grandkids, and we're all feeling lost without her.

In the midst of all the turmoil that comes when a person passes away, I went to see Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. Partly to clear my head, but also in honor of my mom. We saw a lot of movies together, we were supposed to see this one together, and I stuck to my part of the plan. I wish she could have been sitting beside me while I was watching it, taking in this story of family, smiling at the music selections, laughing at the jokes, and enjoying the antics of Groot (who is just a oddball toddler in this one, since he's still in the process of regrowing after being destroyed in part 1). I wish we could see a lot more movies together... a couple decades worth. I've lost her way too soon. I do have 33 years of fond memories to look back on, among them all the movie-watching we did together, and all the crazy adventures my movie fandom took us on.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is a really good movie, and I would recommend going to see it. If you can, see it with your mom.

To my mom, I wish I could say: I love you. Thanks for everything.

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