After the downer that was ANT-MAN AND THE WASP: QUANTUMANIA, the mood amongst the Marvel Studios faithful congregated to see GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 3 at the AMC Burbank 16 was much more upbeat. Nary a Kang variant in sight, just a group of ragtag misfits doing what they do best as they try to keep it together and once again save the galaxy.
James Gunn‘s Marvel swan song never drops the pace for its entire runtime, and as the trailers impart, a good chunk of the film is spent filling us in on how Rocket came to be. Be warned, if you are sensitive to animal issues and cruelty, there are some sequences here that will be very hard to watch. While it doesn’t get overly graphic, the flashbacks to Rocket’s early days are emotionally draining. Bradley Cooper and Sean Gunn turn in their best combined performance so far.
Also a bit atypical for an MCU jaunt is the movie’s strong central villain, the High Evolutionary, played with Shakespearean authority by Chukwudi Iwuji. MCU newcomer Will Poulter, the literally golden boy Adam Warlock, proves to be a highlight. Maria Bakalova is very good as Cosmo the space dog. As usual, the action is accompanied by a stellar selection of rock hits selected by Gunn.
The core Guardians do not disappoint. Twitter punching bag Chris Pratt brings real pain and desperation to Star-Lord’s post-ENDGAME drifting. Zoe Saldaña gets to continue reinventing Gamora and chews the scenery to do it, a version of the character who never fell in love with Peter Quill. Dave Bautista, always a delight, gets some particular poignant time here. Pom Klementieff is hysterical as Mantis and has more to do. Karen Gillan is unsung as Nebula, who has become a bit of the glue that holds the group together. Vin Diesel is ostensibly voicing Groot, and we love Groot.
The conflict of the film’s story isn’t some MCU-shaking and far-reaching cataclysm, which is just fine. If anything, I found it tiresome that the story involved (as they often do) so many millions of people/creatures being killed. It happens in a lot of superhero movies and I’d be thrilled if that particular plot device could be creatively retired.
You may have heard that this film contains the MCU’s first f-bomb, and that is accurate. If you’re a parent concerned about that kind of thing, be ready. As always, there are both mid-credits and post-credits scene following the film, both of which shed light on the future for these characters.
It’s a shame that this will be the last of the Guardians as we’ve known them so far, but with Gunn moving on to attempt to bring DC’s film universe in line, this is the crowd-pleasing finale everyone hoped for.
See it for Yourself
GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 3 lands in theaters May 5, 2023.