Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3 arrives in cinemas on Wednesday, May 3rd.
The Guardians of the Galaxy movies have easily been some of the biggest highlights of the Marvel Cinematic Universe due to their humour, playfulness and genuine interest in the characters. Now the Guardians are back for one last hurrah in Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3, and while it may lean a bit too heavily on its comedic crutch, it’s a send-off packed with action, laughter and emotion.
Set some time after Avengers: Endgame; the Guardians have established a base on the planet Knowhere. Here their leader, Quill (Chris Pratt), is depressed following the death of Gamora (Zoe Saldana), especially since the newest version of Gamora from the past does not share the romantic feelings the pair once had. However, he and the rest of the Guardians put their individual concerns on hold when Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper) is severely injured in a fight. As they set out to save their furry friend, the Guardians face Rocket’s tumultuous past and a narcissistic maniac known as the High Evolutionary (Chukwudi Iwuji).
One of the best things about these films has always been the dynamic of the Guardians and how well-tuned each film is to the journey of each crew member. Whereas The Avengers, as impressive as they are, felt like a brand for a colossal, forever-changing team, the Guardians always felt like a dysfunctional but loving family. Volume 3 sees Rocket take centre stage as we learn of the horrific experiments that turned him into what he is now. Each crew member has a role to play in helping Rocket confront his past while developing their narrative arc.
This familial feel is critical to understanding one of the film’s themes – the beauty of imperfection. The Guardians are all, in many ways, broken individuals. Yet they complement each other’s faults and bring out the best in one another, whether through comedic jabs or earnest teamwork when facing a threat. Therefore, it makes sense that the antagonist this time around is a diabolical perfectionist with a god complex, tearing others apart under the guise of “fixing” them. There are different stakes for not just the galaxy but for the Guardians personally. Here the fact that Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3 does not feel the need to tie into the other numerous sub-franchises of the MCU makes its themes all the stronger and its emotions all the more authentic. The moments detailing Rocket’s backstory are some of the most soul-destroying of any MCU film.
Visually this film is stunning. Admittedly, there are a few moments where the special effects are a little unconvincing, and the constantly shifting aspect ratios when watching in IMAX were distracting. Otherwise, the production design is immersive in its spectacle. Locations include a space station that is seemingly its own organic entity and a counter-Earth with anthropomorphic animals rather than humans as its inhabitants. Each embraces the dizzy colours that have imbued this franchise with such personality, embracing the weirdness of the film’s look and using it to make the eventual action all the more dazzling and the dark drama at the heart of its story all the bleaker by comparison. It is a film that flourishes under James Gunn’s unique direction.
While comedy has always been one of this trilogy’s strongest assets, especially in a mega-franchise with more quips than superheroes, the humour is a little more hit-and-miss this time. There are some solid portions of comedy, including the continuing battle between Drax (Dave Bautista) and metaphors. But some humour, such as arguing and insult trading, feel too much, especially considering their close friend’s life is on the line. It never goes so far as to undermine the themes or agency of the narrative, but it may be too much for weary fans who are now finding the excess reliance on humour a bit tedious.
Thankfully this weakness doesn’t distract from the legendary charisma of the Guardians that made every film, including this one, a delight. The actors fully embrace their roles, from Bautista and Karen Gillan’s irritated bluntness to Pratt’s suave and Pom Klementieff’s perpetual confusion. Cooper and Bautista may stand out, but this is an ensemble effort if ever there was one. Gunn really knows how to bring out the magic in this group of actors, and their charm and love of the material bring this movie home.
Had Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3 kicked off Phase Five over the latest Ant-Man movie, audiences might collectively feel more optimistic about the MCU’s future. While far from perfect, Gunn’s movie is a funny, visually immersive and genuinely heartfelt blockbuster with great characters and surprisingly compelling themes. It is a fun and poignant send-off for the MCU’s most consistent trilogy, and whatever happens next in the MCU, it has been a pleasure to watch the antics of this joyful intergalactic band of misfits.
SHAZAM! FURY OF THE GODS
Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3 | 2hr 30min | United States | 2023
While not perfect, Gunn’s movie is a funny, visually immersive and genuinely heartfelt blockbuster with great characters and surprisingly compelling themes. It is a fun and poignant send-off for the MCU’s most consistent trilogy.