Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is receiving well-deserved praise, and a big reason why is that it preserves the first film’s sense of humor. A big love for the 1980s lies at the film’s heart, and that extends to arcade classics — leading to a cameo from a gaming mascot whose last film appearance we’d much rather forget.
[Warning: Spoilers for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 are ahead.]
During Guardians’ climactic battle, Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) — a.k.a. Star Lord — goes at it with his dad, the celestial being Ego. Turns out that being part-god comes with some cool powers, and Quill puts them to good use during the fight. Chief among that souped-up arsenal is shapeshifting. Partway during the battle, for the briefest of moments, Quill changes his form to resemble one of his biggest heroes growing up.
As a grown-up ’80s kid suffering from some arrested development, Quill’s hero just so happens to be Pac-Man. Namco’s beloved ghost hunter gets to take a crack at the bad guy for just long enough so that viewers can get a good laugh at the nod.
Pac-Man actually gets a shout-out earlier in the film, when Quill tells his dad of his dream to plant a statue to the walking yellow pie graph in space. For Pac-Man to reappear during one of the most important scenes is what we call a quality callback.
It’s also a redemption of sorts for Pac-Man, who last was featured in a much more forgettable film: Pixels. The 2015 Adam Sandler comedy co-starred Pac-Man, Q*Bert, the Duck Hunt dog and a bunch of other classic gaming characters. As an Adam Sandler joint, it was unsurprisingly reviled — tarnishing Pac-Man’s Hollywood rep.
Thankfully, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2’s reverence for all things ’80s paid off to give one of gaming’s most recognizable faces the big-screen showing he deserves. The film’s in theaters now.