After the Guardians are attacked by a mysterious new foe with incredible powers, Rocket is tragically injured and left clutching onto life. His friends do what they can to save him, utilising all the medical kit they have to hand, but his unique physiology restricts what they can do and they are left with the sobering feeling that he could die.
Desperate to keep him alive, Star-Lord and Co. dig into Rocket’s past to find a way forward. This leads them to a shadowy organisation, overseen by a scientist known as the High Evolutionary, who could provide the key to Rocket’s rehabilitation.
But what the Guardians are not quite aware of, is just how traumatic Rocket’s past life has been and just how sadistic the High Evolutionary is. However, the group will soon learn first-hand about his twisted experiments, as they come face-to-face with this menacing foe.
Will they be able to save Rocket’s life, or will they encounter their darkest hour? And more importantly, after all these years on our screens, will this be the final journey for the galactic heroes known as the Guardians of the Galaxy?
It has been nine years since Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy first blasted onto the big screen, and in all that time we’ve had two big-budget movies, some tie-in appearances in the Avengers and Thor franchises, and a Christmas special, which arrived on Disney+ late last year. However, up until now, it’s never really felt like the Guardians were going anywhere in particular, as each new instalment seemed to suggest more was on the horizon.
That is until now, and the release of this third cinematic adventure. The film, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, arrives in UK cinemas today (in the US on Friday) and gives the impression that we might be at the end of the adventure.
The reason for this is because a.) films tend to come in trilogies, b.) some of the actors have expressed a desire to move onto new projects, and c.) writer/director James Gunn has already left Marvel Studios and moved over to Warner Bros., where he is about to usher in a reboot of the DC Universe. As such, however you cut it, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is very much being viewed as an end point for the series.
So, with this being a final hoorah for the Guardians, the stakes are raised, the shackles are off, and audiences should expect things to get a little uncomfortable. It’s also fair to say that tissues will be required on more than one occasion, and especially during the final third of the film.
Did I cry while watching Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3? You bet your Aunt Petunia I did! My eyes got misty a couple of times throughout the movie, and I couldn’t stop the tears from flowing towards the end.
But before I get a little ahead of myself here, I need to tell you that this third movie in the Guardians series is the handy work of writer/director James Gunn, and it once again includes cast members Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldaña, Dave Bautista, Karen Gillan, Pom Klementieff, Sean Gunn, Bradley Cooper, and Vin Diesel. And joining the group this time around is Will Poulter, Chukwudi Iwuji, Linda Cardellini, Asim Chaudhry and Mikaela Hoover, along with returnees Maria Bakalova and Sylvester Stallone.
Got all that? Good!
OK, onto the film then. And I believe it is a good idea to start by saying this Guardians movie is a much darker picture than any we have previously seen in the Guardians series, and in the MCU as a whole.
Remember Avengers: Infinity War, where everything looked bleak and then half the universe was wiped out with the snap of a finger? Yeah, well, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is much darker than that.
Avengers: Infinity War may have ended with the (sort-of) deaths of countless humans, but Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 deals with animal experimentation (on cute critters), some pretty scary scientific creations, and some very heavy themes. In fact, tonally and visually, this film is at times quite hard going, and not something that is suitable for all ages.
While the original Guardians of the Galaxy was largely an all-round crowd-pleaser, this latest instalment is not the same thing. This franchise has grown and developed over the years, and with this being Gunn’s swansong, he’s ensured that before he leaves, he has made something for the more mature audiences who have aged with the franchise.
There are scenes in this picture which will make you weep, but there are also a few that may horrify. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is most certainly a journey, and an epic one too, and audiences will find themselves emotionally all over the place before it reaches its conclusion.
The good news is, that while Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 does feel different, it is largely a very strong film. Not all of it works – and I’ll come to its most pressing issues in a moment – but for the most part it brings all of the stuff you would expect from this franchise (great characters, good gags, etc), along with a sense of finality.
If you are someone who has followed the Guardians from that very first movie, then you owe it to yourself to see what plays out here. You may not be on board with everything in the picture, but Gunn strives hard to retain your attention throughout, and make sure you remain totally invested in this space-travelling group.
And it’s not just Gunn that works hard for this film, the cast do too. All of the principal actors bring their A-game, including Karen Gillan, Bradley Cooper, and the ever-reliable Dave Bautista, as well as Chris Pratt who feels switched on, completely connected with the material, and back in the driving seat.
I’ve been a bit critical of Pratt in the past, thanks to his less-than-stellar turns in Jurassic World: Dominion and The Super Mario Bros. Movie, but here he feels like the Pratt of old. He doesn’t phone in his performance this time around; he breathes life back into Star-Lord.
I’d argue that Gillan, Bautista, Cooper, and Pratt are the stand-out stars in this movie, however, I don’t want to overlook Chukwudi Iwuji, who takes on the role of the High Evolutionary and pretty much steals every scene he is in. Playing the part of an inter-galactic Doctor Moreau, Iwuji not only gets to be the big bad of the picture, he also gets to become the nastiest, most vile villain in the MCU.
The High Evolutionary isn’t the sort of villain that you love to hate, he’s scum of the highest order and a right b*stard. This character has no redeeming features (none whatsoever) and Iwuji plays the part to perfection.
Other plus points of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 include the always inspiring and elevating soundtrack, the series’ signature brand of humour, and the spirit and sense of belonging which is always present throughout these films. The Guardians franchise has always been about misfits and outsiders standing together for the greater good, and finding their place in the world, and this film maintains this ethos.
The movie also feels important and as if it is pushing its own boundaries to give its characters a send-off they deserve. Whatever comes next doesn’t matter at present, it’s all about tying up some loose ends and giving some closure wherever it is needed.
But, while Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 gets many things right, it is far from perfect. The film does suffer from a few problems here and there, and this does make it a bit of a bumpy ride at times.
The most notable issue is to do with the tone, and while I applaud Gunn for going a little harder, and a little deeper with the weird and wonderful aspects of his film, I do wish he pulled back a touch. Some of the imagery in this film is quite out there, touching upon Gunn’s past work with the low-budget horror studio, Troma Entertainment, and this does feel a bit off.
I’m a big fan of horror, as any reader of this blog will know, but at times I believe Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 leans into the darkness a bit too much, and this doesn’t sit entirely right with me. Maybe I need a second viewing of the film to be sure, but at present, I feel there are parts of this film that don’t quite gel with the comedic stylings of this world, or the general vibe of a Marvel Studios movie.
The other issue this film struggles with is its pacing, which is uneven. Unlike the previous Guardians movies, which all follow a linear format, this third helping features an extensive use of flashbacks, to detail Rocket’s backstory.
The flashbacks themselves are very strong, very emotive pieces, and they are all well written. The problem is, the flashbacks impact the flow of the film, and this makes the main plot feel like it is forever stop-starting.
At no point during Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 was I ever bored or disinterested – far from it – but the first two-thirds of the movie feel sluggish in places. At times, it is as though the characters are walking in treacle to get to where they need to go.
And speaking of characters, while I have plenty of praise for the usual suspects, newcomer Will Poulter is largely handed a dud with his character, the all-powerful Adam Warlock. Poulter pops up at various points throughout the movie, playing a character with zero personality, and he seems like an after-thought rather than a key player.
Oh, and I’m also not entirely sure all of the musical numbers in the film are quite so well utilised in the story either. All of the chosen tracks are great, but from time-to-time they are just randomly dropped into the story, rather than carefully placed like they were in the previous movies, so like Adam Warlock, the tracks feel a bit last-minute too.
All of the above are frustrating issues, some more so than others, but I think it is important to say they don’t stop Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 from still being impressive stuff. This film gets far more right than it gets wrong, and that’s arguably the biggest takeaway here.
While I don’t believe Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 will be everyone’s favourite instalment in the series, largely due to its emotional scenes, which at times are heart-breaking, this is a big film for the franchise and there is a lot to digest. Whether I like all of Gunn’s choices is something I am going to have to dwell on for a while, but for the most part I am impressed with what he delivers.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 doesn’t make any excuses for the story it wants to tell and it certainly stands out from the crowd. I think it’s fair to say that some audiences won’t entirely like it, and I imagine some kids will get traumatised by a few scenes, as it really pushes the limits of its 12A classification, but for everyone else, there is something here to get your teeth into.
This movie will be landing on Disney+ in a matter of months, but if you are able to catch it on the big screen, then you really should. It feels like an event picture and the last stop on a very enjoyable journey.
Thank you for taking the time to read this review on It’s A Stampede!. For more reviews, check out the recommended reads below.
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