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The following contains mild spoilers for James Gunn's Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. I won't ruin the movie for you, but there are a few things I think you'll want to know before your kids see the latest Marvel movie.
A distinction was made back when the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie was released. If the Avengers are The Beatles, then the Guardians are the Rolling Stones. Meaning, the corner of the Marvel Cinematic Universe that contains the likes of Captain America and Iron Man is a tad bit squeaky clean and mainstream, while the rough-and-tumble Guardians were going to maintain an edge. It's why, when Tony Stark kicks off The Avengers: Age of Ultron by shouting "Shit," Cap has to follow up with, "Language..."
Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) would have a heart attack while on a mission with the Guardians of the Galaxy... a confrontation we'll soon see in next summer's The Avengers: Infinity War. The Guardians swear. A bunch. Shit, ass and son of a bitch are thrown around casually -- more than is the norm in a Marvel Studios movie. The Guardians, particularly the surly Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper), like to call people "douchebag," and when group leader Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) gets mad at the adorable Trash Panda he calls a teammate, he mutters "Dick" under his breath.
Big deal? That totally depends. Any time that I write a column letting parents know whether a new movie is appropriate for their kids, I get all kinds of replies, ranging from "Thanks for the warning!" to "My kid watches R-rated movies and it totally fine, grow up." And both responses are fair. You choose how to parent. All I can do is talk about the movie I watched.
But because this is a Marvel movie, and most of the MCU films fall in line with what kids want to see, I know some parents out there will be wondering about Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. And I can tell you that if they watched the original movie, this one is more of the same. That scruffy, cynical edge still surrounds the team, and the Guardians -- most notably Rocket -- speak with the gentle touch of sailors on shore leave. In addition to the gaggle of swear words (and really, it's not a TON, just more than what you might get in something like Doctor Strange or Ant-Man), the Guardians talk about Drax's famously large turds and sensitive nipples, or debate whether a new main character, Ego the Living Planet (Kurt Russell), has a penis. How else would he impregnate Star-Lord's mom, so many moons ago?
James Gunn's Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is a character-driven superhero movie, and as such, there's a lot more conversation than there is action. There are two developments, however, that are presented in such a fashion that they brought me pause. They're mature, by Marvel Studios standards, as if the company forgot -- albeit temporarily -- that kids may be in the theaters. One involves Yondu (Michael Rooker), Quill's surrogate father and a leader in the Ravagers band who -- during a prison break -- uses his flying arrow to kill a lot of Ravagers who had performed a mutiny against him. It's a LONG scene, most of which takes place in slow motion, and while the kills aren't gory or brutal, the sequence stretches on long enough to realize you are witnessing a mass slaughter set to a catchy pop tune. It's kind of unnerving.
The second -- and here's where we get into spoiler territory again -- involves the true motivations of Ego (Kurt Russell). I'll try to tell you this without totally blowing it, but there will come a moment when the Guardians will stumble on a mass grave, filled with skulls and bones, and Ego will have to reveal where they came from. The explanation is fast, and actually a little confusing, but the sight of all of those bones could freak little ones out.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is rated PG-13, and it's on the "closer to R than it is to PG" side of that spectrum. My oldest son, P.J., is 13, and he has seen every Marvel movie up to this point. He loved it, laughed his ass off at Drax's turds, and says he liked this one more than the original movie. I'm sure most kids 12 and up will connect with the edgier Guardians more than they did other MCU heroes. Sometimes, bad is good. But I'm hesitating taking my 9-year-old son to the sequel, and other parents reading this might want to hold off -- or go see if yourself first -- and judge what's appropriate before you take any age kid to this Marvel sequel.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is in theaters now. If you have a question about it specifically, drop it in the comments, or hit me up at [email protected]. As the resident parent on staff, I'll do what I can to try and help you figure out if James Gunn's action-comedy is a good fit for your family. Excelsior!