Roughly six years to the day after the emergence of the second Guardians of the Galaxy movie, director James Gunn closes out his popular trilogy based on the Marvel Comics heroes’ squad in space. Gunn, you might recall, was fired by Marvel’s Disney overlords some years back after a number of unsavory and aged tweets surfaced. But after helming HBO’s Peacemaker (a DC property, no less; Gunn ultimately took over that company’s entire filmic operations, too), he came back into the fold and now gets to do it his way (play Sinatra song in your head here).
Vol. 3 comes across as a bit of an outlier when it comes to Marvel’s stable. It’s a little less Marvel-y than the behemoth’s other properties. Guardians is supposed to cool, too, bro. You’re gonna hear Beastie Boys and Florence and the Machine songs play while Starlord (Chris Pratt, or Crisp Rat if you’re nasty), Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista), Mantis (Pom Klementieff), Groot (Vin Diesel), Nebula (Karen Gillan) and Gamora (Zoe Saldaña) phase between badassery and kicky little jokes.
It is *air quotes* radical. Still, despite the very real Marvel fatigue so many are feeling after years of multiple yearly movies and television shows, comics, streaming one-offs, etc., Gunn actually manages to eke out an enjoyable, if wildly predictable, sci-fi romp with some notably beautiful special effects and a whole lot of chosen family thematics at play.
All in all, though, this is a film about Rocket Raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper), that little humanoid raccoon whom we all love because why is a raccoon talking and flying spaceships and shooting lasers? Anyway, he’s straight up unconscious this time out, following an attack by series newcomer Adam Warlock (Will Poulter) who has come for mysterious but probably also nefarious reasons. He works for the High Evolutionary (an honestly excellent Chukwudi Iwuji from Peacemaker), whom, we learn through a series of flashbacks, plays a prominent role in Rocket’s very existence and is out there doing genocide on a planetary scale. Rocket’s flashbacks are easily the most enjoyable parts of the film, and rather emotional to boot. Gunn’s writing evolution really shows in these scenes, even if they are heavy-handed—compare that to the samey fast-talking yuks found elsewhere throughout.
Of course, if you’ve been following along this whole time, you’ll certainly get a sense of satisfaction when the credits roll. And though the story belongs to Rocket, no question, the ultimate fates of his fellow Guardians are satisfying and bittersweet. The endings of their disparate stories feel more grown up than expected and show that Gunn has matured as a filmmaker. Also a bunch of shit blows up.
+Rocket Raccoon’s origins; stunning to behold
-Harder and harder to wanna keep up with Marvel
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3
Directed by Gunn
With Pratt, Cooper, Klementieff, Gillan, Bautista, Diesel and Saldaña