‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3’ Review: Weird, Amusing, and a Bit Too Long, aka a Classic Marvel

I’m still not totally sure we’ll ever get back to the MCU as we once knew and loved it, though this isn’t a bad place to start.

“Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” is the 32nd film of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the final installment of the titular trilogy. James Gunn returns to write and direct, as Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldaña, Dave Bautista, Karen Gillan, Pom Klementieff, Vin Diesel, and Bradley Cooper reprise their roles as the universe’s most ragtag group of heroes. In the film, the team must find a way to protect Rocket Raccoon from his maniacal creator (Chukwudi Iwuji); Will Poulter, Elizabeth Debicki, Maria Bakalova, and Sylvester Stallone also star.

Overall, I like the Guardians and their movies. 2014’s film was a happy surprise, and at the time the first true example that Marvel could put out any product and audiences would eat it up. I wasn’t a big fan of the 2017 follow-up the first time I saw it, but I did an MCU chronological rewatch with my friend last year and it grew on me (plus the team is really fun—arguably at their best—in “Infinity War”). With recent MCU entries being hit and miss (some are fun like “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” others are cinematic war crimes like this February’s “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania”), I wasn’t too excited for “Guardians 3” but had hope Gunn could deliver. And while the film had some truly awful pacing and tugs at the audience’s heartstrings a tad too often, it’s still a solid send off to the trilogy and a return to form for Marvel.

I’m not a huge James Gunn fan; I think he’s capable of being funny but is very high on his own supply, but he’s the kind of director with a cult following who will live and die by his movies. He was originally fired by Disney after some controversial tweets of his came to light, and in his time off went to DC to make “The Suicide Squad.” He would eventually return to Marvel and make this film, but will now serve as DC’s own version of Kevin Feige, overseeing all projects. Anyways, this is possibly the most James Gunn film to ever James Gunn. It’s very weird (full of creepy half-animal, half-robot creatures, like a furrier version of Sid’s “Toy Story” bedroom), at times funny (some jokes really are great, but Gunn isn’t afraid to take 20 swings if it means getting one hit), and has some solid emotional beats (though again, Gunn will write a dozen cringe or corny bits if it means just one lands). I do appreciate how the “Guardians” movies feel like a singular vision, not your typical MCU cookie-cutter factory products, and a lot of the film is effective for what it sets out to do and be.

I like Chris Pratt, which has become an oddly controversial thing to say, and he’s good here. He’s charming and at times can pull off the dramatic acting, and has good chemistry with the cast (impressive, considering half are CGI and the rest donning silly makeup and prosthetics). Bradley Cooper is given the most “acting” he’s ever had in these films voicing Rocket, the hot-tempered raccoon mercenary. I think he’s been funnier in the previous films, though Cooper does a good job in the flashback scenes depicting Rocket’s origins (more on those in a sec).

The rest of the cast is solid, with Dave Bautista being goofy as Drax, Karen Gillan having some comically angry deliveries as Nebula, and Pom Klementieff serving as the sympathetic Mantis. Will Poulter is fun but tacked-on as Adam Warlock, an assassin sent to take out the Guardians, and I enjoyed Chukwudi Iwuji as the main baddie, with his Shakespearean wit and dry comedic delivery, though by the end of the film Gunn runs out of things for him to do.

The film is fun for sure, and like its predecessors is among the most colorful of the MCU. However after the opening act , the pacing hits major snags. The Guardians go on a mission then must rescue someone, and that’s a plot point recycled not once but two times. By the end of the film (which runs 150 minutes) you feel like you saw two different movies with the amount of plot thrown at you. Rocket gets a backstory shown via flashbacks, and while at time they’re amusing or emotional, they also ruin the narrative flow and hit the same beats multiple times; it could’ve been done in one or two ten-minute segments.

“Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” is a proper sendoff to the weird bunch, as well as to James Gunn, Zoe Saldaña, and Dave Bautista’s time at Marvel. It’s certainly overlong and at times poorly paced, but I doubt fans of the team or Gunn will care (if you love this film I’m happy for you, but I’ve seen some folk already calling it better than “Endgame” or “Infinity War,” to which I say: this isn’t even the best “Guardians” movie, let’s settle down). It also serves as a return to form in sorts for Marvel, and hopefully proof that there’s still some gas left in the seemingly never-ending tank.

Critics Rating: 7/10

Walt Disney

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