Skip to content Skip to sidebar Skip to footer

Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 3 (2023)::rating::3::rating::3

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 makes it hard to believe this franchise once kicked off with a funky, funny, freewheeling romp.  That first film, with its cute pop culture riffs and geeky 70s mixtapes, was the sorbet comic book cinema desperately needed.  Now, hither comes movie no. 3, which has the look and feel of a farewell, and there’s just no way around it:  This is a weighty, ponderous, and overlong wrap-up to something that was once so refreshing.  Being a Guardian of the Galaxy has never seemed like more of a bummer.

(This is the spot where I always say it:  Spoilers ahead!  Depending on your MCU savvy, you’ll at least need to go back to the first Guardians flick and move forward.  We’ll see you in about two weeks.)

You’d think these rascally varmints would be in top form.  After all, Thanos has been defeated.  The Guardians have commandeered Knowhere, the giant floating head of a space god, to serve as both headquarters and commune.  Best of all, all these do-gooder space pirates seem to be getting along.  So, it should be high times for our plucky heroes…

Alas, nope.  It seems that Peter Quill/Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) has settled into a Charlie Brown-sized funk, casting a pall over the entire team.  The events of Avengers: Endgame may have brought back Gamora (Zoe Saldaña), his lost love, but she’s not the same woman.  This time-traveling variant predates the Guardians, so she has no memory of her clumsy-cute romance with Quill.  Even worse, she looks at the Guardians with different eyes, and judges them for the immature, frat house goof-offs they kinda are.  For Quill, this feels like losing Gamora twice, and he responds by boozing and stumbling around Nowhere.  The gang wants to help but can’t, so they spend the first stretch of the film revving in neutral.

Things get spicy when Adam Warlock (Will Poulter) makes an appearance.  He’s an artificial being who looks like a golden lamé version of Superman.  Warlock attacks the Guardians, with a particular emphasis on Rocket (voice of Bradley Cooper), who is gravely wounded.  In the aftermath of this ambush, the team has to figure out who sent Warlock to kill Rocket, and why.  Further, something in Rocket’s genetically-enhanced body seems to be hastening his demise, meaning his besties must learn about his origins to disable it.

I don’t wanna give a whole lot away, except to say that investigation is as grim as it sounds.  And while there’s no fault in the filmmakers delving into darker subject matter, I mean…damn.  The only thing missing from Rocket’s flashback scenes is Sarah McLachlan mournfully wailing on the soundtrack.  Put another way:  For anybody expecting another giddy, intergalactic hayride, you’ve been warned.

That dour plot becomes even more of a bog when you factor in the film’s 150 minute runtime.  Writer-director James Gunn (who’s been with the franchise long enough to be canceled and revived) feels obligated to give everyone in his sprawling cast at least a little burn.  That means more B-plots than the movie can support:  We see squabbles between Mantis (Pom Klementieff) and Nebula (Karen Gillan); Gamora and Nebula; Drax (Dave Bautista) and Mantis; Kraglin (Sean Gunn) and that…talking Russian space-dog?  I know Gunn wants all this to feel like the end of an era, but Guardians 3 wastes too much time making sure everything ends up nice and tidy.

Despite its flaws, I’m still dangerously close to recommending this movie.  This is a phenomenal cast, and they have a powerful chemistry that supercharges every scene.  As always, Pratt perfectly plays the man-child with a heart of gold and a knack for killer playlists.  He makes it look easy enough for haters to take him for granted.  Saldaña, Gillan, Bautista, Cooper, Gunn, and Diesel are all well-settled into their parts, and each brings welcome doses of humor and humanity to an otherwise overcooked film.

That does bring up two quibbles:  First, why cast Nathan Fillion–who was playing the smartass lug long before Pratt–only to waste him as an intergalactic mall cop?  Next, there’s the villain.  The High Evolutionary (Chukwudi Iwuji), who wants to meld man and animal into some kind of genetic utopia, is basically a cosmic Dr. Moreau.  He ends up being a one-note character, screaming at functionaries and hurling things like a bratty Dr. Evil.  Iwuji’s a fine actor, but even he can’t rescue a villain who’s loud to the point of boring.

Overall, this isn’t a bad film.  If you’ve been with the franchise this long, you have to see it.  Still, a series that began like a party ends on a decidedly bittersweet note.  (And hell, the end credits leave it ambiguous whether or not this is the end.)  The journey to that goodbye veers heavily into melancholy and the infinite sadness, thus making this third Guardians flick a bit of a slog.

150 min.  PG-13.  In theaters and on demand.

Leave a comment

the Kick-ass Multipurpose WordPress Theme

© 2024 Kicker. All Rights Reserved.