Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is shaping up to be much more polarizing than its predecessor. Vulture’s own David Edelstein called it an exercise in “Marvel bloat,” and while many other critics have been slightly more positive, most agree the second installment doesn’t quite measure up to the high bar set by the original. However, the sequel does have one substantial and unimpeachable upgrade on its predecessor: Vol. 2 has Elizabeth Debicki, and Vol. 1 did not.
A new member of the MCU repertory company, the Australian actress plays Ayesha, the High Priestess of the Sovereign, a hysterically humorless race of pod-produced pseudo-people who are genetically perfect and gilded from head to toe. And who better to play the queen of an elite race of cold, incredibly powerful, gold-colored super-humanoids than Debicki, who’s brought an otherworldly glamour to projects like The Night Manager and The Man From U.N.C.L.E.?
Flat-footed, the actress is roughly six-foot-three, taller than any Avenger or Guardian besides Chris Hemsworth — she literally looks down on all of our heroes. When we first meet her, she’s seated on a golden throne, shrouded in a rigid, golden-armored dress. Her shoulders and clavicles look like they were shaped in Hephaestus’s forge. Her severely pursed lips ooze disdain, while her golden eyes remain open impossibly wide — she’s so detached it’s chilling.
When Ayesha finally stands to address our heroes, I raised a hand to my chest to clutch invisible pearls. If Star Lord and company had exited the movie right there, I would have been content to spend the entire two hours watching Debicki’s six-foot golden monolith wither lesser beings with her unblinking stare. After the loss of Lee Pace’s fabulously mannered performance in the first Guardians movie, it made my camp-loving heart grow three sizes when Debicki’s head bitch in charge appeared onscreen. A franchise that’s full of nudges and winks needs a flamboyant foil.
It’s true that the second Guardians breaks more of a sweat to make you love it than the first one did, but my only real complaint is that Debicki acts as an ancillary antagonist instead getting to consume the screen as the movie’s big bad. Fortunately — spoiler warning — Ayesha lives to terrorize our pesky heroes another day, and one of Guardians of the Galaxy 2’s post-credits scenes hints she’ll play a pivotal role in a future Marvel film. The great thing about the MCU is that if you love a character, chances are you’ll see them again and again and again, but I already know that however many movies we get out of golden goddess Elizabeth Debicki, it will still never be enough.