Slipping in a piece of something that went missing: Fatherly love in "Guardians of the Galaxy 2"
The film begins with an idyllic family situation, set thirty years or so before the picture begins. A young married couple are enjoying themselves in their suburban paradise, planting a seedling that will eventually blossom into something ostensibly beautiful, and close to about to birth a son for which much the same must have been expected. After this, we get switched to present tense, and we see the son that was about to be born, as an adult, performing in a fashion his good start would have made him due for. He and his friends, under contract to stop a menacing alien intruder from stealing some powerful technology, ably fulfill their end of the deal, and they receive the payment promised them. If this was how their day finished -- contract undertaken and completed, with promised renumeration provided -- if his mother and father were still alive, he might call them and let them know of how well things had gone, and we could imagine them justly proud.
Only it doesn't end there. One of the companions ends up stealing the very devices they were supposed to be protecting, as very harsh revenge for a minor slight he ends up receiving while in the process of receiving payment for their services. During their escape, two people who could each very ably pilot their vehicle, can't decide who will submit to letting the other captain the vehicle, and so they give the people chasing them much better opportunities to chase them down as they waste time yanking control away from one another. Their concentration seems equally distracted by the fact that the reward they got for their service is actually the sister of one of the companions, a criminal with a heavy bounty on her, and who, if I remember correctly, is proclaiming just as soon as they garner her that she'll free herself eventually and slice each and every one of them apart before they have the opportunity to cash in -- a plausible enough scenario, given she's individually near as dangerous as the great beast they'd just taken down, and that the security of every safeguard measure on the ship is in the process of being drastically compromised by the intense enemy fire.
They suddenly all seem children, not of buoyant, resplendent upbringings, but actually of the kind they each had actually had. Not of loving "ma"s and "pa"s, but of absent mothers and tyrannical fathers and step-fathers. Exempting maybe Drax, whose family catastrophes involve more his wife and child than his parents, they're Harlow's "monkeys" who grew up absent sufficient parenting, and are maimed, dejected, and self-defeating, for it. What a mess!
Not to worry -- rescue, for at least one of them, is under way. The father we met at the beginning comes back into the picture, and he's hugely powerful, way more actually big "G" god than little "g" god, despite his modestly proclaiming this not so. He readily and expediently destroys the entire battle battalion still after the Guardians, and he's just as kind, relaxed, accommodating and affable as he'd been presented. The Guardians who join him aboard his egg-shaped Starship are due to arrive on a planet that'll be an absolutely safe escape, a comfortably safeguarded "nest," for a good while at least. They can relax, ask questions of him they'd always wanted to about their fathers like, "why did you abandon me?," even initiate the proper Freudian developmental concern due to arrive with the phallic stage over the paternal penis, and expect full accommodation. His actual son -- the leader of the Guardians, Quill -- is introduced to his alien powers for the first time, and they are of the massively awesome variety. His first success is small -- he creates a ball of energy power. But it's apt for what they're now prepared for -- a good bit of back and forth ball-throwing, as the son who thought he'd been abandoned learns that his father had made every effort to recover him; had been frustrated in his efforts to do so; but upon this fortuitous recovery of him is just as set as he ever was to nurture something great between himself and his wonderful son.
While this recovery and fulfillment of a previously frustrated developmental stage between child and parent is going on, the others that didn't join them and stayed with their ship end up on the receiving end of humiliations and tortures that will substantiate the continuance of their angular, maladjusted stance to the world. They're all on the receiving end, but baby Groot in particular receives an extra-heavy douse, as he ends up having to endure a mob of ruffians making public sport of him for their amusement and leisure, pouring beer all over him and laughing and laughing as he expresses his considerable discomfort, while near drowning. He, though, is the exception amongst the Guardians in that, though he can become intensely irritated, he is also built to "instant-forget" -- to forget all that just happened to him and follow up with an eager, honest smile, making him the perfect kind of victim for providing the victimizers with no lasting sense of guilt. With this in mind, he ends up the repository of a bit of hazing by his Guardian friends as well, as he fails again and again in the simple task they've asked of him. They escape and get back at their victimizers, killing each and every one of them -- even having a chance to humiliate their leader, for, in effect, making so evident his desire to displace the "father" captain and have his own chance of running the show... for making obvious his self-realization needs, which apparently only Quill is safe doing in this picture without being humiliated for it (earlier in the movie, for example, one of those chasing their ship who is doing notably better than the rest of his group at hanging on to their tail is, when he at last finds himself dispatched like all others previously, collectively mocked for his failed attempt to be the hero who distinguished himself as clearly better than the ostensible equals arranged around him).
Quill's God father ends up proving himself absolutely evil, as someone who actually gave Quill's mother brain cancer so to kill her for annoying him with his actually beginning to care about her, so Quill is about to be down one big anchor of support. On the other hand, it turns out that his step-father, the one who made him feel that the only reason he wasn't killed by him was because his small size made him useful for thieving but who still tortured him with the possibility of it daily, actually has always loved the guy -- and is willing to demonstrate it by sacrificing his own life to save him. As well, the two sisters end up restoring their friendship, as the one who had been constantly victimized finds herself euphoric for finally besting her sister in battle, and as she learns the real reason -- simple terror of her father's recriminations -- her sister never let her win any of their fights, even as losses meant their tyrannical father substituting parts of her biological body with machine parts, making her ever-increasingly a metallic entity, alien to emotions, built only to inspire recoil.
They dispatch the God-father by essentially giving him brain cancer -- by targeting and destroying his exposed brain -- a fitting quid pro quo by Quill and his associates, and the Guardians are now ready for subsequent adventure. Quill, who has coveted the walkman that plays all his mother's favourite tunes, finds himself gifted a "Zune" as a replacement, which plays as much as three hundred tunes. It's a significant leap, but plays as only an incremental improvement given we're aware your average iPod holds thousands -- which happens to be the safe sort in this sort of universe, where if you get everything you want you're being set up to be devoured by jealous others. And perhaps Quill and the rest of the Guardians will receive more of this in the subsequent picture, where one more slice of restoration of a frustrated developmental path will land in place, regardless of how badly exposed those who provided them with it end up being rendered by the finish of the picture. Quill got to know more love from both his real father and his substitute one, here. Maybe with this added esteem he can brave tackling exactly why, though he can challenge and put difficult questions to his father, accept complicated estimations of them, he still needs to keep his mother an object of absolute reverence.
He might be up to it. In the first film we never would have forgotten that every song played was sourced from her soundtrack, but there's been enough compelling paternal presence in this film that when Cat Steven's "Father and son" plays, it's probably also from her playlist, but it's actually surprisingly how not redolent of her it is. A powerful alternative was temporarily forged, and maybe remains in mind to ground the sense of lost love that might come if he agreed to see her too as sometimes destructive in intent.