Friday, May 26, 2023

Review: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is the second sequel to the original film from 2014. It’s based on the 2008 comic book of the same name but not to be confused with the 1969 comic of the same name though it does share some characters.

This movie has been a long time coming, as it should have come out some time ago, striking while the iron from Avengers: Endgame was still hot. The short version as to why it took so long stems from the public firing and re-hiring of writer/director James Gunn. I plan on writing a blog about the DC Comics movie woes and wins very soon and I imagine I’ll go into greater details then, but to keep this blog as short as possible, Gunn was fired when tweets from a decade prior resurfaced of him making many terrible, offensive, and tasteless jokes leading to a backlash from some fans but apparently mostly far-right conservatives and Russian bots (this all happened after months of Gunn publicly shaming then-president Donald Trump, but I’m sure that’s a coincidence). Gunn was then nearly immediately hired by Warner Bros. to direct The Suicide Squad. Around that time Disney, now dealing with a much larger and less bot driven backlash from fans and actors about their knee jerk decision, offered him his job back which he accepted but as he agreed to do Suicide Squad that had to come first. This fiasco directly led to Gunn becoming the one of heads of DC’s film studio, but we’ll talk on that more another day. Add the COVID-19 shutdown into to equation and today’s movie is many years later than it should have been.

[Also note that Gunn also directed a TV/streaming Holiday Special starring the cast which acts as a brief prologue to this move but luckily it’s not that crucial if you want to skip.]

With Gunn already waist deep in building out the next phase of a competing studio, this movie is, and frankly always was going to be, the final GotG film with him in charge and possibly at all, as several actors have mentioned that they plan on this being their final performance. But with all the waiting for this final chapter the question remains: is it any good, or were all the Zack Snyder fans on Twitter correct when they said everything he does is “mid.”

Full review after the jump.

Jesus, even the poster is making me tear up...

Right off the bat, I can tell you that this flick feels like a return to form. James Gunn has mastered writing these characters and directing these actors and it shows. While other creatives did more or less okay with them in the intervening years since Vol. 2, this is the first time they actually seem like either themselves or a natural progression since the last time we saw them (the Holiday Special notwithstanding). And, much like the last two films, the movie expertly mixes comedy and action with the heart tugging undertone. In fact, Vol. 3 is easily the most emotionally brutal of the entire trilogy and maybe of all the MCU…well, maybe not Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (and even then, that’s only because of the real world tragedy aspect). The fact that this director is capable of delivering both hysterical comedy and brutal heartache in one film and have nether seem out of place is a testament to his ability. If you have a shred of decency in your heart, this movie may make you at least a little misty. I cried like a baby basically the whole time.

Circling back to the characters, while there aren’t a ton of examples to compare it to it must be said that this is the best ensemble in the superhero movie genre and they’ve only gotten better. Nearly every main character has something interesting to do and a shocking number of them have arcs, some finishing arcs that began back in her original flick. Hell, even Kraglin completes a journey in this movie. Obviously the focus is on Rocket, whose origin is finally revealed in painful detail, but characters like Pom Klementieff scene stealing turn as Mantis and Zoe Saldaña seemingly having a fun time playing a very different version of Gamora, really show the careful balance the filmmakers manage while dealing with such a large cast. Special shout-out to Star-Lord though, as I was pleased to see that the character feels “fixed” (for lack of a better term) from his past appearances. In the first film he felt like a man suffering greatly from unresolved trauma and arrested development but even as early as Vol. 2 he felt like he was more of a bumbling man-child than anything else (culminating in his infuriating portrayal in Avengers: Infinity War). But here, Peter Quill, despite still being overconfident and famously reckless, feels less like a character with the correct amount of being skilled and incompetent (Like 70/30) that makes him funny but not an idiot. I’m not his biggest fan by any stretch of the imagination, but Chris Pratt does a fine job of pulling it off without it feeling forced. In fact, I think this is his best performance as Peter Quill yet. Bully for him.

Hey, they're finally wearing the thing! Only took 9 years!

We have to mention Chukwudi Iwuji’s High Evolutionary, a villain I never expected to see on the big screen. The High Evolutionary is easily one of the best villains the MCU has every produced and has a very good argument for being the most evil (Thanos is kind of like a misguided Captain America compered to this guy). Cruel, charismatic, a bit of scenery chewing, and a character that you are really rooting for to get killed is a recipe for memorable antagonist and Iwuji plays it perfectly. Kang the Conquer in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania and Namor in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever are both top tier villains that Marvel has produced recently, and yet I think the High Evolutionary might just be a step above. Obviously Bradley Cooper is great as the voice of Rocket (and the special effects team did a phenomenal job with motional wight on the character model had to convey) though it’s weird that someone so instrumental to one of the most beloved character in the MCU never does press or even really talk about him all that much. Does Cooper hate Marvel in the same way that Harrison Ford clearly hates Star Wars and is just waiting for the right people to die so he can finally move on with his life?

The story is great as, even though the stakes are lower as the galaxy is not in danger this time, the personal focus of the plot allows for better character moments as everyone in the main cast (well, maybe not Gamora) has skin in the game. They’re trying to save their close friend and therefore we see them at both their lowest and most heroic/selfless; a fitting way to end a franchise. Plus the flashbacks of Rocket’s origin spliced in is both heartbreaking and hard to watch with how dark things get. Possibly the darkest film Marvel has put out (Black Widow being number two, I imagine).

There’s great action sequences, has well visualized worlds, the pacing is great, and, as is tradition for a GotG flick, the soundtrack is stellar. The biggest problem with this movie is probably that with so many characters to track someone was bound to fall through the cracks. Groot is around for the whole movie but somehow still feels like’s he’s barely there. And while looking at it objectively I can see why they don’t use her more, but in my heart, I wanted to see more Cosmo. I mean, after two movies of cameos it feels like an extremely long time coming.

Kick that son of a bitch!

There’s nothing about this movie that rubbed me the wrong way, but I do wish there was more explanation of the Guardians current status quo, as they now own the mining colony Knowhere from the first firm with no explanation (there’s a throwaway line in the Christmas Special which indicates they bought it from the Collector) or why their all wearing these new, comic accurate uniforms (are they Ravager uniforms?). It’s not a big deal whatsoever, but it caught my attention.

What might be harder for some people is how necessary watching the two most recent Avenger movies are to getting the whole story (as well as characterization for Rocket and Nebula) for this film, which is a lot of time investment. Also, the darker imagery and themes, especially the animal cruelty, might be too much for a lot of folks.

This movie was awesome. There has been a lot of talk about “superhero fatigue” and “Marvel fatigue” on the internet lately, especially since immediately prior to this film’s release there were two bombs in the category, but this flick is easily the best example of the genre in the last few years. If they never make another one of these I would still feel satisfied with them going out like this. But, you know, I wouldn’t mind seeing more adventures with a team using the name, just to see what it’d be like with Gunn.

[Insert 1970s pop song about "saying goodbye" here]

I give Guardians of the Galaxy Vo.3 5 out of 5 Adorable Pandas.


-Great script, characters, story, acting, etc.

-Well made action scenes and CGI

-Genuinely heartbreaking and heartwarming

-Great use of soundtrack (as always)


-Some characters don’t get as much time to shine

-You have to watch four movies to get full enjoyment out of this one

-Might be too dark for some audience members

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