Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (2023)
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (2023)

Genre: Superhero Running Time: 2 hrs. 30 min.

Release Date: May 5th, 2023 MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: James Gunn Actors: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Karen Gillan, Pom Klementieff, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Will Poulter, Chukwudi Iwuji, Maria Bakalova, Sean Gunn, Sylvester Stallone

 


 

W

hile the Guardians of the Galaxy rebuild their headquarters in the hollowed-out head of a space deity, a new enemy plots in the shadows to kidnap one of the renowned protectors. The High Evolutionary (Chukwudi Iwuji), a ruthless geneticist who fancies himself a god, sends one of his most powerful creations, Adam Warlock (Will Poulter), to capture Rocket (Bradley Cooper). His allies prove formidable defenders, however, and defeat the golden invader – but not before Rocket is gravely injured. Desperate to save their friend, the remaining Guardians, Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), Drax (Dave Bautista), Nebula (Karen Gillan), Mantis (Pom Klementieff), and Groot (Vin Diesel), are forced to seek out Ravagers, including Stakar Ogord (Sylvester Stallone) and Gamora (Zoe Saldana), for assistance in a dangerous heist. With the space pirates’ aid, the gang of superheroes must infiltrate the records facility of a bioengineering corporation controlled by the High Evolutionary. But what they find there will lead them on an even more perilous quest, where they must confront the sinister secrets of Rocket’s past and face a diabolical scientist willing to destroy entire worlds in order to create his own.

Once again, the soundtrack is immediately prominent – and likely expensive. But so too are the special effects, which come into play with the swift introduction of a new “superdouche with ray-gun hands,” who brings a heightened level of CG-embellished fighting, fueled by bolts of colorful lightning and the indecipherable chaos of standard superhero combat. For the umpteenth time, it still looks fake when figures are pummeled against solid structures until cratered with their outlines like a Wile E. Coyote cartoon, or when they’re tossed through buildings as if weightless and unaffected by gravity. Realism, of course, isn’t much of a concern when it comes to modern superhero pictures, as topics grow darker to combat the distasteful colorfulness of numerous not-so-forgotten ‘90s endeavors.

Here, one of the major themes is particularly severe, as animal testing and related cruelties work their way into Rocket’s backstory. It may be manipulative and somewhat easy to tug at the heartstrings of audiences through the death and destruction of helpless, tortured, caged creatures, but it’s nevertheless poignant, especially as it reminds of concepts from “Watership Down,” “The Plague Dogs,” and “Homeward Bound,” among other anthropomorphized, animal-centered works (including “Finding Nemo”). Supplementing that is the notion of companionship – especially when flying around the universe on exciting misadventures is the ultimate goal. And much of this translates to a silly derivation of “The Island of Dr. Moreau,” which further builds upon the ideas of intelligent, hybrid beasts receiving ill treatment at the hands of a blindly self-righteous villain who sees himself as a force of good (strangely, his utopia-building intentions are absurd at best, considering its basis on an outdated United States populated by countless different species, each managing disparate levels of wealth and luxury; even their inherent violent natures aren’t suitably suppressed, as the mastermind had intended). This antagonist is unfortunately about as generic as the last few Marvel baddies, possessing undefinable powers that make his eventual undoing entirely questionable; when no weaknesses are alluded to, it seems contrived when his formidability is spontaneously matched.

The premise is essentially an elaborate, big-budget “Star Trek” episode, full of side missions that do absolutely nothing other than segue to other side missions, until a final showdown is imminent. With the film’s considerable running time, however, that impending duel (or series of duels) is somewhat unpredictable. Fortunately, during the process, the visual quality is unmistakable; from gooey, organic environments brimming with bizarre tech and props, to hysterical costumes and character designs, writer/director James Gunn’s creativity isn’t slowing down. Many early sequences are orchestrated solely for laughs, not just with the wild imagery, but also with Gamora’s return, whose presence sets up awkward attempts at romance. The attention to humor that set the “Guardians of the Galaxy” franchise apart also tends to diminish the sincerity, though; none of the roles take their situations seriously (especially Drax), which makes the various struggles appear as if of minimal consequence.

The first half of “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” (or “Volume 3” as theatrical posters spell out) isn’t paced as well as the previous two entries, dragging out the action with random, unconvincingly brainstormed activities, somewhat pointlessly leading the characters from one eccentric location to the next. But by the time the flashbacks come together and the Guardians’ showdown plans start to take shape (communications between the members occur at inexplicable times; sometimes they don’t know where the others are, solely to generate conflict, while at subsequent moments they can not only pinpoint fellow locations, but also take control of crashing ships or malfunctioning equipment with just the right tool in exactly the nick of time), the final act boasts emotional interactions and astounding set pieces. It may be a haphazard journey, but the finale is so splashy, high-octane, and colossal in its rescues and reunions and demolition and celebrations (adopting the sensibilities of big-budget Bollywood undertakings) that it largely saves the film from the earlier tedium.

– The Massie Twins

  • 7/10