So I watched Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3…
The MCU has had a plethora of talented filmmakers add their vision and creativity to the kaleidoscope of a genre that has gone from obscure and niche to ubiquitous and era-defining. Marvel perfected the method of world-building and has created some of the most iconic and groundbreaking moments of the last generation. They’ve achieved this by having a general formula for their movies which has worked spectacularly (for the most part). But the problem with a formula is that it often leads to things feeling formulaic. Creativity can become stifled and the recent MCU offerings have felt pruned and trimmed to fit the general status quo. That’s what I’ve enjoyed so much about the Guardians Trilogy and James Gunn at its helm as writer and director. The Guardians movies have always felt like something else, something different. While it’s felt like other directors have had their hands smacked with a wooden spoon and told to follow the recipe more closely; Gunn has gone off-book and experimented with new ingredients and flavours that have created a franchise unlike anything else in the Marvel cannon.
Okay, basic plot: After barely surviving an unexpected, brutal attack from an old enemy, the Guardians are forced to go on a perilous journey to save one of their own. This journey reveals the tragedy of Rocket’s past and his links to a powerful entity called The High Evolutionary (Chukwudi Iwuji).
I truly believe that James Gunn is the best director and writer working in the “superhero move” genre today. He has such a great understanding of the subject matter and how to present it. In the buildup to this movie, my wife and I watched the first two Guardians movie and I remember turning to my wife and saying, “this movie’s cool”. I was talking about the original and one of the (many) beautiful shots of the Guardians flying through space. It reminded me of how unique an experience the first two movies were. Yes, a lot of this is due to the fact that Guardians isn’t set on Earth, they have weird and wonderful aliens and one of the main characters only ever says three words. There’s a lot of great raw elements there but James Gunn still has to weave that all together while still pleasing the Marvel overlords. His ability to balance all the characters, give insight into each one and still deliver an entertaining, well-paced story is remarkable. He wrote and directed one of 2021’s best (and most underrated) movies – The Suicide Squad. The pandemic took its toll on cinema as a whole but I truly feel that it robbed The Suicide Squad of its deserved flowers. It’s a movie with parallels to Guardians – both feature a rag-tag group of criminals forced to do good but the approach is so different. Gunn isn’t a one-trick pony and I can’t wait to see what he does with the DC Cinematic Universe.
But let’s focus back to this movie. I’m so glad I watched the first two movies before this one because it’s amazing to see just how much the characters have changed. I also enjoyed the manner in which they’ve changed. It isn’t just change for change’s sake; it’s organic and logical and makes sense within the context of their shared journey. The cast of this movie is just brilliant. It’s actually such a cliche to say that now but they truly are. They understand their characters so well and deliver on everything. Whether it be a sincere, heartfelt moment or a quick quip; it’s quality through and through. I honestly wish these characters could get another six movies because what these actors are doing is immense. I can’t single any one performance out because none of the individual brilliance can exist without the brilliance of the group. It doesn’t feel like there’s a main character in this movie. There’s periods of priority given to certain storylines and yes, there is an overriding central story but every character gets their time in the sun. That’s the quality of how well Gunn crafts his movies. I really had such a great time watching this movie.
I know I said I didn’t want to single out any individual performances but I would be remiss if I didn’t highlight Chukwudi Iwuji as The High Evolutionary. The character suffers from the classic Marvel villain disease of not really having a backstory or an identity besides being evil but for some reason it just works. I think this is down to two points – 1. there’s so many characters and storylines in this movie that in order to balance everything, certain things need to get cut and 2. Iwuji is a FORCE! As a villain, overall the character is pretty bland. He isn’t this physical or intellectual threat but the entertainment value comes from the power and commitment in Iwuji’s performance. My wife and I turned to each several times during this movie and commented on how insane The High Evolutionary is. He’s unhinged and Iwuji gives such a powerful performance.
There was a moment at the end of the movie and I mean the end of it. Mid-credit scenes and post-credit scenes were over, lights were back on in the theatre and it was unusually quiet. There wasn’t the usual hustle and bustle as people picked their empty popcorn packets up and shuffled to the exits. People just took a second and this movie needed a second. The third movie in an MCU franchise is usually the end and should be the end (looking at you Thor: Love and Thunder). While the conclusion of most other MCU trilogies is usually a set-up for upcoming projects, Guardians once again does something different and actually gives us a conclusion to the story (or at least the story in its current format). This is the best trilogy that the MCU has produced. Yes, it’s a cog in the grand Marvel-machine but it’s never allowed itself to become a faceless member of the MCU Mob. It’s remained punk-rock, alternative, unique, edgy, goofy, a fever dream, an LCD-fuelled vision. Whatever you end up calling it, it’s been Guardians and it’s been a pleasure.
Overall, this movie is an experience you need to enjoy in theatres. This trilogy will always hold a special place in my heart because the first Guardians movie was the first movie I ever reviewed for this blog. Vol. 3 is something special and a movie I truly enjoyed. 8/10