Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 review

Director: James Gunn
Cast : Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldaña, Dave Bautista, Karen Gillan, Pom Klementieff, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Will Poulter, Sean Gunn, Chukwudi Iwuji, Maria Bakalova, Sylvester Stallone, Elizabeth Debicki, Nico Santos
Genre: Sci-fi/action/adventure
Run Time : 150 min
Opens : 4 May
Rating : PG13

It seems like a long time ago that anything associated with the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) could have an underdog quality – nine years ago, to be exact. That was when the first Guardians of the Galaxy (GotG) movie was about to be released and some predicted it might be a failure. Two very successful movies and a holiday special later, writer-director James Gunn and company close out the trilogy with one last ride.

Peter Quill/Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) is on a downswing after the death of Gamora (Zoe Saldaña) and the appearance of a version of Gamora from before she had met him, having lost the romantic relationship the pair had shared. Quill is the leader of the Guardians of the Galaxy, comprising Drax (Dave Bautista), Nebula (Karen Gillan), Mantis (Pom Klementieff), Groot (Vin Diesel), Rocket, Kraglin (Sean Gunn) and Cosmo (Maria Bakalova). Adam Warlock (Will Poulter), a powerful being created by Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki) the Sovereign following the events of the previous GotG film, attacks the Guardians’ home base of Knowhere. He has been sent by the High Evolutionary (Chukwudi Iwuji), who created the Sovereign, in pursuit of Rocket. Rocket has refused to reveal his past, including his painful connection to the High Evolutionary, which finally surfaces. The Guardians must protect Rocket from the High Evolutionary, whose ruthlessness and power threaten the galaxy.

The Guardians of the Galaxy movies have generally demonstrated a good balance of rebelliousness, silliness, imagination, and heart. That’s mostly intact in Vol. 3. Gunn smartly focuses the story on Rocket, and him being the dramatic linchpin works. There are performances from Rocket and other computer-generated animals that are lovingly crafted and genuinely moving. If you’re particularly sensitive to animal cruelty, this will be a tough watch. Parts of the movie are dark, and parts of it are kind of gross, but it’s all in keeping with Gunn’s sensibilities. The sci-fi world-building continues to be wild and woolly, with the Orgoscope, a flesh-covered high-tech laboratory facility and Counter-Earth, a facsimile of earth populated by sentient humanoid animal creatures, being the two main settings. While computer-generated visual effects are obviously very present, there is more of the sense of the action taking place on elaborate sets as the compared to the ‘infinity green screen’ feeling of some other MCU movies.

While the throughline of Rocket’s backstory and the connection between Rocket and the film’s main villain serves as a strong narrative backbone, there is a lot in this movie that kind of feels piled onto the plate. There’s a lot going on in the movie, such that additional characters feel like they’re competing for screentime.

Adam Warlock, whose appearance was teased in the mid-credits scene of GotG Vol. 2, winds up being little more than a plot device in this movie, despite the best efforts of actor Will Poulter. The GotG movies have generally been good at giving everyone a chance to shine, but with the team now including Cosmo (Maria Bakalova) and Kraglin, there’s the sense that some characters have been given stuff to do just for the sake of it. Also, so much of the dialogue consists of the characters yelling at each other, which is funny in controlled doses, but seems excessive here, especially since this is the third movie and everyone being so aggro feels like a regression.

While there might be just a bit too much of everyone calling everyone else a “dumbass”, the characters remain largely likeable and the canny casting of the first movie continues to pay off. The interplay between Mantis and Drax is especially endearing, carrying over from their unlikely team-up in the holiday special made for Disney+.

The best performance might be Linda Cardellini’s warm, tender voice acting turn as Lylla the otter, one of Rocket’s compatriots.

Chukwudi Iwuji portrays a villain who thinks of himself as a rational intellectual but is prone to throwing tantrums. The High Evolutionary is not among the topmost tier of MCU villains, but the cruelty he practices in the guise of progress adds a chilling edge to what is mostly a standard mad scientist supervillain character.

Summary: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is an emotional send-off to the MCU’s team of space-faring misfits – or to this incarnation of the team, at least. The movie’s emotional throughline is Rocket Raccoon’s heart-rending backstory, and you might find yourself tearing up over CGI animals. Unfortunately, the movie is laden with lots of characters and while the performers are mostly likeable, everyone yelling and being at each other’s throats all the time gets old fast. It’s not the strongest note to end the trilogy on, but enough of it is satisfying, James Gunn’s stamp is undeniable, and its weird mix of heart and surprisingly dark elements winds up working more than it doesn’t.

RATING: 3.5 out of 5 Stars

Jedd Jong


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