In the third entry of the wildly successful Marvel franchise starring Chris Pratt, Dave Bautista, and Zoe Saldana, the interplanetary crew is back.
Superheroes in movies have recently been experiencing some difficulties. In their most recent escapades, Shazam and Ant-Man have already shown themselves to be a little lost. It is therefore a relief to report that Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, the third installment in the trilogy, succeeds in achieving what it sets out to do: provide an emotionally compelling and audience-pleasing conclusion for a franchise that has established itself as one of Marvel’s biggest and most unlikely success stories, at least until the next group of Guardians is introduced.
This version, which debuts six years after the previous one (a long time in superhero years), starts out unexpectedly. We watch a drunk Quill (Chris Pratt), apparently still grieving the loss of his lover Gamora (Zoe Saldana), pass out as we hear an acoustic rendition of Radiohead’s “Creep.” It makes you wonder if this will more closely resemble a gripping addiction drama than an interstellar adventure story.
Quill and Gamora are reconciled shortly after that. Naturally, she is a different Gamora from the one he fell in love with because Thanos killed her in one of those Avengers movies. Quill is not particularly cheered up by the fact that the new, younger Gamora has little need for him as he vainly attempts, like a melancholy high school kid, to remind her of what they previously had.
However, the Guardians must unite to save their beloved Rocket (Bradley Cooper), who is on the verge of death, so he doesn’t have much time for whining. This triggers flashbacks that reveal the fan-favorite raccoon’s past and his connection to the movie’s antagonist, the High Evolutionary (Chukwudi Iwuji, who expertly uses his training in Shakespearean acting to great effect), who seeks to establish a new, highly developed master species. He doesn’t truly believe he is evil; rather, he believes he is misunderstood, like other Marvel villains.
The picture truly swings for the fences in its attempts to blend sadness, irreverent comedy, and tons of action into its ambitious mix. Rocket’s narrative also has a number of other beautiful animal characters who should make toy producers happy. Writer-director James Gunn, whose firing following Vol. 2 due to some contentious tweets, followed by rehiring due in large part to the campaigning of the devoted cast members, would make a compelling drama in itself, struggles to tie all these threads together into a cohesive whole. Additionally, the plot is far too complicated, with so many events occurring at various points in time and places that repeated viewings are practically required to keep everything straight (not that Disney has an issue with that). Rest assured that there are so many cameo appearances from previous and supporting characters because the movie aims to wrap up the trilogy that filming must have felt like a high school reunion.
The core ensemble, who have grown naturally into their roles, is what makes this edition successful in large part, just like the others. Particularly between the mind-controlling Mantis (Pom Klementieff) and the gigantic dunce Drax (Dave Bautista), who seem like extraterrestrial equivalents of Laurel and Hardy, their banter is frequently amusing. While Vin Diesel‘s Groot has grown into a much larger tree and Karen Gillan‘s Nebula is sharper than ever, his vocabulary hasn’t really expanded much. Kraglin, who is still present, is portrayed by Sean Gunn, the brother of the filmmaker.
Adam Warlock, the manufactured creature designed to kill the Guardians, is one among the many adversaries present. He obviously has parent-issues with the evil Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki, who appears even more stunning in gold face paint), who is one of the antagonists. Although Will Poulter plays the part with a pleasing blend of physical menace and baby-like confusion, he ultimately falls short of leaving a lasting impression.
The world-building in this part, which includes the Counter-Earth, which resembles a 1950s suburb populated by strange humanoid beings that Rod Serling would have approved of, really ups the ante in terms of practical and make-up effects. When Quill and his fellow Guardians arrive there, it leads to some of the most bizarre scenes in any Marvel movie as well as some hilarious throwaway jokes, such as one in which Quill utters the first “Fuck” heard in the MCU as a result of Nebula’s inability to open a car door. (But only one; you don’t want to jeopardize that priceless PG-13 rating).
It’s just one of many humorous moments that have come to characterize the Guardians series, some of which are so incredibly dumb that you find yourself giggling along with a child. The absurd dialogue between the Guardians about which buttons to click on their spacesuits to properly communicate with one another has me still in stitches. Quill’s ignorance caused everyone to hear his pitiful attempt to win back Gamora. Don’t you detest it when it occurs?
Another highlight is the film’s crazily inventive aesthetics; at moments, it seems like director James Gunn is striving to make a midnight cult classic rather than a superhero blockbuster. Here, his distinctly anarchic approach is on full show, leaving you to wonder how he’ll temper it when he tackles legendary figures like Superman who are less amenable to irreverent comedy.
The action scenes are also breathtaking, notably the epic fight that serves as the film’s climax, which is underscored by the rousing Beastie Boys song “No Sleep Till Brooklyn,” a prime example of the director’s incredible ability to curate amazing playlists. This one is no exception, departing from the nostalgic ’70s-era soundtracks of the first two parts to include music spanning multiple decades, including performances by Alice Cooper, Spacehog, The Flaming Lips, The The, and The Replacements. It seems sense that the Guardians enjoy dancing.