So, I went and saw the latest Guardians of the Galaxy 2.
After listening to a few reviews on-line everyone pretty much was saying that it wasn’t as good as the first one. I went in not expecting much and I must say for most of it I was pleasantly surprised.
Peter Quill, aka StarLord and the Guardians are a little more established as a team, aka family, now which means they have something worth living for. ‘Meaning‘ is a very prominent theme in this movies architecture with an underlying idea that existence, even for sexy rouge mavericks, is more bearable if they have someone to love and care for. The movie even opens with a masterful scene of alien carnage heavily peppered with tender paternal interactions from each member of this motley crue showing their love for the Baby Groot.
This ‘Meaning’ theme was propped up by a fair amount of existential philosophy supplemented with Freudian psychology. This surprised me as this appeared to be the driving force of the plot.
At one point, the antagonist Ego rambles on and on about finding ‘meaning’ and somehow concludes that the meaning for his existence is destroying life on a whole bunch of planets by spreading his life blob(?). Seems he is a Celestial (‘god with a little g’) but really as PluggedIn writes he acts like the big G for all intents and purposes who becomes human so that he can have a son like him to rule over planets and galaxies he has ‘subdued’.
Mustafa Vasar has more of a postmodern, SJW take on it, or is it Rousseau’s Noble Savage take? Who can tell? At least the Guardians are diverse (A green girl, a talking trash panda, a white superhero (argh again), a big grey guy and a shrub)
Anyway, Ego, who is immortal and can create something out of nothing, begets a son of similar power. Ok, but then he also causes Quill’s mom to die from cancer and needs his like-powered son to spread his ‘Love’ throughout the universe in true narcissistic (his name is Ego) and malevolent fashion.
Is this a critique on the Christian God? Does He implicitly allow evil and suffering in the world somehow looking for consciousnesses that are like Him? That He can use?
This is all well, trying to flip archetypes and hijack metaphors but the real issue lies deeper, at least philosophically.
You see this in a little blurb where Quill talks about his ‘soul’ or ‘whatever it is’ when he finds out about the ‘light’ that makes him up and that by it he can create ‘actual’ objects.
Not willing to give into either side, the plot takes a postmodern turn obliterating the difference between essence (immaterial eternal soul) and existence (material finite reality). This makes sense if you look into the history of the celestial’s which basically were originally written as god’s created throughout the many multiverses. In case you didn’t know, ‘Multiverses are an actual scientific (science fiction?) theory to explain the scientific fact that the universe had a beginning. In other words, the multi-verse couldn’t explain away nihilism and consequently Ego is a nihilistic maniac.
Ego: Death will remain a stranger to both of us, as long as the light burns within the planet.
Peter Quill: I’m immortal?
Peter Quill: Really?
Ego: Yes. As long as the light exists.
Peter Quill: Like, I could use the light to build cool things, like how you made this whole planet?
Ego: Well, it might take a few million years of practice before you get really good at it, but yes.
Peter Quill: Well, get ready for a 800-foot statue of Pac-Man with Skeletor and Heather Locklear…
Ego: Whatever you want.
Peter Quill: I’m gonna make some weird shit.
So the huge philosophical question presented is If Ego, who can make anything and be anything, has a problem finding meaning in the material world then how can mere mortals find meaning? Think about it. It is a pretty heavy question.
Reason (material) destroyed faith (immaterial) and Neitzshe declared ‘God is Dead’, Dostoevsky took it a step further and applied it by saying if there is no God and immortality than all things are permissible. But, I guess not all things are permissible. It is still wrong to wilfully kill someone with cancer.
What Ego’s character is suggesting is that immortal evil could exist (at least in our minds) and that even though it is immortal it is still evil. So wouldn’t mortal evil also exist then?
To me that is the main question because if you answer ‘yes’ to it then you have to ask well what makes something evil and what makes something not evil?
Why is Yondo’s self-sacrifice ‘noble’ at the end? Why is it good and seems to atone for trafficking children and a life of despotic tyranny and hedonism (Can you fault someone for exchanging their existence for as much pleasure as possible? [no robot hookers were emotionally hurt in the making of this movie])
Yondo’s death is eerily existential. He gives his life for Quill but then he disintegrates in space – he is no more. There is only sad death. His existence has ended. He has no essence. No hope. He becomes non-existent.
Of course, that harsh reality was a little too blunt and the pilot of one of the ships looking on resolutely states “I will see you in the stars.” Really? Where? How? It is almost as if you can hear the Highwaymen singing in the distance. The cold space-like rational that Yondo is now non-existent is just too much. His sacrificial death has to mean something (please…?) Dying nobly must mean more than living selfishly right? Yondo bet the remainder of his life on it. Otherwise, it would have been Quill dying on the planet.
These are the real philosophical questions that are being presented.
There is also mixed in a good dose of Freudian psychology. The idea that it is our nurturing that is the cause of our anti-social ‘evil’ tendencies. Every one has a story and a reason for being the way they are. They are all victims. Every single member of the Guardians has a horrible back story that they are struggling with.
Abandonment issues. Abuse issues. Guilt Issues? Even the two antagonist from the first movie, Yondo (the blue guy) and Gamora’s sister Nebula (the angry, blue half robot, half girl) are no longer ‘evil’ since now we know ‘why’ they act how they act. I mean you would act like them too if you were them (wouldn’t you?). Nature versus Nurture? Seems Mr. Gunn has put his cards down heavily in favor of nurture. Pygmalian anyone?
Rocket: You people have issues.
Peter Quill: Well of course I have issues, that’s my freaking father!
Interesting that Quill is the hero figure and somehow he is able to overcome the same horrible back story but emerge a moral, loving, likeable guy (much like Chris Pratt himself). Maybe, that is the true message that no matter what you have been through you can still take responsibility for who you are?
The good thing is, though, that all of these heavy themes were punctuated with slapstick humor and self-referential postmodern jokes most of which I thought were pretty funny.
Rocket: Are we really saving the galaxy, again?
Peter Quill: Yeah.
Rocket: Great! We can jack up our prices if we’re two-time galaxy savers!
Plus, all the references to 80’s pop culture…
Here is what you could learn from this movie – sacrifice is important for meaning.
Atonement requires sacrifice which gives existence meaning.
To gain meaning from a relationship it requires forgiveness (a form of sacrifice) since no one is perfect and we all have issues.
Love is sacrifice as you have to give a part of yourself to the other person (something Ego couldn’t do)
Don’t believe me? Look at how the first movie ended. Groot, the last of his kind, gave his life and was destroyed only to be reborn as a seedling. The greatest good being a friend who gives himself up for others.
That sacrificial act gave birth to the ‘family’ that is Guardians 2.
Groot literally was the grain of wheat that fell in the ground and died.