I don't devour every Marvel film.
I couldn't begin to explain the MCU multiverse to you.
You really want me to decipher how all of the Marvel films actually connect? Dude, I typically failed at simple connect-the-dots games as a kid. I'm older now and not necessarily wiser. My brain is mush.
But, I know what I like and I know what I love and, yes, I loved Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.
I still remember when these lovable Marvel misfits first landed back in 2014. They seemed out of place back then, however, over the years they've found their place somewhere within this multiverse that I still don't understand and most certainly within the shopping aisles of America whether it's the cyber walls of Amazon or the America's favorite MILF mall known as Target.
The 2017 sequel was a little less fresh but no less satisfying. The truth is that even for this decidedly non-Marvel devotee who's more devoted to arthouse indies than intertwining sci-fi wonderlands the Guardians of the Galaxy films have been near perfect in their joy-filled subversiveness and generally good-heartedness.
Chris Pratt's Peter Quill performance was a breakthrough that took Pratt from popular presence to household name, his self-monikered Star-Lord a smile-inducing nice touch in a series that has been filled with nice touches including this last season's unexpected holiday special that somehow managed to get everything right.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is said to be the wrap-up for the series. Writer/director James Gunn is headed off to re-ignite the DC Universe and more than one Guardians cast member has been openly unhappy with Gunn's treatment by the powers that be and have made it perfectly clear they have no intention of returning to the galaxy without Gunn at the helm. For his part, Pratt hasn't closed the door to a Quill return but has also said it would be difficult to return without Gunn.
If Gunn has any artistic integrity at all, and we know that he does, this Guardians of the Galaxy was always destined to be a more somber affair as storylines are resolved and past meets present to impact future. It's a tall order for any mass consumption motion picture, a fact perhaps explaining the film's 2-1/2 hour running time and its dueling narrative threads that are a little messy but still immensely satisfying.
While Pratt's Quill is still undeniably the leader here, grieving for the Gamora (Zoe Saldana) who once was and also the Gamora who still is, there's also little denying that Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 finds its narrative life in the backstory and present experiences of that rebellious raccoon known as Rocket (Bradley Cooper). Attacked by Adam Warlock (Will Poulter, whom we will now forever hate), Rocket and the Guardians now search for his creator, Chukwudi Iwuji's High Evolutionary. Rocket's scenes add an unexpected layer of downright trauma to Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 and those particularly sensitive to violence toward animals, even CGI ones, should be prepared that Gunn's integrity demands an honest, yet somehow still entertaining, portrayal.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is rated PG-13, a rarity for a Marvel film and yet a rating that's well-earned and even pushed. The wisecracking is still here. The fun is still here. The entertainment value is still here. However, there's an emotional resonance and willingness to live into the peaks and valleys of one's origin that is truly rare among Marvel films. Some will love it. Others will hate it.
The rest of the crew is still here - Nebula (Karen Gillan) and Groot (Vin Diesel) still make us smile. Drax (Dave Bautista) and Mantis (Pom Klementieff) are under-utilized yet still display their adorable chemistry that came to fresh life in Guardians holiday special. Leading the Ravagers, Sylvester Stallone is here and incredibly memorable.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 isn't a perfect film. I'm not sure it could have been, though if we're being honest the Guardians of the Galaxy films have never been about cinematic perfection. They've always felt, at least to me, about imperfect people somehow becoming more perfect together. So, amidst dueling narratives, awkward tonal shifts, and Marvel's first F-bomb Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 somehow becomes the perfect ending to a series that unexpectedly captured our hearts and became an MCU darling.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is more somber than expected, though still filled with moments of sweetness, silliness, and everything else we've come to love from Star-Lord and his rag-tag group of universe changers. I laughed a lot throughout Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 but, perhaps most surprisingly of all, I realized how much I cared about these Guardians and their presence in my galaxy.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic