The Plot: The Guardians Of The Galaxy are chilling out to a classic tune when golden boy Adam Warlock (Will Poulter) carries out an attack on Rocket (Bradley Cooper). With Rocket now in critical condition, it’s up to Peter (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax (Dave Bautista), Nebula (Karen Gillan), Mantis (Pom Klementieff) and Groot (Vin Diesel) to find a solution to restore their friend. The answer lies in Rocket’s dark past, in which he was a lab animal for The High Evolutionary (Chukwudi Iwuji). With the fate of Rocket in their hands, they set off on a madcap adventure but that will depend on them setting aside their bickering differences…
The Verdict: Too much of a good thing isn’t necessarily good for anyone, given that it can cause high expectations, an intense sugar rush and then result in crashing lows afterwards. It would appear that writer-director James Gunn didn’t get that memo from Disney when they fired and then subsequently re-hired him for Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 3. Perhaps only he could have translated his livewire script into something approaching a trilogy capper and then proceed to throw everything at it with gleeful abandon. Everything. That includes the kitchen sink and all the bolts with it, along with any last opinions on the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) as he jumps ship to the other main superhero studio. One can’t blame him for doing that, given how touchy-feely Disney have been with him on that smear campaign. But what has he left behind for audiences?
When they first joined the MCU, Guardians Of The Galaxy was a calculated gamble for Marvel. It took a scruffy bunch of space misfits and somehow knitted them together into a colourful tapestry with smart characterisation and some banging tunes to go with it. They went from being the black sheep of the MCU to becoming committed team players and endearing themselves to audiences. It was always Gunn’s intention to dig into Rocket’s past and give him his dues beyond just being a wisecracking raccoon (if only Drax had something similar beyond just being a comic foil, with Dave Bautista rightfully grumbling recently). Rocket’s backstory is the emotional core of Vol. 3 and it’s a strongly effective one, involving Rocket’s origins and identification with fellow lab animals who are ultimately regarded as expendable by The High Evolutionary. The latter rants and raves a lot, stomping about with a Robocop-style face on a bad day as he needs Rocket to fulfill his nefarious purpose.
Rocket’s storyline is undoubtedly the main draw here, the calm and steady eye in the centre of the storm of this film. For around it is a wildly overlong and consequently overstuffed extravaganza gathering together as many characters as possible, introducing new ones even at this late stage and then hoping it all gels together in coherent fashion. Sort of / not quite. There’s far too much going on outside of Rocket’s storyline, with Gunn juggling so many different characters, environments, gags and plot turns that inevitably some of them splat onto the ground – Drax showing his soft side, Mantis having a habit of saying the wrong thing at the right time. More interesting is Groot’s cool new Transformer-style look and the frisson between Peter and Gamora from another timeline, which is both amusing and touching to watch as they get to know each other again.
Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 3 is a farewell of sorts, being the last time that we see this iteration of the gang together onscreen. Therefore, it leans heavily towards fan service – they even get a special thanks in the end credits. That’s fine for a fan who doesn’t mind their eyeballs being overloaded and their ears deafened for 2.5 hours, but casual superhero viewers might wonder if it’s all really necessary when a more streamlined and focused film would have been more effective in saying goodbye. It’s a big party of a film, but like any party it depends on how much one engages with it and gets out of it. A flawed farewell that tries too hard to please, but it does have its moments.
Rating: 2.5 / 5
Review by Gareth O’Connor
In short: Flawed farewell
Directed by James Gunn.
Starring Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Chukwudi Iwuji, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Karen Gillan, Pom Klementieff, Will Poulter.