“It’s good to have friends.” (SHUT UP YOU’RE CRYING)
Story: When we left our Guardians, Gamora had been lost, but found, then lost again, as her alternate-self left for parts unknown. Needless to say, Peter/StarLord isn’t taking that well at all. But when a fight leaves a crewmember so severely wounded that even their advanced medical tech can’t help? It’s time for a road trip! Star trip? You know what I mean, y’all.
Genre I’d put it in: Trilogy Enders That Stick The Landing
Release Date: 2023
Remake, Sequel, Based-On, or Original: Based on the Guardians of the Galaxy comic book characters. Part of the MCU, and the third installment of the GotG films.
Gotta say: Remember when a Marvel movie was an event? Like when we’d all get stoked about the latest installment, hope for a screening, and then dissect every little plot point for weeks, excited for the next one? Yeah, no longer. Now it feels like it’s just another movie in just another Phase, where nothing makes sense and the story has no point, let alone a real connection to an overarching plan. So here we are, at the end of James Gunn’s Guardians trilogy. And what’s up? Why, only the best installment of this series, and one of the best MCU entries to date. Have I forgiven the MCU? Not yet. But with more stories like 3, I could get there.
Here in 3, Gunn figured that he would try to see how many emotions he could pull out of his audience at any given time. There’s a lot going on in this film, yet the story stays tight and focused. How? Because Gunn keeps every subplot wrapped within the overarching goal; helping family. And within that, we get a treasure trove of scenes; AltGamora trying to figure out why Peter loved her other, “original”, self, Drax and Mantis trying to find balance in their push-and-pull siblingesque rivalry, Kraglin trying to find his inner whistle, and more. (Just a taste, kiddos. Just a taste.) Plus, we get more of the eager-to-please Russian space-dog, Cosmo (delightfully voiced by Borat 2‘s Maria Bakalova), and the Kraglin/Cosmo friendship makes for a fun running gag. Special shout-out to Nico Santos as Recorder Theel. It’s not a large role, but I adore Santos – check out Superstore and/or Crazy Rich Asians – and anytime I can see him onscreen is a win for me.
As the Big Bad of the film, The High Evolutionary is creepy, cruel, and absolutely psychotic. Chukwudi Iwjui gives an engaging, unhinged performance. This dude is Craaaaazy Y’all, in a Doctor Moreau kinda way that is genuinely creepy, yet disturbingly low-key. It would have been awesome if THE was going to be the overarching villain of Marvel’s next phase, as there’s so much he’s done in the universes, and Iwjui is absolutely magnetic onscreen. But okay, Kang-a-palooza. Cool. Another wrench in the Guardians’ works is Adam Warlock, aka The Guy In The Cocoon at the Sovereign Ayesha’s pad. He isn’t much more than a juvenile himbo, due to THE removing Warlock from his cocoon too early, leaving the warrior with an undeveloped moral and emotional compass. Though Will Poulter does a great job finding the line between fun-silly and stupid-silly, after all the buildup for this character? It’s a rather watered down introduction, mostly because I wasn’t expecting Warlock to be comic relief. See? I can nitpick this film. (Though he does end up with an adorable catlike creature I want to boop So Desperately It Hurts. Here we go; add another Funko Pop to the pile…)
The story in 3 will tug every single one of your heartstrings, unless you are completely and totally dead inside. Though I do have to warn y’all; in going back to Rocket’s early life, there are tons (TONS) of sequences of animal abuse, along with surgical “enhancements” that may be tough for some to stomach. Hey, I said Doctor Moreau for a reason. But soon, Rocket and his pals Lila, Teef, and Floor melted me into a puddle of happy goo, and maybe you should bring a tissue or two for all the emotions. Just a tip from me to you. A big reason this gang hit my heart in the best way was due to the excellent FX, and the incredibly detailed art direction in their “home”. In fact, the overall look of the film is fantastic, even with a few creatures in Alt-Earth looking a bit too much like original Star Trek aliens. (On purpose though? I’d bet that was a Gunn directive.) There’s a bio-created space station that’s especially wild, complete with groovy tartigrade-inspired spacesuits. Bravo to production designer Beth Mickle and costume designer Judianna Makovsky for giving me lewks I never expected, but felt completely real.
Family vs. chosen family, believing in yourself, finding your own way, and generally being the most awesome version of yourself ever are the themes of the day here. Sometimes they’re a bit too on the nose; Florence & The Machine’s “Dog Days Are Over” plays during a post-climax dance scene. (It’s still awesome though.) But 3 got me tearing up a few times during it’s two and a half hour run time, so the film was doing something right. It’ll be tough saying goodbye to this gang, though the film does leave the door open for cameos and side-quests for Our Gang. (The post-credits scenes make sure you understand that.) So go grab your version of family, and enjoy harking back to a time when the MCU was pure, unfettered, glorious fun.
#Protip: Dat Soundtrack? Yeah, I know you want it. I’m gonna give it to you. In fact? Take the whole trilogy of greatness. BOOM Y’ALL.