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Review: "Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3"
Marvel has released the third and final installment in their planned Guardians of the Galaxy trilogy. The conclusion hits home the reality that this is the “goodbye” for this group of characters.
When Marvel Studios released “Guardians of the Galaxy" in 2014, nobody could have predicted the critical and commercial success the movie would generate for the studio. The film became an instant hit, and its characters grew from relative obscurity to pop-culture icon status over the following years. Subsequent appearances in the sequel, “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” and box office titans “Avengers: Infinity War” and “Avengers: Endgame” only furthered audience adoration, largely because the films allowed the characters more time to shine and develop.
And now, nine years later, Marvel has released the third and final installment in their planned Guardians of the Galaxy trilogy. Directed by James Gunn, who also helmed the first two movies, “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” finds Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) and our team of heroes on a galaxy-spanning mission to save the life of one of their own – a journey that, if not completed successfully, could result in true calamity befalling the team.
Public interest in the Marvel Cinematic Universe [MCU] has been declining rapidly, but “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” proves that Marvel can still make a superhero story with vision and soul. “Vol. 3” seems very aware of the connections these characters have established with audiences over the years, and it builds the majority of its plot not only on their individual progression, but also on the relational dynamics between them – all in ways that are appropriately moving.
The movie uses this dysfunctional yet tightly-knit family to illustrate the benefits of different personalities and skill sets coming together to form a group, and how even things that may seem like weaknesses could turn out to be strengths in the right circumstances. It’s an extremely powerful statement, and it’s amplified by the fact that the movie’s focus really never leaves the characters, a choice that I feel makes a “final outing” film such as this all the more fulfilling.
I do think “Vol. 3” suffers from some structural issues that have stood out to me each time I watch it. There isn’t very much cohesion in the progression of the first act. The plot seems to hop around from setting to setting without much thought as to how to sequence it all in a logical way. It can also, at times, feel like the movie is trying to do a bit too much. There are a few characters introduced that feel inconsequential in how they’re factored into the plot, namely Will Poulter’s Adam Warlock.
But as far as style is concerned, James Gunn has infused this movie with a tone that is extremely befitting of the kind of offbeat action-comedies he’s become so well-known for. It meshes exceptionally well with the unconventional nature of the characters.
The other primary reason I think this film works so well is in how it truly sticks the landing with its finale. The tone throughout the movie has a very real sense of finality to it, but the conclusion hits home the reality that this truly is the “goodbye” for this group of characters, at least for the foreseeable future.
There’s a very interesting attempt at a sort of existential, sometimes borderline spiritual, subtext in certain areas of the movie. It shows us the backstory of one of the franchise’s main characters, Rocket Raccoon (the voice of Bradley Cooper), detailing his nightmarish past and abuse at the hands of the film’s villain, the cruel and egomaniacal High Evolutionary (Chukwudi Iwuji). The film focuses on the terrors Rocket experienced at his hands but, interestingly, seems to use this story to offer insight into the notion of a greater design for existence. We see Rocket struggle to reconcile his torturous past with the idea that he was made for a purpose, and the path this movie sends him on with these questions leads into an extremely resonant conclusion that works incredibly well from both a thematic and emotional perspective.
In all honesty, it has been a long time since I have walked away from an MCU movie feeling truly satisfied – but out of the last few years, “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” is one of few exceptions. It’s an entertaining, often-moving experience, and it has the most soul I have seen from the MCU in recent memory.
If you didn’t get the chance to see it in theaters, “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” is currently streaming on Disney Plus, and it’s absolutely a film that I would recommend seeing.
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