But that handling is by-the-by when you consider it’s all groundwork for Yondu’s death. If we're talking about doing right by the character, this is the moment that needs to be done well. And... it sort of works.
As already mentioned, main character death is something incredibly rare in the MCU; the only other noteworthy case is Quicksilver in Age of Ultron, who in retrospect was only introduced so he could. This has become a sticking point for Marvel, especially given their long stream of death fake-outs (Loki alone has died and come back in the same movie twice) depleting a lot of tension. This automatically puts Guardians 2 on the backfoot as Gunn needs to work against the inbuilt cynicism about how it’ll probably be undone.
With that in mind, Yondu is the perfect person to kill in so far as you instantly buy and feel it. He’s been made an essential character in Vol. 2 yet in the scope of the MCU is rather insignificant – had he made it to Infinity War, Rooker would have barely cracked the Top 25 on the cast list. He can die in a fitting, permanent way without it hurting the status quo too much (which is why so many characters continue to live). And if you want to get pithy, it avoids too much inherent nepotism.
It is a shame that the death is delivered in such a recognizable way without comment on that fact – a character flying into space and sacrificing themselves in the vacuum to give another person life-support was already played in the first film with Star-Lord and Gamora (and involved Yondu as the savior). Yes, it’s cool to see Guardians unique space-freezing again, but there’s a tinge of familiarity that’s never fully brought full circle.
That said, where it does succeed in rounding off that rushed father figure development. In general, the arc is a bit smudged, yet in having it end so resolutely the speed of it is a bit more excusable; Yondu, like the audience, doesn't fully see what Peter means to him (and vice versa) until a planet is literally coming down around them.
Of course, the MCU works best on a bigger scale where inconsistencies and plot holes become insignificant, and it’s perhaps in this area where Yondu’s handling in Guardians 2 is at its best. Like how his cremation creates a symbolic rainbow arrow that fires off into the cosmos, so too will his legacy be far reaching.
For starters, he's used as a way to introduce his fellow comic founding Guardians members to the fold as part of the wider Ravager family. In the movie Stakar's arc is rather simple - he decrees no one will remember Yondu only to have heart win out and double back on his word - but it's effective given the character's screentime. His post-credit scene alongside Charlie-27, Mainframe and co. goes further, taking what could have been a very obscure reference and making it into a key piece of future setup - they're reforming in Yondu's memory. James Gunn's been keen to make clear we haven't seen the last of Stallone, so hopefully this will become its own Expendables-esque segment of the MCU. There's also a strong meta element in how Yondu could easily have been dismissed by fans only to emerge the emotional core of the sequel.
In a more direct sense, Yondu still has a presence in the Guardians through Kraglin. Sean Gunn's character is one of the few Ravagers to remain loyal throughout, so thus he inherits Yondu's arrow and, if his mid-credit scene is anything to go by, place as a member of the frickin' Guardians of the Galaxy. We'll see in Infinity War how integrated he becomes, but it was a nice surprise given how little focus has been put on Gunn in the movie's build-up.
Like the film itself, the handling of Yondu in Guardians Vol. 2 is a little scrappy, with certain threads inferred rather than actually explored. However, when all's said and done, Michael Rooker's blue Ravager is ultimately one of the characters imbued with the most depth and provides the MCU with one of its more impactful deaths. Could it have been done better? Sure. But when you consider Rooker and Gunn made a forgotten E-list comic character from the 1960s the core of a 2017 blockbuster, let's not complain too much.
- Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017) release date: Jul 07, 2017
- Thor: Ragnarok (2017) release date: Nov 03, 2017
- Black Panther (2018) release date: Feb 16, 2018
- Avengers: Infinity War / The Avengers 3 (2018) release date: Apr 27, 2018
- Ant-Man & The Wasp (2018) release date: Jul 06, 2018
- Captain Marvel (2019) release date: Mar 08, 2019
- The Avengers 4 / Avengers: Endgame (2019) release date: Apr 26, 2019