Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3 review: A fitting conclusion to the Guardians saga
Despite a few narrative sags, the final entry in James Gunn's intergalactic MCU trilogy wraps things up very nicely indeed.
When Guardians of the Galaxy first bowed in 2014, this band of little-known space rangers were the Marvel outliers. Now, almost a decade later, after a 2017 sequel and an instrumental part in fighting the mega-villain Thanos in the Avengers movies, it’s hard to imagine the MCU without them. But all good things… as they say. Writer-director James Gunn has already announced that Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3 will be the final outing for Rocket, Groot, and the others, but the question is: do they go out with a bang?
To begin with, everyone’s in a funk. The gang are all in Knowhere, the mining colony where they are based. Peter Quill, AKA Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), is moping around without his long-time love Gamora (Zoe Saldana), and as if to emphasise the gloomy atmosphere, Gunn plays an acoustic version of Radiohead’s Creep on the soundtrack. Bummer, as they say. Then, out of nowhere arrives Adam Warlock (Will Poulter) – the perfect being created by the gold-skinned Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki), who really has it in for the Guardians.
Warlock causes havoc, badly wounding Rocket, the sharp-talking racoon voiced by Bradley Cooper. When they try and revive him, he reacts badly. He’s been fitted with a kill switch. Why? Nobody knows. Rocket has always been secretive about his background, but Gunn is determined to flesh it out. Gradually, with extended flashbacks, we learn that he was experimented on by a scientist known only as the High Evolutionary (Chuckwudi Iwuji).
So begins the Guardians’ latest mission, as they must save Rocket’s life. Joining Star-Lord are Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista), Mantis (Pom Klementieff), Nebula (Karen Gillan) and Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel), the tree-like alien with just three words in his vocabulary. It doesn’t take long before they’re all reunited with Gamora too, although she’s now part of a gang of space pirates, the Ravagers, led by Stakar Ogord (Sylvester Stallone, in a minor cameo).
After the events of Avengers: Endgame, this Gamora – Nebula’s sister and Thanos’s daughter lest we forget – seemingly has no memory of the Guardians. “We weren’t anything,” she says, coldly, to Star-Lord. Somewhat grumpily, she comes along for the ride as they head to Orgocorp, a slick-looking corporate front for the High Evolutionary. It’s at this point Gunn goes off-piste, with alien weirdness wherever you look. It’s so trippy at times, Guardians Vol 3 makes Star Wars’ cantina look like the Penrith tearooms.
The High Evolutionary's magnum opus is a replica of Earth – named Counter-Earth – looking like an American suburbia. “I’m not trying to conquer the universe – I’m perfecting it,” he claims. If his past tests on baby Rocket and other cute animals aren’t enough to move you, then Gunn later throws a gang of kids into the mix, who are also his captives. It slightly over-eggs the heartstring-tugging, which is one of Guardians Vol 3’s problems – it throws a lot at the wall to see what sticks.
Despite a few narrative sags (at 149 minutes, it’s way too long), there’s plenty to enjoy – with Gunn getting his MOR groove on by airing the likes of Rainbow’s Since You’ve Been Gone. He’s a little unfortunate that his is the second Chris Pratt movie in a month, following The Super Mario Bros Movie, to also use the Beastie Boys’ No Sleep Till Brooklyn in a montage, but hey, what can you do?
There is a little too much interstellar carnage at times which can leave you feeling disengaged, but on the plus side, Will Poulter makes an excellent addition (yes, that Knowhere introduction is not the last time we see Adam Warlock). Drax rocks as usual, and Mantis and Groot run him close for scene-stealing. The final act also wraps things up very nicely for the Guardians. You might even shed a tear or bust out a dance move or two, just like they do.
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Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3 is now showing in UK cinemas, while other instalments in the franchise are available to stream on Disney Plus. Sign up to Disney Plus now for £7.99 per month or £79.90 for a full year.
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