By Jason Delgado
We have come to know and adore filmmaker James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy franchise for the outlandish mishmash of misfit characters who learn to band together and become a de facto family. Gunn does an outstanding of injecting humor, heart, and butt-kicking action to the backdrop of awesome music soundtracks, courtesy of Peter Quill’s (Chris Pratt) playlists. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, which has been said to be the final film in the series, continues all of that to a quite emotional and satisfying conclusion. Or does it?
Spoiler Warning for the events of past MCU films:
The movie starts out with Quill (aka Star Lord) showing how distraught he is about losing the love of his life, Gamora (Zoe Saldaña), by becoming a drunken fool rather than dealing with his emotions. The new threat of the powerful Adam Warlock (Will Poulter) quickly causes Quill to sober up. The film becomes a journey to save the life of Rocket Raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper). Through the use of flashbacks, we learn Rocket’s heartbreaking origin story.
The High Evolutionary is the main threat to both the Guardians and the galaxy, played masterfully by Chukwudi Iwuji. His intentions are pure; he just wants to make the perfect society. Yet his methods are not so well-meaning (taking a page out of Thanos’ book). The ends do not always justify the means.
Sisters Nebula (Karen Gillan) and Gamora (Through the shocking events of Endgame, Gamora was brought back, but it is the 2014 version of her with no recollection of the Guardians) have flip-flopped in personalities (with Nebula being more caring, and also flirty with Quill, while Gamora becomes more ruthless), making for an interesting dynamic within the team. Also fascinating is the way that Star Lord pines for, and is rebuffed by, Gamora at every turn, much as an ex-girlfriend would do.
Mantis (Pom Klementieff), Drax (Dave Bautista), and Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel), once again provide much of the comedic levity with their characters’ child-like innocence and wonder, yet at the same time this film shows ways in which these three have matured.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 takes everything that we love about the Guardians and gives it back to us, but in all-new situations and environments. There is an all-organic matter headquarters that is so strange and fun, with hilarious characters such as a Star Lord-like leader (played by Nathan Fillion) and a carrot-face guy used for laughs. Or a different version of Earth with upright animals as the dominant species, as a kind of diverse species Planet of the Apes. The visuals are so weirdly imaginative that only a mind such as James Gunn could have thought them up.
Another Gunn special is my favorite action sequence of the film, featuring a long, tracking shot in the middle of chaotic, exhilarating action, set to the pulse-pounding beat of the Beastie Boys “No Sleep Till Brooklyn.” I have heard Beastie Boys songs in many movies, but this time it hit me differently, as if I could feel it in my soul because it was synced so perfectly with the dramatic tension of a pivotal scene. That is the genius of James Gunn; he uses music and visuals in such creative ways that they can tell stories within themselves, whereas other filmmakers simply use them as backgrounds.
The heart of this film is the transformation and loss of innocence that Rocket goes through in the flashbacks, along with fellow innocent animals. I am not going to lie, it caused me to shed some tears. The theme of family and how the Guardians will do anything for each other, and now also the innocent beings of the galaxy, is a touching transformation and character arc from who we first saw them to be, way back in 2014.
My only criticisms are that the first half was a little slow pacing wise, and with a runtime of two hours and twenty-nine minutes, the film felt long and could have been edited a bit more. Otherwise, this is the perfect conclusion to Gunn’s trilogy.
I give Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 four and a half hot sauce packets out of five. It’s hotter than a supernova!
P.S. – There’s a special announcement in the end credits! Also, see it in 3D if you can, it looks amazing!