Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 Review: A serious goodbye

There is a lot riding on the back of the Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. It represents the end of the partnership with James Gunn as he moves over to DC. It is the end of this incarnation of the Guardians of the Galaxy that has been a fan favourite since the first movie almost a decade ago. It is also the latest movie in Phase Five of the MCU which is still trying to make up ground after the almost universally shrug-worth Phase Four.

On a more meta level many are looking at Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 as some kind of saviour for the super hero genre as a whole. The aforementioned Phase Four of the MCU has a lot of people cold on Marvel right now and DC isn’t doing much better with Shazam! Fury of the Gods and Black Adam before it all leaving audiences wanting.

So what did Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 end up doing? Well it ended up as a pretty good movie, but nothing else besides that.

As mentioned Gunn returns in the director’s chair with what is an ensemble cast of returning Guardians from previous movies and the one Holiday Special.

Joining the cast are newcomers Chukwudi Iwuji as the High Evolutionary, and Will Poulter as Adam Warlock.

The High Evolutionary is the mad scientist who created Rocket Raccoon and Warlock is what was inside that cocoon in the post credit scene of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 back in 2017. Interestingly, and without spoiling anything, these two new characters are directly tied to each other, an important fact that is sadly unexplored in this movie.

Both the cast and their direction from Gunn are top notch. We honestly have no notes and this is a prime example of professionals on the top of their games when it comes to showing up to work and putting in a good few hours in front and behind of the camera.

Everyone gets their own spotlight scenes or small story arcs, and there’s even character progression happening offscreen, but still shown to the audience later on. We don’t need to be told how some characters change, or have it explained outright, when we’re shown it instead. The entire basis of moviemaking is the good old “show, don’t tell” but when that is seemingly so rare we have to point it out when it happens.

We’re not sure if it’s good or bad that Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 doesn’t have a main character. The main character here is the team itself, its social fabric and family ties. Near the end of the movie it tries to nudge the audience into believing one character is this fabled main focus, but it rings hollow. There’s a reason audience surrogates in the form of a main character are the norm and we feel the lack of a central figure in the final product here.

Our praise continues, somewhat, when it comes to the story. It’s a rather basic tale involving many staples that are now common for the Guardians, such as a heist, saving the galaxy and trying to make sure innocents are not hurt.

The heart of the story is Rocket Raccoon, voiced by Bradley Cooper. His past and connection to the High Evolutionary is what drives the plot and also offers the most sincere emotional moments of the film.

We can see some people really disliking this due to the fact that the High Evolutionary does his evil experiments on animals, and the quickest way to make an audience hate a character is for them to be abusive towards cute creatures.

While Cooper does a great job with the voice acting here, the CGI artists should be given the real accolades for making a genetically modified, talking raccoon sympathetic and believable.

In fact the CGI in the entire movie deserves praisse. The MCU has, rightfully, been criticised for poor CGI in recent years which does not at all reflect the endless money that Disney has available for these blockbusters.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, for the most part, has really solid effects and we don’t recall seeing any one particular shot where a character looks like they’re made out of rubber, or an entire scene looks more like a videogame cutscene than a live action movie.

A big part of this may be that many of the human-sized aliens are seemingly done with good old makeup, practical effects and puppetry. Maybe we’re wrong on this and secretly everything was CGI, but we were surprised by the fact that a more classic approach was taken and the movie is better off for it.

Sure it may not look entirely real and it’s very original recipe Star Wars, but the retro look of the aliens plays perfectly with the retro nature of the Guardians and their goofy nature.

Our biggest complaint with the plot is that goofy nature, because this movie has a real mean streak to it. Lots of characters say a lot of hurtful things and the amount of needless, unfun violence and death is very high.

Gunn is known for mixing violence with more touching story but the balance seems very off in this movie. You can tell from the trailers that this is supposed to be a more sombre affair for the team, but maybe some extra edits could have helped.

The Guardians are also know for their soundtracks because we just weren’t into the track choices and implementation this time around.

Lastly, because we know people will ask, how does this compare to the other Guardians of the Galaxy movies, and how does it compare to Gunn’s The Suicide Squad from 2021?

It’s a bit of a personal decision as we can see some people loving one of the other Guardians movies more than this one, but we’re confident in saying this is the best of the trilogy and delivers on story and action better than the other two. Its music may not have been used as well as those earlier entries, however.

On the other hand we still like The Suicide Squad 2021 more than Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, but it’s a close call.

Free of all the meta discussion Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is a good movie, bordering on great, that is a fun time and a good use of money for a trip to the theatre, and we’re happy with that.



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