REVIEW: Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 3 is a suitably fun-but-messy trilogy closer
The 32nd MCU movie arrives in cinemas this coming week.
When the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie arrived in 2014, it was hot on the heels of The Winter Soldier, arguably the Marvel Cinematic Universe's most-realistic movie, full of political intrigue and physical, in-camera stunt-work. Then along came Vin Diesel as a giant tree who could only introduce himself over and over again, and Bradley Cooper as a Noo Yawk-accented homicidal raccoon, and it was all so weird and so out there that there was every chance it simply wouldn't work.
Of course, thanks to wonderful hindsight, we know that it worked only too well, but the decade since their big screen introduction has seen this arrival of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 face its own set of challenges. It has been a full six years since Vol. 2 (the biggest sequel gap in the MCU to date), and audience interest in the post-Endgame MCU has begun to wane, thanks in equal parts to a perceived saturation of the comic book adaptation market, and some less-than-stellar entries into the series (Eternals, Ant-Man 3, Thor 4).
There is also the fact that James Gunn, the writer/director of the first two GOTG movies, was fired from the MCU in 2018, before being rehired in 2019. In that interim, Gunn jumped ship to DC, helming the critically-acclaimed box office flop The Suicide Squad, and has since been named co-CEO of DC Studios, already getting to work on a new Superman movie. With his allegiances now lying with Marvel's direct competitor, would he still be the best person for the job to direct GOTG3?
It turns out yes... and no. But mostly yes. Knowing this is his last ride with this particular gang of Guardians, Gunn has left absolutely nothing on the table, with so many new characters and locations and deep dives into previously-unknown personal relationships. Absolutely swelling at the seems of its 150-minute runtime, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 calls to mind a mixtape with some absolute bangers on its setlist, while also not entirely without its filler tracks, either.
We want to be careful of spoilers but also actually set up the plot of the movie, so if you want to go in completely blind, then this is where you should probably stop reading. For everyone else, we pick up with Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), Drax (Dave Bautista), Mantis (Pom Klementieff), Nebula (Karen Gillan), Rocket (Bradley Cooper), Groot (Vin Diesel), Kraglin (Sean Gunn) and Cosmo (Maria Bakalova) following the events of Endgame and the Guardians Christmas Special, i.e. they're setting up shop on Nowhere, and they're still mourning the loss of the OG Gamora (Zoe Saldana).
Following an out-of-nowhere attack by Adam Warlock (Will Poulter, channeling first movie Thor), Rocket is badly injured, so the gang must track down the High Evolutionary (Chukwudi Iwuji), who apparently sent Adam to retrieve Rocket, and has a direct personal history with the raccoon himself. Along the way, they cross paths with space pirate group the Ravagers, who have taken the still-alive-but-alternative-multiverse-version-of-herself Gamora into their gang, who agrees to temporarily align with the Guardians in order to take down this new threat.
While both Warlock and the High Evolutionary make for interesting antagonists, they're both sidelined for the majority of the movie in order to focus on this new, brash, emotionally unconnected Gamora, dropping into the Guardians family like a live grenade. It makes for a fascinating relationship between Star-Lord and Gamora particularly, he still madly in love with this woman, despite the fact that this isn't actually the woman he was in love with.
Gunn doesn't drop as many emotionally undercutting one-liners into the mix as he was prone to do - especially in Vol. 2 - allowing for painful beats to play out that bit longer, particularly when we're given a traumatic deep dive into Rocket's past. The action sequences are also pretty fantastic, utilising some similar camerawork that was brought to The Suicide Squad, driving the camera close-up to the kinetic combat scenes, making you feel like you're a part of the frenzy.
Where the problems begin to arise is the sheer scale of important people, important places, important things and even more important events... there is just SO MUCH STUFF to keep track of, and Gunn just keeps piling it more on, almost as if he's running through the plots for two more Guardians movies simultaneously, knowing he won't get to make them himself, so he's just going to do them all now, all at once.
It is an onslaught of light, sound, and information, usually a lot of high-energy entertainment, but sometimes just way too much for all of it to actually stick, to actually mean anything. Despite that, when we get to the movie's climax - which is likely not what most audiences will be expecting, and that is in no way a bad thing - anyone with any kind of emotional attachment to these characters after all these years will likely shed a tear or two as we likely bid them farewell forever.
A fun-but-messy ending after a fun-but-messy journey with a group of fun-but-messy characters, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 arrives in Irish cinemas on Wednesday, 3 May.
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