This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
JayQ’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
Two additional thoughts on Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 following my previous review.
Mantis: It's beautiful.
Drax: It is. And so are you. . .on the inside.
During my second screening of the film, the above line elicited laughter from the audience, which surprised me as I read it's intention a completely different way when I first saw the film. For me, Drax is, whether allegorically or diegetically, an autistic character; Gunn doubles down on that representation within this sequel by pairing Drax with Mantis. Neither character is capable of processing social cues effectively; Mantis only mimics others' emotions, while Drax is either bluntly literal or inappropriate in his reactions. Various scenes in the film revolve around the complementary demeanor of the two, sweetly endearing them to each other and the audience. An especially poignant beat, is when Mantis breaks into tears after using her empath abilities to sense Drax's internal torment over the loss of his family, externalizing what Drax, himself, is unable to express. Serving as the culmination of the characters' arc in the film, the above line is incredibly impactful as a reflection of the film's thematics. Here are two individuals who have difficulty interacting with others, yet they have found companionship in each other. Drax's recognition of Mantis' shared internal understanding is a profound progression for the character.
My life, my lover, my lady is the sea
Ego may be adapted from the Marvel Comics source material, but James Gunn capitalizes on the plural meaning of his name to make a statement about patriarchy. Starlord's conflict with his father revolves around the latter attempting to persuade or lure the former to a paradigm of superiority; Ego wants the galaxy to be him. Importantly, these characters are two white, human males. 'The Expansion' is a way of letting the male agenda dominant and organize the galaxy (think of the way Russell bites into "What a good wife she would be"). Nebula and Gamora's psychological damage at the hands of an abusive father (Thanos) acts as a complement to the same thematic idea. Ultimately, Starlord refuses the egotistically driven plans of his father, refusing to find anything wrong with being equal to everyone else.