'Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3' Comes Out Gunn's Blazing

Directed by James Gunn

Starring Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldaña, Dave Bautista, Karen Gillan, Pom Klementieff, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Sean Gunn, Chukwudi Iwuji, Will Poulter, Elizabeth Debicki, Maria Bakalova

Photo: © MARVEL 2022

BY Rachel HoPublished May 4, 2023

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 serves several purposes. Firstly, it wraps up the current story of the Guardians and the Galaxy crew that began in 2014. Although Doctor Strange, Ant-Man, Captain Marvel and Spider-Man were also introduced during the Infinity Saga, the end of the Guardians trilogy feels like the closing of the loop on the "original" Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) superheroes. Finally, Vol. 3 will most likely be James Gunn's last Marvel hurrah (at least for a while). And boy, does Gunn come out guns blazing.

While Peter Quill/Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) has been the primary focus of the Guardians films to date, Vol. 3 is Rocket's show. Once again voiced by Bradley Cooper with an on-set motion capture performance by Sean Gunn (who also reprises his role as Kraglin), Rocket's back story is uncovered through flashbacks and forms the narrative driving force.

The film begins with an attack on Knowhere by Warlock (Will Poulter, who delivers a funny and endearing turn), a golden being created by the Sovereign, whose sights are set specifically on the mercenary raccoon. Although Rocket survives Warlock's onslaught, he is left unconscious. Unable to bear the thought of losing another loved one, Quill is determined to retrieve Rocket's file from Orgosphere (a Cronenbergian-looking space station) that holds a potentially life-saving passcode. Meanwhile, the High Evolutionary (Chukwudi Iwuji), a scientist narrowly preoccupied with creating the perfect species, is hellbent on retrieving Rocket, his one creation who possessed the ability to invent.

Vol. 3 has a distinctly darker story than its predecessors (and the rest of the MCU, for that matter), with themes of grief, narcissism and obsession heavily explored in a thoughtful manner, thanks to a layered script from Gunn. This darkness is also found in the film's central villain; played up through Iwuji's almost Shakespearean performance, the High Evolutionary's self-imposed god-like status is frightening in his heartlessness towards his creations. Unlike Thanos or Killmonger, whose motivations could be traced to some semblance of rationale, the High Evolutionary's cruelty is without purpose, resulting in a particularly unhinged and horrific baddie.

Fans of the Guardians, though, need not be concerned: Gunn doesn't forget to instill the same warmth and humour (and wicked soundtrack) that made the franchise a success in the first place. The banter between Drax (Dave Bautista) and Mantis (Pom Klementieff) is every bit as heartwarming and amusing as fans will recall. Gamora (Zoe Saldaña) is brought back into the fold in an organic way, and although her cold and sharp demeanour is a far cry from the Gamora Quill fell in love with, she still carries the heart of the film.

It's clear that Gunn's intention for this film was to say goodbye to the characters and stories he helped put to screen for almost a decade and thank the fans who allowed him to do so. But being the adept filmmaker he is, Gunn never makes the film feel like obvious fan service with lazy cameos or tired callbacks. Instead, Gunn bids the franchise and Marvel adieu with heart, humour and some incredible action.

Saying that Vol. 3 has some of the most thrilling and inspired action set pieces the MCU has ever delivered isn't exactly a high bar to clear. (Sure, that portal scene in End Game looked cool, but let's all be honest with ourselves and admit the action itself wasn't anything to write home about.) Gunn follows the same CGI-ready formula of the MCU, but elevates it with some dynamic camera work and impressive fight choreography.

As it would turn out, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is the perfect advertisement for the upcoming DC Universe headed by Gunn and Peter Safran. Of course, Gunn won't be behind the camera for all of the films and TV shows planned under this new shared universe, but if this is what his idea of a good superhero movie is visually and narratively, then comic book movie fans are in for a treat.
(Marvel Studios)

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