Review: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3 poster

In what is a low point in Marvel/Disney’s reception, Guardians Vol. 3 is surprising; both in its quality and its scares.

When one of the team is mortally wounded in an attack, the rest of the Guardians need to face down a powerful mad scientist to save their life.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 released in 2017. By Marvel’s production rate, that is the equivalent of two decades. Director James Gunn is the eye of the storm right now when it comes to comic book movie adaptations; this hiatus is due to his firing then rehiring by Disney over allegations forTwitter posts the director had made a long time ago. Gunn went on to direct The Suicide Squad for DC, and now heads all of DC’s own extended universe (good luck with that) and a final chapter for Peter Quill and friends seemed unlikely.

But here we are, and rumours abound that Kevin Feige, Marvel Studios president, told Gunn he could kill any characters he wanted.

So, is Guardians 3 worth the wait, or is it another Ant-Man: Quantumania?

Chris Pratt and the team
Star Lord, Nebula, Mantis, Groot, and Drax, looking smart in their new uniforms.

It actually is pretty good.

The film feels like movies from Marvel’s past. Once again, we have the rarity of a Marvel entry that isn’t tied to a bigger narrative; we aren’t saddled with multi-verse / Kang the Conqueror subtexts or undercurrents. Vol. 3 is its own beast, albeit following the aftermath of Avengers: End Game. The film is stuffed; it flies through so many locations, has so many characters, and yet gives them all something to do. Be that character arcs or action set pieces, no one feels left out. Which is incredible considering Ant-Man couldn’t even decide what to do with one of its titular characters.

Pleasantly surprising is the narrative arcs here, buried within the manic space battles and (quite often) shouting characters. It also feels as though these actors know each other well, and that they get on together. Karen Gillan steals a lot of scenes as Nebula, and the film even does things with Mantis (Pom Klementieff). They even take advantage of the Infinity War connection and do something different with our romantic subplot between Star Lord (Chris Pratt) and Gamora (Zoe Saldana) considering romance plots in trilogies almost always become a labour in the third act.
Our villain, The High Evolutionary, is suitably grandiose for the Guardians to fight against. The character is extremely warped and cruel; having a psychotic need to reach perfection through genetic manipulation.

This film has to be one of the darkest Marvel has released. While it does still have the Guardians of the Galaxy bells and whistles and humour, some scenes are straight out of a horror movie. Also a surprising amount of bad language. Parents should be advised.

Will Poulter as Adam Warlock
Will Poulter is newcomer Adam Warlock, teased at the end of Vol. 2.

It is a film on the lengthy side. 150 minutes runtime, so two hours and thirty minutes. Could it have been shorter and tighter? Absolutely. Could a couple of tertiary characters be written out? Probably.
The story leaps from one location to another, in ways that feel required by studio mandates. Why do the heroes need to go there first instead of directly to the source? Because plot contrivances. How are the heroes always under threat at any point despite being in the vast emptiness of space / because they were in hiding? Because plot contrivances. The film sometimes just feels… artificially lengthened, at times.

But the CGI elements here are very good. This should be stated because of how disastrous Ant-Man 3 was in this regard. They must have put all the main studio artists and animators onto this one.

If you can brace yourself for some horror vibes, Guardians Vol. 3 is a great send off for these characters. Everyone (and more) are here, and everyone gets a moment to shine.

3.5 out of 5

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