Another Take: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3
James Gunn's conclusion to his cosmic MCU trilogy is action-packed, humorous, and poignant.
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While the MCU/ Marvel Studios didn’t have the best start to 2023, with “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” receiving mixed reviews and other behind-the-scenes drama that could taint certain people’s reputations, they needed to put something good out there before everyone turned into a wet blanket when this franchise is up for multiple discussions. What would that win be? Of course, there’s only one film that has to count as their most significant win at the moment, and it is my most anticipated piece of entertainment inside the MCU I care about this year, “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3,” as we get to witness our favorite misfits from space for one final adventure as we got ourselves a satisfying send off to this team that brought me and other fans joy.
Spending their days on the celestial outpost Knowhere as their headquarters, the Guardians of the Galaxy are adjusting to living their lives while their captain, Peter Quill/ Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), is still reeling over losing Gamora (Zoe Saldaña). Though she’s not dead, she’s still alive from an alternative timeline. But everything goes wrong when Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) is attacked and seriously injured by Adam Warlock (Will Poulter), who wants to bring him back to the High Evolutionary (Chukwudi Iwuji), Rocket’s former creator. So Peter, along with the rest of the team, Drax (Dave Bautista), Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel), Mantis (Pom Klementieff), and Nebula (Karen Gillan), are on a mission to save their friend with the help of Gamora, who is a member of Peter’s old crew the Ravagers.
There was a time when people really thought the first “Guardians of the Galaxy” would be Marvel’s first flop in ages since it’s a sci-fi movie based on comics nobody had heard of. However, it proved them wrong big time when it came out with a fantastic trip to space and instantly loving an infinite to these underdogs, becoming a massive hit with critics and one of the most successful blockbusters of 2014. For me, top 3 MCU. The sequel, 2017’s “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2,” was released three years later, which I think has received more positive now with people revisiting it. A little inferior to the first, but to this day, I still find the sequel the most underrated movie in the MCU. We also got to enjoy a Disney+ holiday special that was wholly fantastic and rapidly became a new Christmas classic just before this one was released.
Because of my devotion to the franchise, this had to be one of the most exciting superhero films in recent memory. How could you not love these movies when there’s a talking raccoon and a tree who only speaks three words? It's hard to know when the inevitable fatigue will set in. But as for now, I have no shame in saying I love “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.”
For us fans, it's a miracle the third and final installment of the cosmic trilogy came true, considering what happened. Everybody was shocked back in the day when Disney fired Gunn after some offensive tweets resurfaced. Long story short, they welcomed him back the following year thanks to the support of the cast, but he went over to its competition DC to helm the awesome reboot that shouldn’t have bombed, “The Suicide Squad.” But before he and Peter Safran revamp DC Studios for their future films, with the former directing the upcoming “Superman: Legacy,” this was his way of going out on a high note without losing what fans had gotten attached to prior.
“Vol. 3” is probably the most focused out of everything Marvel put out recently when its attention is on the guardians on their latest adventure with immense stakes they've faced that hits all the right notes. It's a journey where they're still searching for a meaningful life. But when it's a makeshift family, they're dysfunctional at best and willing to risk everything to save their one friend. We've seen Star-Lord and the gang outside of their own films with assistance from the Russo brothers (“Avengers: Infinity War” and “Endgame”) and Taika Waititi (“Thor: Love and Thunder”) briefly, and we all know Gunn know these characters best when they're his babies, and you can tell this is his movie without a lot of Marvel's hands involved.
With these films and “The Suicide Squad,” he demonstrates his ability to create a big superhero film that makes us care about characters we wouldn't usually like. Aside from a few references from “Infinity War,” this does an excellent job of standing independently without revealing too much about what's to come in a possible future installment. Whether or not they all have difficulties with themselves, a recurring sense of family grows stronger with each expedition.
Everyone in the cast is amazing once again, and they all get to shine with their boasting chemistry. Chris Pratt maintains the charm we've come to expect from Star-Lord/Peter. Zoe Saldaña, as Gamora, kicks ass even though she has no clue who everyone is except her sister. I didn’t know how this would handle her character since this Gamora doesn’t have the same dynamic as everyone else, yet it worked. Peter tries his hardest to make that relationship work again, yet he never succeeds. Dave Bautista as Drax the Destroyer proves he can be silly but also surprisingly insightful. This is the best I’ve seen Pom Klementieff as Mantis outside the holiday special, showing how powerful she can be. And Karen Gillan, as Nebula, is the one character who has grown on me since the original, and her growth made her more human than we’ve seen from her previous appearances.
Rocket is the character I've adored since the beginning and has always been the anchor of the entire series. Something in his past had been building up to this point, making us wonder what made him who he was. We go into his backstory, which is scattered throughout, to learn how he became the intellectual animal we know and love, including seeing him finding the beauty in a scary situation when he makes a few new friends who were also experimented on, including an otter named Lyyla (voiced by Linda Cardellini), and how his behavior came to be as a talking genetically created trash panda. Everything surrounding him created some of the most heartbreaking scenes in “Vol. 3” that caught me off guard and had me crying (what Guardians movie hasn't?) that I still thought about a day later.
We don’t give Bradley Cooper’s vocal performance, along with Sean Gunn's (who also returns as Kraglin) motion capture, enough credit for making this character come to life. Ever since the first, I’ve always thought this was one of Cooper’s best performances, despite doing all his work in a sound booth.
Surprisingly, this was the darkest of the three, rather than the sci-fi comedic ambiance of the prior two. Most people would consider the first two a wonderful blend of both, but it's almost pleasant to see Gunn's sense of humor take a back seat when it's time to get serious with the characters. Those moments of injecting the humor were well-earned to where those complaining about too many jokes in the sequel will find them most enjoyable. Drax delivered one of the funniest insults to the point where I laughed into the next scene. Even the action brings back that science fiction flavor that fits the mold. There’s a sequence in a hallway near the tail end I didn’t see coming that’s made to appear as a one-shot, making it one of the coolest sequences of the entire trilogy.
But how about the soundtrack? Everyone knows that having a fantastic mixtape of music from the past and even now is one of the most important aspects of anything Guardians-related. Gunn has always known how to infuse music into his stories, and Peter now owns a Zune (remember those?). So it's nice to have a recent film that uses needle drops when moving through familiar tracks and a few deep cuts.
The trailers featured "In the Meantime" by Spacehog and "Since You Been Gone" by Rainbow, the latter of which is one of my all-time favorite songs from the '90s, to grasp Gunn's taste when putting up an entry. When I heard a familiar tune, I always had a smile on my face. What other film this year contains "No Sleep Till Brooklyn" by the Beastie Boys, "Do You Realize" by The Flaming Lips, or "Dog Days Are Over" by Florence + The Machine (my second favorite song from the band) and others intertwined with their scenes?
Also worthy of mention are the visual effects and makeup work. Some of the recent MCU films haven't had the best-looking effects, but everything we see has improved the experience. Since our screening was in IMAX, I couldn't tell what unique production designs were and what was green screen. And the makeup for the characters, particularly the High Evolutionary or any of the creatures that appear when the team explores Counter-Earth, was incredibly freaky. Remember how the first received a Best Makeup and Hairstyling nomination? This is a strong contender.
Can it be overstuffed right around the third act since it has a runtime of 150 minutes? At points. Still, though, I was thoroughly engaged the entire time. If there was one problem I had just from this first viewing, it was introducing the new character, Adam Warlock, which the Sovereign created to destroy the Guardians. And Will Poulter was good as this golden grownup infant. However, his screen presence was wasted for a character I was looking forward to seeing after one of the “Vol. 2” post-credit scenes. He has an arc and everything, just like everyone else, but he could've been used more and disappeared for a good amount of time.
Chukwudi Iwuji of “Peacemaker” fame as the High Evolutionary plays our cliched, menacing villain, the second MCU villain in a row to come off as all Shakespearean that’s the cruelest. He wants to create the perfect utopia, but what he does to animals to fulfill his goal is heartbreaking. He’s perhaps the second-best villain behind Ego, mainly because he’s the one character that could’ve been fleshed out more if they had more time.
Maybe this won’t feel this way for everyone, but this is the kind of sequel I’ve been waiting to appreciate from Marvel. Because I still need to find time to rewatch a couple of them from last year, and there’s this nervous feeling my opinion will drastically change thanks to the annoyance of everybody talking badly about them. Sadly, a month after seeing “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Qunatamina,” it’s become very forgettable.
It’s not always the most straightforward job to make three great comic book movies, but this is easily one of my favorite recent movies in this franchise since “Spider-Man: No Way Home.” Admittedly, this is the kind of superhero movie so far this year, but when you have someone like Gunn being a part of this franchise for the past decade, you know he's doing something right. If this is the last time we see some of these Guardians together, then this is what I imagined this whole time. Some might think it's a little anticlimactic, but for what it was going for, it makes for a send-off worth remembering.
As expected, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.3 completes James Gunn’s cosmic MCU trilogy with another terrific film that absolutely rocked! Even when it might not be the perfect superhero movie everybody probably expected, we still got a great run with these lovable characters, thanks to the humor, a fantastic soundtrack, and action mixed with the emotional weight that hit me.