Despite what you may have read online, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is good. Nay, great. You probably won’t believe us, with the public’s trust being shattered by Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. Put all that out of your mind (we’ve been trying since February), because Vol. 3 is one of the MCU’s best. We don’t say that lightly. The MCU’s best consists of Infinity War and even James Gunn’s own debut into the world of modern superhero films (Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 1).
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is a myriad of things done right. Excellent performances across the board (barring a shaky one here and there), writing that breaks with the MCU’s formula (while also being great), and of course, a soundtrack that stirs emotions and sets your arm-hair on end. If you’re a fan of Gunn’s work in general, you probably already knew that.
Don’t get us wrong, Vol. 3 has its issues. But none that were prevalent enough to leave a bad taste in our mouths.
Say hello to the SPCA’s worst nightmare
Right from the start, something is off. Gone are the days of fun-filled entrances set to the backdrop of some extremely energetic song from the 70s. Instead, we’re inundated with one of the 90’s saddest (and edgiest) melodies that perfectly encapsulate what this film wants to be. Which is what, exactly? A tale of Rocket Raccoon’s past and the Guardians’ struggle to grow up and move on with their lives.
We realise we’re making this sound like the most depressing movie in the MCU. Well… it is. But Vol. 3 isn’t all doom and gloom. There are moments when the humour takes a backseat, allowing the emotional impact of certain scenes to stick around a little longer. But it’s not like that forever. The jokes and gags that are often a detriment to the MCU generally are still around, though used more sparingly and cleverly, usually garnering a chuckle – because they’re funny, rather than mere mimicry of humour.
The film kicks off with the Guardians rebuilding Knowhere, which is where James Gunn last left the crew in the Holiday Special at the end of Phase 4. Rocket is meandering around the place, Star-Lord is battling a newfound addiction to alcohol, while the rest — Nebula, Mantis, Groot, and Drax — are doing their best to keep everything light. That is until Will Poulter’s Adam Warlock shows up as suddenly as a blue shell in Mario Kart – ultimately ending with Rocket in a state of disrepair and setting the rest of the Guardians on a mission to save his life.
Not long after, we’re introduced to the movie’s main villain; The High Evolutionary (Chukwudi Iwuji) who happens to be the greatest threat to the quality of acting and writing on display. His goals are simple: create the ‘perfect’ society, which involves several evil-villain monologues and experiments on animals. There’s more to the character that we won’t spoil, but if you’re searching for a villain on the same level as Thanos, keep those hopes tampered down.
It’s worth noting that our favourite aspect of Vol. 3 is its distinct lack of connection to other MCU flicks, tying itself to only that of the previous two entries, the Holiday Special, and the two best Avengers films; Infinity War and Endgame. The story is contained to this movie and this movie only, only occasionally referencing the events in those movies we mentioned.
Acting is hard (unless you’re the Guardians of the Galaxy)
The biggest differentiator here is Gunn’s focus on the characters, rather than the MCU’s favourite trick of including vapid characters in an otherwise colourful world. That doesn’t mean Vol. 3 is devoid of fun sets and landscapes that make you go “Oooh, pretty”. The thing is; they’re often overshadowed by Gunn’s writing and directing, a problem any Marvel director would kill to have.
The returning cast, consisting of Chris Pratt (Peter Quill), Zoe Saldana (Gamora), Karen Gillan (Nebula), Dave Bautista (Drax), Bradley Cooper (Rocket), and Pom Klementieff (Mantis) are given the opportunity to shine brighter than ever before, with a deeper focus on their ambitions and flaws, and how they fit in with the rest of the group. Gunn somehow manages to juggle all that perfectly, giving those characters at the forefront the most screen time, though never letting the others fall away from the screen for too long.
Rocket’s screentime often comes in the form of flashbacks, usually accompanied by the High Evolutionary – who is doing his best to leave a lasting impression on the audience. He succeeds (but only just) at being more memorable than the Guardians’ first villain back in 2014. What was his name again? Oh right, Ronan the Accuser. Was it not for Cooper’s acting chops to bounce off, who knows whether we’d remember the High Evolutionary, even a day later.
Nothing is perfect (though this is close)
Fortunately, our issues with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 rarely ever stretch beyond that of the main villain’s performance and writing. The film spends a sizeable chunk of its nearly two-and-a-half-hour runtime focusing on the build-up towards the final battle, rather than on the final battle itself. We weren’t particularly bothered by this, though we’d have liked the final battle to hold a little more weight to the overall story than it did.
There’s little we’d change in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. The soundtrack is perfect (we spent the entirety of this article’s writing time blasting the Awesome Mix Vol. 3), the acting is, for the most part, superb, and the story that Gunn spins is one that we’d love to see again (probably in theatres). Don’t let the MCU’s recent track record sway you away from this one, especially if you’re a big Guardians fan.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 hits theatres tomorrow, 05 May.