Before heading to the DCU, James Gunn gifts audiences with a final space adventure in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 from Walt Disney Pictures.
Picking up some time after the holiday special, the Guardians open their headquarters; Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) spends his days boozing as he is still struggling to process the loss of Gamora (Zoe Saldana), who had no memory of her love for him after returning from the blip. Her Sister Nebula keeps the team on their toes with some tough love. Groot (Vin Diesel) is enjoying life's beauty while Drax (Dave Bautista) and Mantis (Pom Klementieff) have some fun with pranks.
But they quickly have to settle a debt owed to Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki), whose demand sends Adam Warlock (Will Poulter) to wreak havoc. The aftermath of the battle leaves Rocket (Bradley Cooper) gravely injured, and the team discovers the medipack he needs won't work, as he has a kill switch installed on his heart. In hopes of saving their comrade, they set out to find Rocket's creator, The High Evolutionary (Chukwudi Iwuji). Along the way, they cross paths with Gamora, who unwillingly finds herself working with her former friends.
Undoubtedly the second film, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, has a few things going against it as it roars into theaters. Many fans found Phase 4 could have been more impressive, and there was a mixed response to this past winter's Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. We must also take into account to mention the dreaded threequel curse that plagues many franchises. Thankfully, James Gunn knows these characters and understands what emotional beats and tropes to hit for audiences.
While I wasn't familiar with the characters prior to the first film, the strength of the film iteration of the Guardians evokes sympathy, even as they crack wry jokes potentially at the expense of others. Their brokenness compels them to rebel, yet allows each to do something altruistic for once. Every core member of the team gets a moment to shine with a one-liner or fisticuffs, and we realize they all have their issues as well. The Guardians prove they're true to their nature and give even more of what makes them unique. Finally, one of the characters gets the recognition they most definitely deserve.
And that character is Rocket Racoon. I've often wondered what Rocket's backstory was, and it's handled here carefully. Gunn gives Rocket a complete arc. Fans of the series know that Rocket's past is a complex subject, but it's his friends that help him channel the pain and find the strength to be a positive force in the world. Through what Rocket has endured, he has been able to rise up and become an exemplary superhero. His story shows that you can use your sadness to elevate yourself instead of letting it bring you down.
I was impressed with Will Poulter's portrayal of Adam Warlock in the film. Poulter has grown significantly since his debut in the 2007 family movie Son of Rambow. His performance as a racist cop in Detroit won me over ultimately. Poulter embodies the character's desired aesthetics perfectly. However, I found Chukwudi Iwuji's portrayal of the High Evolutionary lacking. Instead of exuding a big evil persona, Iwuji's portrayal came across as more of a video game troll.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is a worthwhile cinematic experience, despite the weak villain and questionable story choices. Humor, cameos, easter eggs, and action sequences make this two-and-a-half-hour spectacle filled with vivid colors worth a movie trip.
Final Grade: B+
GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 3 is in theaters on Thursday, May 4th.
P.S. Two post-credit scenes