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Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3

  • Film
  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Recommended
Photograph: Marvel Studios

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

Marvel’s most lovable A-holes convene for a surprisingly bleak but always big-hearted finale

Totally forgotten where things ended up for the Guardians of the Galaxy after Vol. 2, a full six years ago? Don’t fret: director James Gunn kicks this trilogy closer off with a couple of handy catch-up conversations to get you up to speed on the magic cliffs and familial revelations of the three MCU cameos and one Christmas special that followed.

The film swiftly establishes its own stakes with an urgent rescue mission and a focus on – Vin Diesel voice – family. The Gunn-penned banter is still as quick-witted as ever, particularly any time Drax (Dave Bautista) or Mantis (Pom Klementieff) show up on screen. Vol. 3 is also full of the friction that comes with embracing and accepting family, however you choose to define it. 

As emotional as those beats may be – and they are – it’s the portrayals of running from, carrying and confronting trauma that will absolutely wreck you. Though Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) still has some part to play in that regard, this is really Rocket’s (Bradley Cooper) story. You may very well be in tears within the first seconds of the movie as the frame transitions from the scared eyes of Rocket as a baby raccoon to his pained gaze as a tortured adult – all over the acoustic version of Radiohead’s ‘Creep’.

If you’re the sort of person who wells up over videos of animal shelters, the film’s flashbacks of captive, experimented-on critters should come with a trigger warning. Consider this relatively tame teaser as a test, and know that a half-dozen or so other similarly distressing scenes lie in wait. 

The cruelty is the point, though: its source – the High Evolutionary – is one of the most odious, punchable screen villains in a superhero film. He’s played with  increasing intensity and irrationality by Royal Shakespeare Company alumnus Chukwudi Iwuji. On the other hand, after a fiery introduction from Adam Warlock (Will Poulter), the golden sorcerer is just kind of there for the rest of his appearances.

If this all sounds a little bleak for a bright and breezy franchise involving a talking tree and wise-cracking racoon, well, it is. And that downturn in mood especially bites during a meandering middle section; the shooting, slicing and incinerating of aliens, as well as some creative, close-up action shots, provide what few fun moments there are.

For a bright and breezy franchise with a talking tree and wise-cracking racoon, it gets unexpectedly bleak

On the upside, the visual effects are considerably better-looking than any of the other recent Marvel movies and the production design is wonderfully weird and sometimes gnarly (in keeping with the Slither director’s horror heritage). One Mod-inspired space compound bursts with body horror, while a ’70s suburb of humanoid animals grows more off-putting by the minute.

But no matter what plans Marvel has in mind for the wider universe, Vol. 3 lets him wrap up the story on his own terms (Gunn is only the second filmmaker to preside over an entire Marvel trilogy, after Ant-Man’s Peyton Reed). And he does it by offering conclusive proof that he has every bit as much affection for the Guardians as the rest of us. Gunn’s entry into the MCU indelibly impacted its look and tone, and his exit will leave it without his compelling take on the ragtag band.

In cinemas worldwide Fri May 5.

Michael Juliano
Written by
Michael Juliano

Cast and crew

  • Director:James Gunn
  • Screenwriter:Andy Lanning, James Gunn, Dan Abnett
  • Cast:
    • Chris Pratt
    • Vin Diesel
    • Dave Bautista
    • Karen Gillan
    • Zoë Saldana
    • Pom Klementieff
    • Elizabeth Debicki
    • Sylvester Stallone
    • Will Poulter
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