Good superhero movies are hard to make with the market for them as oversaturated as it is. And for me, it is a bit harder as it’s hard keep them all straight, and now along with all the different universes, you have to watch a TV show to understand them. It feels like work at times rather than just plain fun to watch a film. But “GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY“ series has never felt that way for me from it’s first film to now it’s last with “GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL 3” attempts to do the one thing that most MCU trilogies have failed at: giving all of its characters a satisfying ending. While many of the plots are similar in all these films, here in it’s last outing, they threw a bit of a wrench into it all. So it’s not going to be a spoiler to say that director James Gunn made it a Rocket Raccoon – centric story.
The film finds the opening reintroducing the ensemble rebuilding their lives in a post-Thanos world, with team leader Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), in a dark place wallowing in drunken self-pity over losing girlfriend Gamora (Zoe Saldaña). Like the previous two Guardians films, it opens with a song. This time however, it’s not the usual uplifting song or classic rock song hit, but a very somber version of Radiohead’s Creep, that is set over a walking sequence of Rocket Racoon (Bradley Cooper), alone making his way throughout Knowhere. While the rest of the Guardians; Gamora’s step-sister, Nebula (Karen Gillan), single worded vocabulary tree-creature Groot (Vin Diesel), dimwitted but loveable Drax (Dave Bautista), and empath with the antennas, Mantis (Pom Klementieff), are all turning to a more connected type group while others, not so much.
Initially, everything seems to be going okay for the Guardians, all things considered. That is until Adam Warlock (Will Poulter), son of Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki), suddenly attacks Knowhere. If you remember as honestly I did not and someone had to tell me, but they had vowed revenge during one of several post-credits scenes in Volume 2. So Adam it seems, has been tasked to capture Rocket on the request of the man who tortured and made Rocket what he is today, the High Evolutionary (Chukwudi Iwuji). Rocket is injured so badly that he lapses into a coma and his Guardian friends can’t do anything to help him without the passcode required to access his heart. And herein lies the rest of the story – which to tell you would just spoil the whole film. I’m sure you can safely assume there will be fight scenes, galactic battles, jokes and possibly a bit of romance. But while there is a process to the story, the tone of it all at times also veers all over the place with scenes of true emotion to battle scenes, with the flip of a proverbial switch. One minute you’re seeing beautiful scenes of Rocket with his friends that will just truly get to you, the next minute the High Evolutionary is going a bit hammy, screaming off his rocker and it confuses the storyline at heart. There are also some really violent scenes that seem a little off-putting as some are genuinely traumatic and honestly kind of disturbing moments. There are the jokey one-liners you’re expecting as well, along with some really corny scenes. All these moments work in separately, but put together here in GOTG Vol. 3, it’s all a bit like an orchestra being led by a conductor who’s just rolled out of bed and needs his coffee I.V. before he can swing his wand correctly.
Needless to say it’s the animals who rule this film and along with Rocket there is a sweet one in Cosmo the Spacedog (Maria Bakalova), a telepathic Soviet canine who helps the Guardians. This is truly where the emotion kicks in and some scenes are even hard to watch as cruelty towards animals, even animated ones, are a hard watch and will even get the ‘heart of stone’ people in all the right places. Sylvester Stallone also returns though blink and you might miss him, as Stakar Ogord, who leads a team of Ravagers that includes Michael Rosenbaum as Martinex and Daniela Melchior as Ura. But they are very much side characters here.
As one would expect with the film revolving around him, the MVP must be Rocket, who is one of better developed characters in GOTG franchise to be sure. His sad backstory here is the core of this movie and it was a good choice. Pratt and Saldana are fun, but without their crazy romance chemistry, it just isn’t the same. It’s hard to pinpoint anyone here truly who does better than Bradley Cooper voicing Rocket as he gives him life here. The Adam Warlock character almost felt like a waste as he’s portrayed as a really strong character at the beginning, only to disappear to the sidelines for the whole movie, momentarily popping up here and there until the end. Sadly it seemed like Poulter ‘worked out’ for nothing, as he was just background noise. As well as villian playing Iwuji, who has strong moments, but also truly cheesy ones, leaving you trying to put your finger on if he is a really good at this villian role or not. But truly when Gunn is on form – as most notably, the truly breathtaking Beastie Boys-backed fight scene and Rocket rescuing the baby raccoons, the film works well, but there are too many moments that drag, often as a result of skewering in different directions and some comedy that doesn’t quite hit. But yet again, it’s the music that saves a movie and as per usual, the soundtrack is impecable. The music by John Murphy is epic and catchy, blending orchestral with classic rock songs that fit the tone and mood of each scene. But the icing on the cake was by far the change of soundtrack towards the end with Florence and the Machine, The update of music leading away from the usual seventies & eighties rock makes a moving scene all the more so. Kudos to that.
The film features plenty of action and explosions, but at times it feels like there are too many of them. The plot also has a few flaws, with some of the storylines feeling rushed or underdeveloped. However, there are also strengths with it – and yes, the surprisingly dark themes at times. Parents be warned here – this is not a movie for young children – honestly with some of the graphic scenery I would hesistate taking anyone under the age of thirteen hence the PG-13 rating. Still, sure, it was sweet.. and looked good… with cute characters…and it’s generally a success. Maybe tugs on the heartstrings a little too aggressively, but a lot of it works. I liked how they handled all the characters, besides what has been pointed out. The storyline is otherwise sound and it’s a pretty good end to what’s been a nice trilogy.
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Review Screening: Courtesy of Disney/Marvel Studios
“GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL 3” FROM DISNEY PICTURES/MARVEL STUDIOS IS OUT IN THEATERS FRIDAY, MAY 5, 2023