Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 3 is the finale to the Marvel’s Celluloidical Ubiquity’s best trilogy. It’s one of the few from a writer/director, and one with the most directorial personality, but it’s also very accessible to less dedicated viewers of comic book movies. It exists off in space, pretty separate from the other Marvel business, other than building off of things that happened to the characters in the two biggest MCU crossover movies, which are quickly summarized for our convenience.

Honestly the story is pretty simple. A weird powerful dude apparently called Adam Warlock (Will Poulter, SON OF RAMBOW) flies in from space and tries to abduct the talking raccoon Rocket (voice of Bradley Cooper, THE MIDNIGHT MEAT TRAIN), instead putting him in a coma; when his friends try to resuscitate him they figure out from code in his cyborg parts that Orgocorp, the company that enhanced him from regular raccoon into Rocket, was trying to reclaim him as “proprietary property,” and now his body will shut down if they don’t get some security code. So the Guardians get help from former member Gamora (Zoe Saldaña, THE TERMINAL) to break into the company’s headquarters, and then to get information in a place called Counter-Earth (an experimental re-creation of an American suburb populated with animal-human hybrids) to save their friend and battle his cruel creator, the High Evolutionary (Chukwudi Iwuji, JOHN WICK CHAPTER 2). Along the way, of course, there are complications, battles, many running gags and bits, and (new to this volume) some very grim but also sweet flashbacks about Rocket’s origins and his friendship in captivity with very innocent cyborg otter, walrus and rabbit lab animals.

The GUARDIANS movies, all written and directed by James Gunn (SLITHER) (with a co-writer credited only on the first one), have always been some of the most fun and visually imaginative Marvel movies, and this thing takes that even further. It’s infused with bits in the spirit of DARK STAR, European sci-fi comics, and the good parts of HEAVY METAL and SPACE TRUCKERS. Maybe even a little BLOOD MACHINES, come to think of it. I doubt they would know that one, but it’s a good sector to set your navcomputer on. We’ve got the Guardians in candy-colored space suits infiltrating The Orgoscope, a “bio-formed” space station, meaning its grown from flesh! It has lots of sterile white in the interior but with eyeball cameras and yellow jelly control panels. It’s staffed with what look like retro-futuristic flight attendants, and security guards (led by Nathan Fillion, DRACULA 2000) wearing armor something between Lynch’s DUNE and… I don’t know, a crab costume?

It’s one of the only movies I know of where the heroes live in a town built on the severed head of an ancient space god that can be flown around like a space ship. (Just this and KRAMER VS. KRAMER, I believe.) The space battles are exciting and the fights (stunt coordinator: Heidi Moneymaker, “Athena” from WOLF WARRIOR 2) are even cooler – there are some good long takes with the camera weaving between both real stunts and digital characters, such as Groot (voice of Vin Diesel, BREAKIN’ IN THE USA: BREAK DANCING AND ELECTRIC BOOGIE TAUGHT BY THE PROS) sprouting eight arms to fire laser guns while the camera rotates around him like he’s a Bad Boy. (Cinematographer: Henry Braham, BORN TO RIDE.)

Marvel movies have lately earned a reputation as lazy green screen bullshit not entirely finished by overworked FX teams, but that certainly isn’t the case on this one. In addition to the great animation of Rocket and his cute animal friends, the High Evolutionary has some scary animal cyborg henchmen that are weirdly detailed enough to remind me of the better characters in the TRANSFORMERS movies or seeing Davy Jones for the first time in DEAD MAN’S CHEST. My favorite is War Pig, a terrifying creature who has an unexpected voice I didn’t realize until the credits was Judy Greer (CURSED).

It’s more than enough space opera pageantry and laughs for a fun time at the movies, but for sure it’s liking these misfits and being moved by their friendship that makes the trilogy work as well as it does. Gunn has already established slo-mo-group-shot-walking-toward-the-camera as the format for checking in on the status of the team, so the title comes over one such shot of the Guardians, but with Nebula (Karen Gillan, OCULUS) carrying Star Lord (Chris Pratt, WANTED) because he’s passed out drunk, depressed over the loss of Gamora.

Oh yeah, she died, right? I’ve seen all the related movies, but only once when they were released. VOL. 3 does a good job of reminding me what’s up – Gamora was killed by her intergalactic supervillain pops Thanos in AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR, but in AVENGERS: ENDGAME her sister Nebula was able to travel in time to 2014 and recruit her past self to help save the universe in the present. So Gamora is still around but she’s a Gamora who never experienced the events of GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY volumes 1-2, so she’s not in love with or interested in Star Lord. Doesn’t even remember his name. He’s become a depressed hard drinker while the others disagree about whether Gamora is dead or “just forgot the last few years.”

So each time they have another group shot there are different stakes, such as whether or not Gamora will walk with them. She works with them as a hired gun and spends some of the time just waiting on the ship reading a book and keeping watch on Rocket while they do shit she doesn’t want to be involved in, but she has a cool arc because she does learn to understand and respect them more without having to become the same Gamora or fall in love with Star Lord. It’s a story about accepting change, being happy with the memories, and moving forward to make new ones. In a movie full of very entertaining spectacle, one of the highlights is just seeing (EMOTIONAL SPOILER) Gamora return to the Ravagers after it’s all over and seeing how happy they are for her to be back. Even though this Gamora never bonded with the Guardians in the same way as before, she found a different family that loves her just as much.

I’d say Star Lord and Gamora still seem like the main characters even though the story centers on Rocket and possibly gives him the most screen time. He’s unconscious for a big chunk of the present day story, so most of his scenes are a more innocent younger version voiced by Sean Gunn (2 episodes of Bunheads) who has always played Rocket on set (in addition to playing now-full-fledged Guardian Kraglin). Those scenes are something pretty unique, simultaneously cuter and bleaker than the rest of GUARDIANS. These animal characters are so sweet and caring, they’re very sad but not fully aware of how bad their situation is. And the results of the horrible experiments performed on them are visible in every gesture, since they have these very unnatural mechanic body parts added to them. These scenes are kinda like THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU merged with BABE: PIG IN THE CITY as filtered through Gunn’s ex-Troma brain.

There’s a shot of present day Rocket taking off his vest and we see metal parts from the experiments protruding through his back. It’s exactly like when an action hero reveals a lifetime of knife and bullet wounds on their back, but it’s a raccoon. And what has always been cool about this character is that of course Gunn wants us to smile at the absurdity of a badass raccoon, but he clearly takes him seriously and we end up going along with him.

Drax the Destroyer (lunch box collector turned actor Dave Bautista, WRONG SIDE OF TOWN, HOUSE OF THE RISING SUN, SCORPION KING 3: BATTLE FOR REDEMPTION, THE MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS, RIDDICK, KICKBOXER: VENGEANCE, BUSHWICK, BLADE RUNNER 2049, HOTEL ARTEMIS, ESCAPE PLAN 2: HADES, FINAL SCORE, MASTER Z: THE IP MAN LEGACY, ESCAPE PLAN: THE EXTRACTORS, ARMY OF THE DEAD) is the reverse of Rocket – a huge, menacing warrior but a goofy kid at heart. As in the Holiday Special, he’s now a comedy team with “gross bug lady”/antennaed empath Mantis (Pom Klementieff, Spike Lee’s OLDBOY, INGRID GOES WEST), and I’m just as invested in their silliness as in the main plot.

A good sign that this sequel isn’t just a retread is that my two favorite Guardians now weren’t introduced until VOLUME 2 and weren’t even on the team then. What did they ever do without Mantis and mean robot lady Nebula? They’re valuable in battle and planning but they shine even more in peacetime because they’re weirdos. Their social skills are off in opposite ways so they make really funny members of the team and family.

Nebula is the coolest looking and most powerful Guardian. Her most impressive of many abilities is being able to self-repair after being absolutely mangled, for example there’s a fight where she gets hit in the head so hard her skull smashes and her neck snaps backwards but she manages to recover within the same slow motion shot. She’s another daughter of Thanos and has had less time around people than Gamora so she’s a character that takes advantage of Gillan’s knack for deeply odd, unfriendly but kind of charming characters, as in DUAL.

Mantis is my favorite character in this and last year’s Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special on Disney+ (which isn’t needed to understand anything here except an in-joke or two). It’s one of those performances where the voice and expressions make her funny no matter what she says, and also they give her funny lines. More than that, I love how her big black eyes cartoonishly emphasize her greatest character trait of overwhelming sincerity. This is a personal thing but I got a little teary in the part where (SPOILER) she hears that Rocket is okay and she blurts out something like “Rocket we love you very much and we’re happy you’re alive!” Something about seeing someone so un-self consciously express affection. She has the ability to control the mind of anyone she touches – we see her use it to make people violently angry, or to believe they’re in love with Drax, or to forget something that just happened. But the way she uses it most of the time it’s like her super power is just being really supportive. How can you not love her?

The newly added character of Adam Warlock is a relatively small piece of the ensemble, but he’s fun too. I’ve been impressed by Poulter in the past because he was so despicable as a racist cop in Kathryn Bigelow’s DETROIT and then so funny as a comical douchebag in MIDSOMMAR. And here he’s great in another very different role as an engineered, golden-skinned super-being with the mentality of a teenager. I don’t know that it was necessary for him to get so pumped up for the role, but his face plus that new body does look like a comic book. I like how he just flies in from space and fights everybody at the beginning, it reminded me of reading comic books as a kid, it wasn’t usually some in-depth story, it was some unknown cosmic dude flying in and the heroes use their various powers on him. Of course, there would’ve been text boxes telling me who he was, but otherwise this was a similar feeling. It’s a good fight and we later find out he’s just doing what he’s told. There’s plenty of forgiveness in these movies. He ends up being an okay guy.

There are too many minor characters to get into, but I want to mention that Sylvester Stallone returns in a couple scenes as his character Stakar Ogord, and Gunn clearly understands how to use Stallone well. He gives him a big “this is what we’re gonna do” speech and a scene where he shows affection. There’s also a funny subplot for telekinetic cosmonaut dog Cosmo, voiced by Academy Award nominee Maria Bakalova (BODIES BODIES BODIES), and another cameo for TOXIC AVENGER director Lloyd Kaufman, now playing a character apparently named “Gridlemop.”

I’m glad we got one last smart alecky but warm-hearted motley space adventure with tons of musical montages set to popular music (in this case ranging from the ’70s to the current day). The whole trilogy uses music and dancing as a form of bonding – Star Lord inheriting the mix tape from his late mother, and getting all these aliens to love it too, Groot being reborn loving the Jackson 5. Rocket has become a music guy to the point that he opens this volume brooding to an acoustic version of Radiohead’s “Creep” and ends it asking his friends who their favorite musicians are.

Note that the High Evolutionary, the villain intended to be less likable than your Loki or your Killmonger, loves classical music. That’s not a bad thing, of course, but we have this guy who believes there’s no reason to move beyond the music of hundreds of years ago, and he’s put himself in charge of evolution. That’s gonna be a problem. This man for sure would turn his nose up to each and every song on every GUARDIANS soundtrack, and his super powers mean the Bop Gun would have no effect on him. If his crimes were lesser or if he’d sought redemption he’d probly be on the sidelines at the end being all snooty and uptight while the others celebrate their victory through dance, and suddenly he’d start doing some nerdy robot moves and everybody would welcome him to the fold with open arms. That would’ve been a better life, but he chose a different path.

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOLUME 3 may be the peak form for Marvel’s James Gunn’s rock ’n roll Star Wars for outcasts. Thanks to getting fired and rehired and there being a pandemic it took a while to make it, and probly ended up being better for it. I can’t deny that the MCU has a whole is beginning to wear thin, has oversaturated pop culture, created unfortunate results for other studios trying to copy their success, and contributed to the decline of medium and small movies released in theaters. But the Guardians are innocent. This is one of the things I treasure in blockbuster filmmaking: a good director of smaller movies taking a Hollywood gig, coming through with his personality intact, in fact seeming to grow as a filmmaker and a person and make his best and most personal work so far on this larger canvas. I look forward to seeing where he goes from here.

p.s. Reportedly Gunn has carefully tinkered with the movie to make it work well in the various presentation formats. I really wanted to see it in Imax and the showtime that was convenient for me was a 3D one, which I have rarely done for Marvel and when I did was not impressed. I’m happy to say the 3D was really good for this, though, really immersive, and one of the rare ones where my mind didn’t just start ignoring it after a while. Also I’ve always felt that looking through windows in 3D was cool and this is a movie that is frequently looking into cockpits from outside.

p.p.s. I still think THE SUICIDE SQUAD rules and I’ve been hearing people say otherwise lately so please hear me out by reading my review.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, May 17th, 2023 at 4:07 pm and is filed under Reviews, Comic strips/Super heroes, Science Fiction and Space Shit. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

27 Responses to “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3”

  1. I saw one of these (I’m sorry, I’m not sure which one) just to see what the hell it was, because people’s descriptions were so confounding (i.e. “It’s not like a normal Marvel movie, it’s more like a kooky space opera, through a troma filter, with heart-on-it’s-sleeve melodrama. But at the same time, still a total Marvel movie, but tongue in cheek. Y’know??” Uh… NO)

    So I get about 45 minutes in, and I’m like “oh, it’s a frat-dude fifth element”. And I don’t mean that as a dis, it’s just what it is, and that’s okay.

  2. This one eventually won me over but it took a while to click with me. Visually it’s a blast, full of colorful sci-fi weirdness, but there was something off about the tone. You don’t get any time to soak in the new status quo and I think the team dynamic suffers for it. The flashbacks are so fuckin’ grim, and a lot of the banter has curdled into ALWAYS SUNNY-esque yelling that comes off a lot more bitter than I think was intended. The vibe stays sour for a long time before it turns sweet. I think it sticks the landing but it’s touch and go getting there. It’s a good movie but it seems like the magic has faded. I’m glad Gunn is quitting now while he’s ahead.

  3. This movie strongly reminded me of We3, a Grant Morrison comic which is a heartrending piece of emotional manipulation which nevertheless satisfies.

  4. I really enjoyed this one – best Marvel in a long time. The GotG trilogy is probably the most consistent – in terms of quality, style and storytelling – piece of the MCU. The fact that it is only loosely connected to the rest of the MCU helps a lot – I think that after Endgame, opening up the Multiverse has been a massive problem for Marvel – although I get it that it is cool to bring different versions of the same characters, but it feels that the MCU is now in a “hole” and unable to get out of it. The GotG films are just doing their own thing and it is all the best for it.
    And Vern – I am also a huge fan of The Suicide Squad… James Gunn’s talent is to make people care for characters – even the smaller roles – and to bring a very specific humor to the superhero genre. I am almost a bit worried to see how being now the head of the DC universe might affect that… while The Suicide Squad was a very similar type of movie as the GotG, Superman and other more traditional DC heroes might not fit so much into that approach – but maybe it will be for the best!!

  5. Yeah, the subject of THE SUICIDE SQUAD, plus being the sequel to a widely hated movie, really gave him license to be irreverent. I’m sure he’ll want a very different tone for Superman, but I bet he’ll bring out some of the weird sci-fi business and side characters that will make it refreshingly different from previous movie versions. Also I think it’s cool that their Batman movie (not directed by him) is going to involve a Robin and likely other “Batman Family” characters. It’s weird that they’ve never really done Robin in a movie before (I’m not counting the two with the adult man in dark colored rubber armor). But if you can do a gun-toting raccoon you can definitely do a Robin.

  6. Haven’t seen it yet, but I was a bit surprised by the “This movie is too sad and violent” discussion on the web. I mean, have those people even seen the first two? It always baffles me how the GOTG movies are remembered by everybody as light hearted fun for the whole family, when part 1 already made audiences uglycry within the first five minutes, part 2 was basically a drama about different forms of psychological abuse and both parts would’ve probably been flat our R-rated if the victims of the violence would look more human like or bleed (or bleed red). Yes, these movies are fun and colourful and I love them, but they often feel like perfect analogies for someone cracking jokes to hide how depressed he is, which is also the reason why I rarely revisit them. Although I love them. Don’t get me wrong.

  7. There’s a SUICIDE SQUAD backlash? Damn, the internet’s capacity for hating on good things never ceases to amaze me.

    I adored this one. It’s got some issues like the villain barely registering on the third act or a general messiness, but final confrontations and tight scripts were never what these movies are about anyhow (the second one being a bit of an exception, I guess).
    It’s really interesting that the movie’s highlight action scene, the most show-offy one, is just about them crossing a hallway full or random low-level bad guys. There’s no tension about whether they’ll make it or any hardship on display, it just emphasizes how well they all work together, how much of a team they’ve become, and lets each and every one of them soak in the spotlight. A last hurrah. It’s a lovely touch and a good marker for where the film’s priorities are; Great stuff.
    In the end they do justice to all the characters, and that’s what matters – even poor Gamora, whose presence here feels like a spanner in the works, but that’s ok, they made it work and serve the movie.

    @ Majestyk – I agree the vibe is a bit weird for a while, but tonal whiplash is part of these movies’ DNA. Things staying grim for a while seems like an integral part of the movie; I didn’t find it as unpleasant as you seem to have done, will look out for that on a rewatch.

    @CJ, this one did feel extra brutal to me, even compared to the others (you’re not wrong about that). Not just rocket’s stuff. I got the feeling Marvel let Gunn get away with more this time around.

    @TKYoYo – there’s been talk for a long time about a We3 adaptation, and guess who said he’d be interested in doing it? That was years ago, though, and now with these scenes in GOTG I guess it’s unlikely he’ll ever do it. But… it is a DC comic; just saying.

  8. “There’s a SUICIDE SQUAD backlash? Damn, the internet’s capacity for hating on good things never ceases to amaze me.”

    This is the first I’m hearing of it as well, but I wouldn’t put too much stock in it. I assume it is primarily driven by Synderbros butthurt that Gunn is doing the job he was hired to do because of his massive talent and success rather than continuing the failed and unloved continuity these insecure dipshits have inexplicably decided to tie their own identities to. Like pretty much every opinion expressed on Twitter, this alleged backlash is likely little more than a poorly disguised cry for help, so feel free to disregard it.

  9. Love this trilogy and loved this movie. Gunn’s ability to alternate between utterly heart-wrenching (to me, at least) and joyfully playful is really astounding. We’ve had nearly a decade to get used to the idea of taking a talking raccoon seriously, but I’m still pretty surprised at how emotionally connected I feel to a CG character in a big budget action sci-fi movie. The flashback scenes were utterly devastating to me at times, but they also felt earned.


    I also have to give credit to Gunn and team for not succumbing to the temptation to go the obvious route and just start killing off characters at the end. Bautista and Saldana have both made it pretty clear that they currently have zero intention of returning to those characters, so it would have been very easy to kill one or both of them off for some easy feels at the end. But instead, we have a very mature look at this iteration of the Guardians moving on. They don’t exactly “break up” but, just like a real family, they have to move on with their lives and that means being apart from each other for now. It felt very bittersweet yet hopeful and true to the characters as we’ve gotten to know them.

    Anyway, I just loved this one. I’m sure Gunn will do some interesting (and potentially great) things with DC but I’m really going to miss his Guardians, the best bunch of a-holes in the galaxy.

  10. I’m not aware of a SUICIDE SQUAD backlash per se, but a bunch of my internet friends think it’s too mean or something. I feel like they’re taking it more literally than me. But even those people were won over by the Peacemaker show.

  11. Dtroyt: Yeah, I kept waiting for Drax or Nebula to die. I assumed Gamora was safe because they’d already killed her off once. I figured Gunn wouldn’t kill Mantis because I didn’t think he would take away his friend Pom’s meal ticket like that. I’d seen headlines about Pratt saying he’d do more GUARDIANS movies if asked so I assumed that meant Star Lord made it. And there’s no reason to kill off Rocket or Groot since they’re fully CGI and the easiest money their voice talent has ever made in their lives. So I thought for sure Drax and maybe Nebula were toast. But then when SPOILER it started seeming like everybody was actually gonna make it out in one piece (or, in Nebula’s case, as many pieces as she started the movie in) I was relieved. I love a heroic death as much as the next guy but I’m not sure this particular movie could have survived it.

  12. I gave up on SUICIDE SQUAD after 40-50 minutes, but Gunn’s THE SUICIDE SQUAD is a gem. Yes, a lot of the violence seems gratuitous and mean, but it has purpose, and the whole movie gave off, to me, a BUCKAROO BANZAI vibe that I am pretty sure Gunn was swinging for. So by definition it could not be mean.

    This exchange tells you that Gunn knew exactly what he was doing.
    Bloodsport: No one likes a show-off.
    Peacemaker: Unless what they’re showing off is dope as fuck.
    Bloodsport: Fuck. That’s true.

    Starro’s death is tragic, and the flashback to Cleo and the original Ratcacher – “Rats are the lowliest and most despised of all creatures, my love. But if they have purpose, so do we all.” – could only have been more on the nose if it was archly delivered by Taika Waititi (see the exchange of Bloodsport and Peacemaker above). If GUARDIANS VOL. 3 achieves this level of cake having and eating, I’ll be both surprised and delighted. Backlash my arse!

  13. Universal★Rundle

    May 18th, 2023 at 3:12 pm

    All I was able to think after this was “Holy that was SHAGGY.” I like that Gunn got to throw everything at the screen for his MCU farewell – characters, subplots, runtime, production costs, you name it – and I did cry a couple times, but THE SUICIDE SQUAD still landed better for me as a weirdo superhero gem. Not seriously or anything, but I wondered whether Gunn wanted to make GotG3 the biggest, cheekiest possible drain on Marvel’s bank account as he went out the door. Looking forward to seeing what he does at DC now!

  14. Majestyk- It’s funny how it seems you and I went through such a similar thought process as to who might die (Bautista may be gone, Pratt’s interviews made him sound safe, etc). Although I do admit to having been somewhat concerned that Pratt’s interview statement was some sort of misdirection but thankfully it was not.

  15. I loved this. Got dust in my eyes a bunch of times. Not just the best Marvel trilogy, but maybe one of the best, most consistent trilogies overall ever. (Curious to read your suggestions of a better trilogy, kids.)

    Looking forward to what Gunn does with DC at large. With Marvel struggling overall, he’s got a hell of an opportunity.

  16. I agree with Vern – Mantis and Nebula are the best parts of this one. This was probably the only one in this current phase of Marvel that I truly liked. All the others I thought were fine, but they weren’t anything I’d want to watch again. To be cliche, I laughed, I cried, I cheered (in my heart because I’m not going to actually cheer in a movie theater). When Rocket started having his flashbacks I though to myself, “Oh shit, they’re going to break my fucking heart.” and they did. I cannot believe James Gunn made me weep over a godamn spider-bunny in a Bane mask! Honestly, their story still makes me upset if I think about it too much. They were so innocent and pure! **SPOILERS** I was 100% sure they were going to kill Rocket, so it was nice that we made it out without any major characters dying, like the other guys have said. And that Rocket became their leader even.

    This was also the first time in a long time that I enjoyed Pratt. I wasn’t sure that would happen again. I liked that he was more subdued than he’s been in the past, because of course Peter would be having lost Gamora. Honestly, I didn’t care too much about Gamora in this one. I was way more interested and invested with the other characters. Even with a more subdued Peter, he was still really funny. I loved when he was trying to walk Nebula through opening the car door (btw, is that the first f bomb in a Marvel movie?) and I loved the post credits scene with his grandpa. It was just so simple and so relatable but so dry and funny.

    I think this has one of the better villains. I like that we didn’t have to hear his back story. We didn’t have to understand why he wanted to build a better race. He was just a evil dick doing evil dickishness and Peter kept telling him he didn’t care when he’d try to monologue.

    I do agree with Majestyk that there’s something off about the tone, though. I can’t put my finger on it, but it’s definitely different than the first two somehow.

  17. SPOILERS: Well, it’s probably one of the better of the MCU trilogies, which tend to end with a “tune in next week” instead of a definitive conclusion. It’s still as sprawling and as overstuffed as these threequels tend to be, which at this point is the price you pay for having an ever-growing cast who all have action figures to sell. It’s at times painfully obvious that Vol3 is doing double duty as an epic conclusion and table-setting for wherever Marvel wants the Guardians to pop up next (Mantis gets a “I’m going to go find myself” ending, which is good as saying “You can slot me into whatever Disney+ series you need me for”).

    I’m okay with it being more character-centric than plotty, but I can’t help but think it’s more messy with the characterization than it should be. If Drax is destined to make a great father, why is there a big joke about him abusing children? If Gamora’s happy ending is forming a new family with the Ravagers, why are we shown that her being with them has encouraged her to be a cold-blooded murderer? And honestly, what kind of asshole keeps telling Cosmo that she’s a bad dog?

    Also, if we’re really doing a deep-dive, the Marvel sexlessness is getting odd here, where we have multiple characters ‘starting families’ that are totally platonic, no kissing required. Girlfriends and moms are interchangeable (which IS Lylla to Rocket, anyway? No fair checking the comics!) and always seem to have died, more’s the pity.

    Just seems weird that a Batman trilogy can end with Anne Hathaway and her leather catsuit successfully seducing the Dark Knight, but Peter Quill’s story ends with him moving in with his grandfather.

  18. dreadguacamole

    May 20th, 2023 at 5:01 am

    @Kaplan- it’s definitely messy, but honestly I don’t have any problems at all with any of those character moments. They’re messy in the right way, that things are allowed to be complicated – they fit the characters perfectly even if they don’t align 100% with the messaging (Gamora isn’t colder because of her stint with the ravagers, it’s because she never did her stint with the guardians). It’s something I would like to see in more movies. I’m more (very mildly!) annoyed at things like the complete waste of the villain in the third act. He becomes so irrelevant and the fight is so perfunctory that the final confrontation almost comes off as mean. (Almost. I mean, fuck that guy, and Rocket’s gotta get some catharsis in.)

    I tend to think of all marvel movies as kid’s movies first and foremost, so the sexlessness has never really surprised/bothered me. However, Quill taking a time out from sexing aliens up (and this is one of the very few marvel series which did imply sex, casual sex even, back in the first one) is completely understandable after his arc on this movie.
    I was actually invested in the space guy’s relationship with the green lady before the MCU corporate masterplan ruined that, though. It isn’t sexlessness that they hadn’t made a move on each other for two movies, it was two very damaged people terrified of getting hurt; whatever Gunn had originally planned for them, it was completely earned and would have been worth seeing. Oh well, at least it was salvaged with some grace.
    (I like Pratt well enough as long as he’s not in a dinosaur movie, but is this the first time he does some honest-to-god acting? I thought he was more believably upset here than on the second one.)

    Oh, I did hear about Lylla in the comics, but here they went with them actually being children, which makes all those scenes even more of a kick in the balls. Definitely got the vibe that he had a crush on her, though.
    I’d resent those scenes for being crassly manipulative if they weren’t so well done.

  19. That’s another thing–what DID happen to High Evolutionary? They make a big deal about Rocket refusing to kill him, then they… leave him on the exploding ship? Get him to Knowhere off-screen? Put him in jail? What? THAT’S messy.

    And I don’t think the kid’s movie thing still applies when all the action scenes are much more violent and animal abuse is a major theme (and Chris Pratt says fuck, if that counts). Which I don’t mind–there’s no reason you can’t do a grown-up sequel to a family movie, especially after so much time has passed since the first one. But it makes the film’s lack of sexuality stand out more to me.

    Are we being mature or aren’t we? Is Drax assaulting a child just a dumb joke that shouldn’t be taken seriously or is it part of his character as ‘Drax the Dad’?

  20. Which isn’t to say the character wonkiness ruins the movie for me, I just see this as more of a 7.5/10 than ‘best movie ever!”

  21. The movie didn’t know what the hell to do with the High Evolutionary once he served his purpose in motivating the team, and that’s the biggest problem for me with VOLUME 3. Honestly, I thought it would have been funnier for the movie just to ignore him on the third act, focus on the gang saving everyone, and the mid-end credits scene to show the high evolutionary in his throne, twiddling his fingers, waiting for his big end-boss fight. At least don’t position him as this bad-ass superpowered threat; As it is, the final confrontation feels really forced and, given that he was supposed to be really powerful, perfunctory. And as you say – they spare him so he can go down with the ship, apparently? Maybe? I suspect the writers couldn’t be arsed to figure something out.

    Kid’s movies have been showing animal abuse for ages! I’ll grant that maybe this one’s a bit more mature than the rest of the marvel stuff, but it still feels to me like a PG13 kid’s movie. I don’t mean this in any sort of derogatory way, as I don’t consider it a diss – I do love this one (and a few of its MCU stablemates as well).
    I get what you mean about the Drax thing, but it’s no worse than when he kept emotionally abusing poor Mantis in the last movie; Gunn being a little edgy. It doesn’t annul his being positioned as a good dad, because I can totally see him as being a good dad… by his culture’s standards (he will comically inflict pain on his wards every now and then). It kind of works for me – I have a different issue, which is thinking him being slotted in that position was too cute by half. In any case, even if it did undermine the message a little bit to be honest I’d rather have some rough edges like that than a more professional but normal script.

  22. Holup, since when are these things kids movies? I get that they are marketed towards kids for some reason and their usual lack of nudity, swearing or too explicit violence gives them a certain degree of family friendliness, but just because kids are allowed in the audience and it starts with the Disney banner it doesn’t mean that this is THE SUPER MARIO BROS MOVIE. There is a 13 after the PG after all and some of those MCU joints pushed that rating pretty hard through the years. (Starting with IRON MAN, the story of sexist war criminal who gets tortured by not-Taliban until he finds a cool way to kill’em all.)

  23. Sorry CJ – whenever I call them kid’s movies I should always preface it with ‘I tend to think of them as’.

    Mostly due to the sexlessness and the simplification of the characters so that their actions would always make sense to a kid. And to the fact that since the MCU hit its stride they tended to avoid dealing with mature themes… um, maturely… as much as possible, if that makes sense – even when they hit on an interesting premise, like on Civil War, they sanded it down and defanged it until it was kid-friendly. It’s part of what I think of as the Marvel package at this point. Even my beloved Dr. Strange’s narrative beats are well familiar to any of the 11-year-olds in the audience.
    I’m probably being unfair here. Specifically in GoTG’s case, since I think their themes and the way they developed were always way more complex and rich than any of the other Marvel movies.

  24. I watched ANT-MAN 3 on Saturday and liked it, way more than seemingly anyone else on the internet. But then I caught GUARDIANS 3 on Sunday, and it makes ANT-MAN look like a pile of old laundry. Weird, colorful, great production design, packed with beautifully detailed, bizarre-looking creatures, the whole thing oozing (sometimes literally) with personality. I’ve also been watching the O.G. STAR TREK movies this month, and I’ve been bummed to find out how little face-time they give to the crew members who aren’t Kirk. But here, Gunn treats the cast like a true ensemble, and gives everyone something to do, or a bunch of fun character moments to play. They’re all a bunch of wacky misfits, but the movie takes their inner lives seriously, and that goes a long way to giving the film emotional weight. I loved Mantis explicating why Drax was deserving of respect. Meanwhile, Karen Gillan started this series as a surly hench-villain, but by the third installment Nebula is now the surly-with-a-clockwork-heart-of-gold den mother to the team, and one of my favorite characters. This has become like FAST & THE FURIOUS, where every villain becomes a member of the team in the next one– Adam Warlock is underserved by the story here, but I liked that button.

    My eyes were leaking during some of the Rocket scenes, and I could hear folks behind me sniffling and sobbing. I was also convinced certain characters wouldn’t make it out alive, but for everyone to survive and then to wrap it up with a cathartic dance sequence– well, it turned me into a puddle. For a D-list joke character from 40 years ago to become so loved that his fate causes grown men to weep– that’s the kind of thing I hope Gunn brings to his future comic book projects.

  25. @Dtroyt – at the beginning of the movie I said to my wife “On a scale of zero to Serenity how many beloved characters do you think are going to die?” only semi-jokingly, because the trailers for GotG v.3 put forth such a grave tone and “final ride” vibes. My wife cried out when Drax took some heavy shots, and I definitely worried extra for him since I knew Bautista was done with this gig. But Gunn managed to make me tear up multiple times without resorting to the kill switch for easy emotions, and then at the end when I teared up again it was from joy. That’s some good catharsis right there.

    @CJ Holden – this movie is definitely a bit more intense with the violence than the previous ones. There is one shot in particular that feels like the most gory image I have ever seen in a PG-13 movie (its like Nolan’s Two Face but… juicier), and at least one kid in my theater audibly reacted with shock and horror to that reveal. Which I thought was awesome! Growing up in the 90s watching 80s movies I have plenty of memories of “family friendly” flicks having disturbing moments or images that helped burn them into my mind (large Marge, the Indy heart rip, some of Gremlins, lots of Poltergeist). And Rocket’s flashbacks are more intense and extensive than any of the sad bits in the first two (and I say that as someone who cried at the beginning AND the end of the first GotG because I had just lost my mom to cancer a few months earlier and was trying to enjoy an escapist sci-fi adventure… that turned out to be about a guy who lost his mom to cancer so he goes on an escapist sci-fi adventure to avoid his feelings!).

    @Kaplan – apparently Drax can be seen carrying the High Evolutionary out during the final run, and then he is imprisoned on Knowhere. Gunn said there was a deleted scene that dealt with that but messed up the flow. It was a bit messy but I think for the pacing and tone it was important to go straight to our main characters’ final scenes. I agree that was a bit messy, plus with all the animal cruelty and “saving everyone” themes it felt a bit clashing with the “kill everyone” hallway run and the mid-credits scene showing the new GotG about to cull a herd of wild animals. For the hallway scene we needed something to establish that the animal cyborgs were different from the regular animals, like maybe they were re-animated or had their brains replaced or something that made them acceptable fodder, especially since Rocket was “broken” and a killer but changed . In terms of the humanoids working for the Hig Ev, fuck them they took the gig so they are fair game (or are THEY all created and manipulated by the High Ev also?). And then the mid-credits scene, I get culling a herd of dangerous, wild animals is waaaay different than capturing and experimenting on wild animals, but surrounded by all the other stuff it just felt… messy. Once a again, a mindless robot horde or something might have worked better. All that said I still fucking loved this movie and this trilogy, and the only reason I am still thinking about this stuff is because of how great everything else was.

  26. This is extremely late, but I just read your review and agree completely.

    One bit at the end that I really liked, and I don’t think anyone has mentioned is when Groot says “I love you guys,” and we actually hear those words. I realized he was “really” still saying “I am Groot,” but we’d spent so much time with him by now that we were on his wavelength and, like the others, could finally understand him.

    A nice, subtle touch in a movie full of them.

  27. Oh wow, I didn’t get that. I just took it as a “Silent Bob is speaking now!” type twist. Yeah, I love that, thank you for pointing that out.

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