Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3

‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3’ Review: “I Bet We Were Fun”

When the first Guardians of the Galaxy was set to debut in summer 2014, it was widely considered Marvel’s first big gamble since establishing Marvel Studios 6 years prior. While it’s true characters such as Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America were a bit more B-List than Spider Man and the X-Men, they were still known commodities. The Guardians of the Galaxy were not. Thus, there was legitimate surprise when it was announced that James Gunn, the director of Slither, was going to get a budget of 100 million+ to bring us a space adventure featuring a talking tree, a talking racoon, 2 green aliens and the goofy dude from Parks & Rec.

Over $700 million dollars and across the board stellar reviews later Guardians was a hit and instantly beloved.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3

Arriving a year and change before The Force Awakens, Guardians of the Galaxy managed to be the best Star Wars movie since The Empire Strikes Back without actually being a Star Wars movie. Vin Diesel recorded the phrase “I Am Groot” over 1,000 different ways to give a shocking amount of depth to a character with only three words while Bradley Cooper uniquely voices the Han to Groot’s Chewie in Rocket Raccoon. Zoe Saldana and Dave Bautista both provided a brilliant mix of physicality and personality to Gamora & Drax respectively while the role of Peter Quill/Star-Lord thrust Chris Pratt into leading man territory. Fair warning from here forward, while I’ll avoid any Volume.3 spoilers there will be spoilers for Avengers: Infinity War & Endgame but if you haven’t seen those yet what are you even doing with your life?

In the 9 years since the original the Guardians of the Galaxy journey, the group has appeared in 4 other movies and a Disney+ holiday special. While they’ve gained and lost members over that span, the Guardians suffered one of the more devastating losses in the entirety of the MCU when Thanos sacrificed Gamora. This loss is felt by all, but Star-Lord was in love, and also has the awareness that his rash actions with Thanos in the moments after finding out essentially doomed half of all life, so he is a drunken shell of himself by the time Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3 arrives.

Avengers: Endgame had some creative time travel movements that led to a version of Gamora from her pre-Guardians days arrive on Earth with Thanos only to turn loyalties and fight against him with the rest of the Avengers/Guardians. This leads to a lot of conflict within Peter watching all those who were snapped away get returned as they were and while he got a version of Gamora back it did not erase the fact that the version he had grown to know, love and dance with was never coming back. This almost mirrors Groot in that he died in Guardians of the Galaxy and the baby Groot we see grow over the next few years, while resemblant, is a totally different being who sees Rocket as a father figure, whereas the original version was his partner in crime.

Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3 kicks off with our group in a more tender spot than the previous movies. This group is war fatigued and a little weary as they move on from all things Thanos. A sudden attack on their new home, a rebuilt Knowhere, by Adam Warlock (Will Poulter) leaves the Guardians shaken up and one clinging to life. The rest of the movie tells two tales, one a frantic race against the clock by the Guardians to save their friend and the other gives us a deep dive into origins of Rocket at the hands of the films lead villain the High Evolutionary (Chukwudi Iwuji).

Rocket’s tale is as heart warming as it is heart breaking and establishes the High Evolutionary as one of the most despicable movie villains ever. The fact that you want to reach through the screen to throttle the big baddie is an invaluable quality that I’m not quite sure Marvel has reached before, while we’ve had villains both sympathetic (Killmonger) and contemptible (Zemo) but I can’t recall downright loathsome, and that’s exactly what James Gunn has provided.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3

Heavily advertised as the last adventure for this specific assortment of characters Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3 doesn’t hold back on the laughs we’ve grown accustomed to, but it also packs an emotional wallop that’s pretty unexpected and has a lingering, melancholic effect on the viewer. If you’ve seen the clip of Florence Welch reacting to the scene using Dog Days Are Over, you get it. As expected the music throughout the movie kicks ass! Thankfully we get a couple of humorous after credit scenes to leave on a high note, but there was still a lot of eye rubbing and sniffling throughout the theater before the lights went back on.

Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3 isn’t perfect. The Adam Warlock character feels a bit shoehorned in and considering the implied finality of this crew, I certainly would have appreciated a little more hang out time since the pacing of this movie is pretty frantic outside of the flashbacks. It’s also significantly heavier than the previous entries which could have a negative effect on the rewatchability.  That being said, it’s pretty close to being perfect.

Director James Gunn brings the tension up to levels not usually felt outside the horror genre with the assist of not having any confirmed further appearances for these characters. Too often we can go into these types of movies knowing the stars are signed up for multiple appearances and having that tucked away as a safety blanket of sorts to avoid worrying about the fates of our heroes. Once that is removed and we’re still faced with a high stakes scenario the potential consequences feel greater.

“Once more with feeling” is a beautiful tagline for Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3 as the stakes here are more dire to the Guardians than to the galaxy allowing for a tighter, more personal story. I laughed, I cried, and at the end I was grateful for getting to experience this journey. As a kid I remember Star Wars leaving me with a genuine sense of joy and wonder that’s followed me long into adulthood and the Guardians of the Galaxy trilogy elicits many of those same sentiments.

Whether you find the criticisms of recent Marvel movies valid or exaggerated Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3 is top notch and a not-so-subtle reminder that there are plenty of significant stories left to tell in the MCU as long as you select the right storytellers to present them.

About Donnie Keller

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