James Gunn kicked me in the balls this weekend. He didn’t do it to me, intentionally. Shit, he doesn’t even know me, let alone who I am. Well, I can’t say that, he is aware that I exist. I interviewed Oreo Raccoon’s handlers for my old gig at This Is Infamous back when I got started in this industry. Oreo was the living breathing raccoon that was scanned and animated for Rocket’s CGI mastery. Yep, I interviewed a raccoon. But I digress, my ADHD is leading us away from our topic at hand. Where were we? Oh, yes. For all intents and purposes, Gunn pulled his leg back and let it swing forward and connected with my family jewels when he wrote Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2. And he did with such skill and precision I might not be able to bring myself to watch the second chapter of this film arc in the Marvel Cinematic Universe again.
I’m a Star Wars guy through and through, I was 10 when the first film hit theaters. I loved Han Solo, my favorite character. The rogue, the bad guy that gets the good girl. Now, when Han Solo died in The Force Awakens, it hit me in the feels. But I didn’t cry. My emotional attachment to Han wasn’t strong enough to bring me to tears. You see, it’s because Han was fundamentally only an archetype. He was an image to me, of something that I aspired to be, and nothing more. His death was part of the story and its placement in the narrative made perfect sense.
When Guardians of the Galaxy came out in 2014 I immediately fell in love with it. I felt the same wonder and awe that I felt with Star Wars, but there was something more. A connection to Peter Quill that I didn’t have with any character in Star Wars. On the surface, you can say why, because he had a Walk-Man? Why yes, even something that superficial can help an audience bond with a character. I’d say in this case, that the Walk-Man and the accompanying music were the glue that bound it all together.
I don’t know who my biological father was. My father, my Dad, whom passed away in February, married my Mom when I was 6 months old and adopted me some time later. I don’t think I was more than 2 or 3. I do know I remember going to the lawyer’s office on the day that, in hindsight, I determined he finalized the deal. It was a big office with a large bow window overlooking the city. A man in a suit, that my mind has morphed into former Syracuse mayor Lee Alexander, asked me who the man in the room with me was.
“My daddy,” I replied.
The man smile and said something to my father about me, they laughed and some papers were signed. I had no idea what they were for. I learned he adopted me when I turned 13. I rebelled against him and we had some trying times, much of it was my fault, we’ll leave it at that. As time went on, we appreciated one another more. At one point, the rebel in me imagined what my bio-dad would be like, much like Peter Quill did. I didn’t have a David Hasselhoff, my fantasy father was always different, sometimes an adventurer, sometimes a musician or writer. But as time has moved on, I’ve lost any desire to seek out my biological father, he’s someone I don’t care to ever know. Yes, I realize Episodes IV, V & VI of Star Wars deal with a child who lost their father, then found him. But Darth Vader was a dark villain, and I never saw my father or Dad in him, same as I didn’t feel a bond between myself and Han when Ben killed him.
Fast-forward to February 5th of 2017. Losing my Dad who was by my side nearly 50 years, that’s something different. This year has seen the worst thing that has ever happened to my family, the passing of Jack Clark. He was the glue that held us all together, the voice of reason in chaos. He was our leader, our back bone. He fought that godammed disease for 5 years until he couldn’t fight it anymore. Fucking prostate and bone cancer.
James Gunn couldn’t have known that my Dad would die in February, 3 months to the day before his movie would be released. He had no idea of knowing that a fan of his film would share similar character traits with his lead protagonist in an ensemble piece, I’m sure there’ plenty of peeps out there who don’t know the identity of one or more of their bio-parents. He couldn’t have known that his movie would bring forth such an emotional response from someone like me, or anyone for that matter. He made his art and he unleashed it on the world, the end result a whopper of a kick, right in the balls.
Every emotion I felt in February came back as Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2’s final act came to a close. At first it was silent, subtle, a tear in the corner of my eye. Then it grew into a full on cry as my mind found every correlation between the story’s themes and my life. I sniffled and snorted, tears swelled in my eyes. I’m sure the families to my left and right wondered why this middle aged man was blatting like a baby, but I didn’t care. Yondu’s Ravager funeral had as much impact on me as the pipes playing at my Dad’s service
Is Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 a good movie? You bet your sweet ass it is. It has all the charm and fun of their first adventure, with the added bonus of focusing on the characters and breathing more life into each of them, more so than any other Marvel property. No film has ever brought forth such an emotional response from me. Ever. Should you see it? Absolutely. Should I watch it again? I don’t know if I’m ready to, yet. At least not alone.
Earlier this year, Gunn said Yondu’s portrayal by Michael Rooker is Oscar-worthy. I’m going out on a limb here to say I’m down with that. But my opinion is soured by bias. Yondu became everything to me that Han Solo never could. He became an artistic representation of my Dad, Peter Quill’s adoptive father. Wait, he’s not Quill’s father, that’s right.
He’s his Daddy.