Like an MP3 player that’s Duracell’s are getting weak, this third in the Guardians of the Galaxy series encompasses the same, dependable playlist as its predecessors – it just doesn’t play as well.
While James Gunn’s original feature adaptation of one of lesser-known of Marvel comics superhero families was zinging with energy, brimming with laughs, and determined to play to a different beat of the other MCU films that came before it, Vol. 3 sees the series fully morph into the type of superhero movie the writer-director (turned new co-head of DC’s film division) was determined not to make.
This time around, we’re in ‘everyone’s pretty sad’ territory as we learn about the tough, heartbreaking story behind Rocket Racoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper), who has always suffered from imposter syndrome, while Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) is still struggling from the loss of Gamora (Zoe Saldana). When Rocket is injured by deadly visitor Adam Warlock (Will Poulter), and needs urgent medical help, Quill has to slap on the banger tunes again and lead the crew into a danger in order to defend one of their own.
The 2014 film was a light n’ breezy, joke-heavy intergalactic space movie that played partly like Mel Brook’s spacely spoof Spaceballs and Trek-satire Galaxy Quest while still encompassing the kind of wacky, wild antics Gunn had made a name for himself on in the independent world (at Troma Studios). It was a welcome departure at a time when comic book movies – even the MCU ventures which were arguably less serious than DC’s efforts – were starting to get a tad brain-teasing and solemn.
With the first Guardians sequel noticeably lacking the laughs of the first and weighing in on swapping the light n’ breezy for a darker, chaotic and not-all-that interesting plot, the transformation to ‘Avengers [insert sequel number here] lead-in’ is seemingly complete with Vol 3. Sure, this latest one has some fun moments, and there’s the same very sweet messages of family and acceptance that the other films touched on but the script itself is a little too uneven, sluggish, and drab at times that it barely earns a pass.
While the human players are all accounted for and present – Bautista is, once again, the standout; Poulter is all abs in his debut as Adam Warlock, sadly – it’s the voice-over artists that seem more enthused, turning in pitch-perfect turns that remind you why the artist behind the mic deserves to be appreciated by award shows.
Where Gunn’s script does succeed though, in turn saving the film from suffering the same fate as the last Marvel movie, the dire Ant-Man and the Wasp : Quantumania, is in it the wholesome and quite frankly, beautiful message about animal preservation. By way of several cute, fluffy animal characters, who all play a part in telling Rocket’s somewhat heartbreaking backstory, Gunn is about to make a strong point about saving the animals while reminding viewers everyone is unique. It’s those few moments of beauty that save Gunn’s film from being an entire misfire, still somewhat stand out from the crowd, and what’ll likely remind audiences why Gunn has been hired to direct the new Superman movie.