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Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 review – Gunn’s Glorious Goodbye to the Guardians

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Image from Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.3 trailer courtesy of Marvel Studios

Staff writer Taha Khambaty gives a critical review on the latest Marvel movie Guardians of the Galaxy vol.3. Providing an insightful look at the plot, themes and cinematography of director James Gunn’s final film with the franchise.

Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3 marks James Gunn’s swan song to the franchise, delivering a heartfelt conclusion to Gunn’s time with these beloved characters. 

The film revolves around the Guardians’ quest to track down Rocket’s creator, the so-called High Evolutionary, in order to save his life while navigating their own dynamics and a series of obstacles thrown their way. The film is both written and directed by James Gunn who has had an interesting history with the franchise after being fired and rehired for the third film and now making this his final MCU project before jumping ship to DC. Throughout the series, Gunn has always made the Guardians feel like a group of chaotic misfits whose friendship extends beyond the screen, their dynamic at the heart of this film that is perfectly embodied by its ensemble.

Before delving into the film’s triumphs, let’s address a few areas where it falls short. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 does suffer from pacing issues in the initial 80 minutes. While entertaining, it has a somewhat messy and unclear focus, rendering the audience unable to really gain a sense of direction as to where the film is going. Furthermore, certain characters are not afforded sufficient screen time to make meaningful contributions to the overall narrative. Surprisingly, Groot’s friendship with Rocket is completely unexplored which feels like a missed opportunity in a film centred around Rocket’s personal journey.

Lastly, the film succumbs to a common pitfall in the MCU. It continuously raises the stakes by placing characters in perilous situations, only to shy away from fully delivering on the resulting consequences. Consequently, this approach leads to desensitising the audience towards the characters’ survival, diminishing the impact of these supposedly high-stakes moments. It would have been more impactful to focus on the central consequence of Rocket’s fate, which already carries substantial emotional weight.

And that is where this film shines the most brightly; Rocket and his backstory. This storyline represents the MCU and Gunn at their best. It seamlessly blends futuristic concepts with real human experiences and emotions. It gives the audience a heartfelt exploration that never veers into the realm of glorifying animal abuse. Instead, it treats Rocket’s journey with the utmost sensitivity, while simultaneously granting depth and authenticity to all of his animal companions. 

Moreover, the entire cast delivers exceptional performances once again. Karen Gillian’s Nebula stands out, giving a powerful portrayal that showcases her growth and struggles as she grapples with leading the team and accepting them for who they are. Drax and Mantis also excel as comedic foils yet still manage to deliver emotional moments when needed. The High Evolutionary serves as a menacing and cruel villain, posing a genuine threat to the guardians. Chukwudi Iwuji distils in him a well-crafted God Complex that drives the character and makes his presence in the film feel impactful.

It is safe to say that this film feels like it has navigated itself out of the rut the MCU has recently found itself in and that is definitely thanks to Gunn’s clear and distinct vision for these characters and their story. This vision guides the visual effects and production design to create a refreshing and otherworldly atmosphere, with sets that feel real yet distinctly alien. The use of VFX, exemplified by the Orgo-Corp planet, is creative and avoids overwhelming the audience with hazy visuals and random colours. In spite of some of the mixtape choices, the soundtrack remains distinctly Guardians, perfectly complementing almost all the sequences in which it is used.

Moreover, the entire third act of the film is when it all comes together and the film feels more focused and starts firing on all cylinders. In the end, you are left having seen a film that feels complete and driven by its characters instead of a vague multiversal entity or threat with no connection to the Guardians. As Gunn wraps up each character’s arc in a fitting manner without falling back on cliches

Thus, it ends up being a well-executed and touching farewell to the story of a bunch of jackasses standing in a circle.

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