Is ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2’ OK for kids & teens?

May 5th, 2017 / By: Michael Foust / comments

Is ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2’ OK for kids & teens?

Peter Quill always wanted to be like the other boys on Earth—playing ball with his father in the backyard while laughing and enjoying a normal life.

But space pirates abducted him as a young boy, and ever since, he’s wondered about his origins. He remembers his mother, but who was his father?

Other people seem to know.

One particular space alien—the queen of the “Sovereign race”—believes he has “unorthodox genealogy” and is likely a hybrid, meaning that his father may not have been human.   

Quill initially rejects her suggestions, yet when a man with superhero powers shows up claiming to be his dad, Quill begins wondering. Could this be his father, and if so, what are his motives?

It’s all part of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (PG-13), which opens this weekend and follows Quill and his four motley band of superhero friends as they defend the universe from the bad guys and Quill solves his ancestry puzzle. 

Chris Pratt stars as Quill; Zoe Saldana as Gamora, a green alien orphan; Dave Bautista as Drax, a Hulk-like warrior; Bradley Cooper as the voice of Rocket, a genetically engineered raccoon; and Vin Diesel as the voice of Baby Groot, a tree-like humanoid. Sylvester Stalone and Kurt Russell also play key roles.

The movie is being released three years after the first Guardians of the Galaxy gained a large following among kids and teens while grossing $333 million to finish the year No. 3 at the box office. This year’s film carries partnerships with Dairy Queen, Geico, Ford and Go-Gurt—virtually guaranteeing that kids will know plenty about the film without even seeing it.

I typically enjoy superhero movies, and I really wanted to enjoy Guardians of the Galaxy 2. But, for the most part, it’s marred by crude jokes, sexual innuendo, put-downs and tons of coarse language (Not to mention lots of violence and disturbing images). It’s as if the writer picked the 20 jokes that made him laugh in junior high—the ones he couldn’t tell at home—and built a movie around them. That’s sad. And it also displays a lack of creativity.

So, what age is appropriate for this one? Let’s examine it in more detail.

Warning: spoilers!

The Good

Despite the rough spots, the film has two strong familial storylines. First, Quill does find his father, who tells him, “I can finally be the father I’ve always wanted to be.” (We see them play ball, with a “glow light,” together.) There’s an even stronger parenting storyline with Quill in the final few scenes. The second family-centric storyline involves Gamora and her estranged sister, who initially hate one another but eventually put their differences aside. It’s a nice forgiveness angle.

Guardians of the Galaxy 2 is at its best when it’s not in the gutter. Baby Groot is hilarious, and Drax—if he’s not making sex jokes—is, too.

The Bad

It’s difficult to know where to start.

Bodily/sexual jokes—implicit and explicit—clutter the film. Drax jokes about his “nether regions.” Quill says he would have won a space battle if “what’s between my legs had a hand.” There are multiple jokes that include crude references to the male anatomy (see details below). There’s one lengthy exchange about “turds.” A character who can sense emotions says Quill has “romantic sexual love” for Gamora—and Drax laughs wildly. One character urinates loudly in the forest, and we’re (I guess) supposed to laugh. And that’s just a sample.

There’s also an alien space bar scene where we see robotic prostitutes (and a man buckling his belt, post-encounter). Some of the female aliens are scantily dressed.

I counted about 40 instances of coarse language: a-- (10) d--n (9), he-- (5), s--t (4), OMG (2), dou---bag (2), d--k (2), misuse of “God” (1), SOB (1), p-ss (1). “Turd” also is said three times, and “penis” twice.

Rocket calls Quill “orphan boy.”

The violence is heavy for a superhero film aimed at children and teens. We see the superheroes battle a giant octopus and cut it open, with green blood oozing out. Later, people get shot in the face with darts. Rocket electrocutes about 20 people. A guy gets shot in the back of the head and falls over, dead. A villain is shoved into space, and we watch him die. A magical dart sails through the chests of dozens of men, killing them. Additionally, there are lots of fisticuffs and laser gun battles.

There’s also a scene where Baby Groot is bullied, kicked and dowsed with alcohol. Sure, he’s a superhero, but he’s also a baby. It made me uncomfortable. 

Spiritual Content

Not surprisingly, this one doesn’t have any Christian content in the strict sense. Still, it does deal with otherworldly matters (see Worldview, below).

Worldview (major spoilers!)

The God of the Bible isn’t God in this fictional universe, but we do learn of other god-like beings. A race of beings called the “Sovereign” have learned to make creatures without the act of sex. But the most significant worldview matter involves Quill’s father, a man named “Ego.”  Ego, we learn, doesn’t know where he came from and he has lived for millions of years.

Eventually, he created a planet—and he wants Quill to rule the universe with him. He’s a “god.” Quill has these god-like powers. “I’m immortal?” Quill asks.

It gets stranger. Ego tells us he is the planet and that his powers are the same as its power. Thus, Guardians of the Galaxy 2 gives us a blend of pantheism in a polytheistic universe.

The Verdict: Family-Friendly?

This film and franchise has so much promise, with a talking tree and a sarcastic, crime-fighting raccoon. A lighthearted superhero series was a great idea, simply because so many movies in the genre have turned too dark and too serious. It’s just too bad I can’t take my 9-year-old and 5-year-old kids to this one, though. So, what age is appropriate for this one? That is going to depend on a teen's maturity level. Some will be able to overlook the bad stuff, while others will walk out quoting every low-brow joke.

Discussion Questions

1. How did Peter Quill’s background impact his behavior? Is he to blame for his actions?

2. Why didn’t Gamora and her sister get along? Who initiated the reconciliation? Did it matter who initiated it?

3.  Mantis could read emotions; how can we do a better job of “reading” other people’s emotions?

4. One character says at the end, “He may have been your father, but he wasn’t your daddy.” Did you agree with that statement? Why?

5. Did you think the film was too violent? Do you think film violence leads to real-world violence?

6. Why is it biblically and logically wrong to believe in multiple gods?

7. What did you think of all the put-downs and barbs? What happens when similar things are said in real life?

Entertainment rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars. Family-friendly rating: 2 out of 5 stars.

Guardians of the Galaxy 2 is rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action and violence, language, and brief suggestive content.