Posted in 2020-2029, Film Review

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (2023)

© Marvel Studios

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 – Film Review

Cast: Chris Pratt, Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldaña, Dave Bautista, Karen Gillan, Pom Klementieff, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Sean Gunn, Chukwudi Iwuji, Will Poulter, Elizabeth Debicki, Maria Bakalova, Sylvester Stallone

Director: James Gunn

Synopsis: The Guardians of the Galaxy are put in a perilous predicament when their base, and one of their own, comes under attack…

Review: It seemed unthinkable back in 2014 that a film based on a very obscure comic which featured a sentient racoon and a talking tree could have been such a runaway success and brought a new dimension to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Aided by a banging soundtrack, perfectly well-drawn characters, who developed a strong sense of camaraderie, along with humour and heart, this is precisely what James Gunn brought to the table when the first Guardians of the Galaxy film blasted its way into cinemas. A sequel was inevitable, which had its moments but fell short of lifting up to the lofty heights set by its predecessor. Following on from their team-up with Earth’s mightiest heroes, a holiday special, and amid a rocky road to the big screen following the initial firing, and subsequent rehiring of Gunn, everyone’s favourite team of rag-tag team lovable outlaws-turned-heroes are back for one last emotional adventure.

The Guardians, Star-Lord (Pratt), Drax (Bautista), Nebula (Gillan), Mantis (Klementieff), Rocket (Cooper) and Groot (Diesel),  have established their base on Knowhere and are enjoying a rare moment of peace after their years of saving the galaxy from an assortment of creatures, from a living planet to the Mad Titan Thanos. Star-Lord (Pratt), in particular, is still reeling from the loss of his lover Gamora after Thanos sacrificed her and is spending a lot of his time drowning his sorrows. Their brief respite from galaxy-saving is halted when their base comes under attack from a terrifying new threat, putting the lives of specific members in immediate peril. Forced to regroup and assess the new threat they face, the Guardians set out on a deeply personal quest (which sees them cross paths with alternate-timeline Gamora)  to find out who is targetting them and neutralise them before they bring about the ending of the team as we know it.

Right from the moment we first met them as an out-of-sorts bunch of criminals who became the galaxy’s defenders, there has been an ever-present strong sense of camaraderie between this unlikely team of eccentric beings from all over the galaxy, a togetherness arguably stronger than any other team-up in the MCU to date. They were united by a common bond of being looked down on by the galaxy for one reason or another, which drew them closer together and made them a family, just not one related by blood. Having gone off to work with DC to give their equivalent to the Guardians some CPR, while his situation with Marvel was up in the air,  Gunn’s screenplay continues to build on the strength of the togetherness and bonds that this team have built over the years, especially for a mission where the stakes are just as high when compared to the previous two films, but for a very different reason this time around.  No spoilers to be found here, but while Vol. 2 explored Star Lord’s origins at length, this time around, as Gunn himself admitted, the key motivation for coming back to conclude the trilogy was to finish telling Rocket’s story.

The examination of this origin story, and the deeply personal nature of the ensuing mission, make it the most personal film for the team, and by extension for Gunn himself. A recurring theme which has been recurring throughout the franchise is the idea that everyone deserves a second chance, and Gunn emphatically drives this point home here. There’s lots of emotion at stake here, not just for the Guardians who are fighting to save one of their own but are coming up against by far their most compelling antagonist yet in the High Evolutionary, portrayed terrifyingly by Chukwudi Iwuji. To say this guy has an ego, (no, not that one) would be an extreme understatement. He is obsessed with creating essentially a utopia, to the extent in which he will stop at nothing with experimentation and Rocket is the key to all of his plans. The film goes into detail with the backstory of how Rocket came to be the lovable and awesome badass that he is, which isn’t afraid to explore some thought-provoking and heavy themes, and also really packs an emotional punch.  Every character gets their moment to shine, but make no mistake, this movie belongs to Rocket.

The film is a little rough around the edges in places and could have maybe benefitted from a little bit of fine-tuning to trim down its two-and-a-half-hour runtime. However, given the status of this concluding chapter was up in the air for so long and there were real question marks as to whether Gunn would get to close out this chapter, those can be forgiven, especially when the characters have established this deep bond, not only as a team but with the audience themselves. Gunn’s attention now turns to DC to oversee the revamp of its own cinematic universe, but this franchise has always been his baby. Therefore, after nine years since we first (fooled around) and fell in love with these characters, the impact they have had on the MCU is immeasurable and  it is immensely satisfying to see Gunn close this chapter of the galaxy’s favourite bunch of a-holes in mighty fine style.

Easily the most personal story in the trilogy, Vol. 3 combines the humour, action and establishing a deeply felt unity and togetherness like no other Marvel team-up.  A fittingly awesome and emotional send-off for the galaxy’s favourite collection of misfits-turned-heroes.


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