Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 review: beautiful spectacle and schmaltzy sentimentality

The appeal of James Gunn Guardians of the Universe movies has always been their ability to feel truly separate and distinct from the rest of Marvel’s multigenre movie universe, while sticking to the studio’s corporate identity just enough to make crossovers make sense. The first Guards humorously opened the MCU on a cosmic scale, the second solidifying its ragtag team of space outcasts as both a family and a key part of Marvel’s plans for the end of Phase 3. While Phase 5 is just getting underway, almost everything about Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 was created as a celebratory farewell to the film’s characters and the recent era of Marvel movies that helped define them.

Narratively, that’s a fantastic place for the third movie in a series to work from, and Full. 3 it feels like Gunn is working hard to show you how much these movies have meant to him as a director. But for all of its stunning set pieces, resourceful production design, and fascinating villain, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 bogged down in a quagmire of lame jokes and a schmaltz that is so cloyingly ‘sweet’ it’s almost insulting.

Set some time after the Guardians of the Universe holiday special, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 tells the action-packed, flashback story of how Rocket Raccoon’s (Bradley Cooper) life is put in grave danger, gives the rest of the Guardians a reason to come together and really get to grips with some of the emotional issues that haunt them ever since Endgame. With Thanos gone and the universe largely restored, Knowhere, the severed celestial head from which Rocket, Drax (Dave Bautista), Mantis (Pom Klementieff), Groot (Vin Diesel), Nebula (Karen Gillan), Kraglin, is doing relatively well. (Sean Gunn) and Cosmo the Spacedog (Maria Bakalova) operate as the newest incarnation of the Guardians.

Despite becoming an angry drunk since we last saw him, Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) is still part of the team as Full. 3 opens up about him mourning the death of the Gamora (Zoe SaldaƱa) he knew and loved before Thanos killed her in Infinite War – a loss that hit all Guardians hard. But unlike Quill, who spends quite a bit Full. 3 lashing out with an unpleasant gruffness that makes it hard to sympathize with him, virtually everyone on the team has made peace with the fact that while their Gamora may be gone, but there is another Gamora from the past (see: Endgame) are now running across the galaxy so they can keep a healthy distance.

Figuring out how to post narrative threads-Endgame without feeling stuck in the past is a challenge that many of Marvel’s recent films have struggled with, and Full. 3 is no exception. There was no way Full. 3 not to address the problem of the Gamora paradox, and it’s actually a concept that has always been intriguing enough to warrant deeper investigation. But instead of unpacking that piece of existential era madness and all the ideas of sadness baked into it, Guardians of the Universe focuses most of his energy on revealing the secret, tragic backstory that led to Rocket’s creation and also conveniently views him as the latest example of Marvel framing (animal) humans as MacGuffins.

The specific reason why the High Evolutionary (Chukwudi Iwuji) – an alien geneticist obsessed with manipulating perfection in living things – wants Rocket is much more interesting than the Scarlet Witch’s rationale to track down America Chavez in Multiverse of madness and more unhinged than Namor’s plan to kill Riri Williams Wakanda forever. But while those movies both tried to give MacGuffins an active role to play in the present, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 tries to tug at your heartstrings with a series of flashbacks to Rocket’s gruesome childhood experimenting with other sentient, talking animals like Lylla (Linda Cardellini), an otter with cybernetic arms, Floor the Rabbit (Mikaela Hoover), and Teefs the Walrus ( Asim Chaudry).

As it jumps between past and present, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 often feels like a movie overloaded with ideas, both good and bad, trying hard to make them all work in too little time, even if the movie is over two hours long.

The Guardians’ battles with the subordinates of the Sovereign of the High Evolutionary, High Priestess Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki), and her premature failure Adam Warlock (Will Poulter) make for some of the film’s most dizzying fight sequences and present they rock solid as a team of cosmic superheroes. But the more time Full. 3 past issues focused on the young Rocket – an eerily cute CGI procyonid Cooper voiced as a guy doing gruff, stilted baby talk – the more it feels like Gunn doesn’t really trust you to have emotional reactions to things without being concentrated with the spoon to be fed schmaltz beforehand.

What Gunn seemingly (and rightfully) has confidence in is his own ability to come up with brilliantly twisted, fanciful locations and production designer Beth Mickle’s ability to bring them to life in absolutely stunning detail. Just as tired as many Full. 3‘s jokes and emotional beats, almost every one of his transitions to a new location is a delightful showcase of what all Marvel Studios are capable of, visually, when it fires on all cylinders to realize the vision of a filmmaker whose ideas are the trusts. It’s also clear that the film’s cast has faith in Gunn, and he in them, and the result is a series of performances that – Pratt aside – work surprisingly well when the film’s script doesn’t get in the way of them doing weird things. to say. . Unfortunately, however, that is more often the case.

The extent to which you will enjoy Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 shall depends largely on how personally invested you have become in these characters over the years. Because the movie is really meant to be a goodbye rather than an adventure that makes you fall in love with the Guardians for the first time. To that end, Guardians of the Universe does manage to dismiss its eponymous heroes in a way that feels thematically “right” for a trilogy that has always been about misfits finding themselves with the help of their found families and marching to the beat of their own weird drums.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 also starring Sylvester Stallone, Daniela Melchior, Nathan Fillion, Nico Santos and Dee Bradley Baker. The film will hit theaters on May 5.

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