The Reel Review
The relatively tranquil lives of the Guardians of the Galaxy are disrupted, when one of their own – Rocket Raccoon – is gravely wounded in a vicious attack. The Guardians must journey to where he was created in an effort to save Rocket, as flashbacks reveal how he came to be, in this final installment in the Marvel fantasy franchise starring Chris Pratt.
Co-writer/director James Gunn, in the aftermath of his 2018 firing and rehiring by Disney, clearly has a lot to say about overcoming past trauma in this film, which features two plotlines – one, the more typical, textbook rescue of Rocket – the other, a much darker tale about surviving childhood abuse and trauma, as illustrated in some shocking imagery from Rocket’s past as an animal test subject. The ragtag group of misfits are surrounded by some visually dazzling special effects, and wildly creative, out-of-this-world set design, costuming and makeup.
Zoe Saldaña is back as an alternate version of Gamora, unaware of her prior romantic relationship with Pratt’s Peter Quill/Star-Lord, with Bradley Cooper, Dave Bautista, Karen Gillan, Vin Diesel and Pom Klementieff all reprising their roles as The Guardians. A terrific Chukwudi Iwuji (Peacemaker) is the evil High Evolutionary, Rocket’s creator, with Elizabeth Debicki (channeling her best Tilda Swinton) and Will Poulter (We’re the Millers) rounding out the cast of villains.
There is just SO MUCH going on – from a bloated, two-and-a-half-hour runtime, with bloated CGI and an equally bloated cast of characters, most with too little to do. The screenplay has all of the subtlety of a Mac truck. Of the dual plotlines – the darker, heartbreaking story of Rocket’s evolution is by far the more compelling one, culminating in a fitting end to the saga – a sweet, hopeful message about personal growth and change.
• After being fired by Disney in July 2018 for controversial, decade-old comments on Twitter, director James Gunn was rehired months later to direct the film. He is now in charge of rebooting the DC Comics movie universe which includes characters like Superman, Wonder Woman and Green Lantern.
• Cosmo (voiced by Borat Subsequent Moviefilm’s Maria Bakalova) is a tribute to Laika the Soviet dog, one of the first animals in space.
• Even with a $250 million budget and successful $844 million box office haul, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is the fourth MCU sequel that did not surpass its predecessor at the box office domestically or worldwide, after 2015’s Avengers: Age of Ultron, 2022’s Black Panther: Wakonda Forever and 2023’s Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania.