by James Coulter
I love the Guardians of the Galaxy movies! They are my favorite Marvel films. The only movie better than the original was Vol. 2. The Holiday Special has quickly become a new holiday tradition. I have the posters for both films plastered on the walls of my room. I have the action figures proudly displayed on my shelf. Cosmic Rewind has become my new favorite ride at Epcot. And I even bought a new shirt to wear to the viewing of the newest movie.
If anyone was excited about Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 3, it was me. If anyone was expecting this movie to be the best, it was me. As I said, the only movie I considered better than the original was Vol. 2, so Vol. 3 should have been a shoo-in to become even better. The question remains, was it? Does this movie make you “Come and Get Your Love”? Or does it “Cherry Bomb” at the box office?
Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume 3 takes place shortly after the events of Infinity War and Endgame. The Guardians have set up their new base on Knowhwere, and everyone else is happy except Star-Lord, who has fallen into a drunken depression following the trauma from the previous two films. A new character named Adam Warlock literally drops in to kidnap Rocket Raccoon, who had become stricken with a strange ailment. Now Star-Lord and the others need to hunt down a cure from someone called The High Evolutionary, the mad scientist who genetically engineered Rocket. Will the Guardians save him in time? And what does the High Evolutionary want with the raccoon?
The Guardians of the Galaxy has proven to be one of the most unique franchises in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Everything that makes these films unique and beloved is more than present in this film: the artful blend of action with comedy, snarky characters with snarkier banter, brilliantly-colorful settings, and a soundtrack rocking with some of the greatest pop songs. So, at the very least, if you loved seeing characters who simultaneously love and hate each other bickering with one another while fighting in a high-octane action scene interspersed with 80s rock ballads, there’s plenty in this movie to love.
As with the previous two volumes, Vol. 3 has unique and colorful otherworldly settings. The bright, vibrant color palette makes the film feel reminiscent of 1960s and 1970s sci-fi films. My favorite setting has to be the laboratory that the Guardians have to sneak into. The entire place feels like a living, breathing body. The walls are like muscles, the framework like bones, the fountains like stomach bile, and even the security cameras are shaped and function like eyes. It’s a very unique setting that certainly feels out of this world.
Another scene I love is an action scene near the very end, where all of the character are fighting against a horde of bad guys. The entire scene is filmed in one long shot along one long hallway. It is truly one of the best and most cinematic action scenes in the franchise—a true work of art and a testament to how great these movies can be.
However, while this movie has enough of what is right with the Guardians movies to make it a passable installment in the franchise, it, unfortunately, does not make up enough for the film’s
many other problems—and this film has problems. To quote another famed reviewer, The Critical Drinker: “The slick and polished efficiency of its predecessors is missing, the script lurches chaotically between dark, serious body horror and personal tragedy one minute and goofy slapstick comedy the next, it’s long and kind of unfocused, lacking the discipline to properly explore the big ideas that it touches on, and weighed down by a bloated cast that it doesn’t know what to do with. In short, it’s a bit of a mess—an often glorious and heart-wrenching mess, but a mess all the same.”
Let’s start with the most obvious problem: the pacing. This movie is nearly two-and-a-half hours long—and if you count the trailers and teasers beforehand, it’s three! You feel each minute pass by as slowly as they do. I’ve made this complaint in other reviews, but movies these days have become too dang long. There was no reason this movie needed to be a half-hour longer than the original. You could easily have cut an hour from the film!
Then there’s the cast. Except for the main villain, this film only needed Star-Lord, Rocket Raccoon, and Gamora. Everyone else was superfluous. The other Guardians only serve as comedic relief and nothing else. They have no serious character arcs, and they don’t do much else other than help the other main characters fight off the bad guys and go from Point A to B. The most egregious waste of space is Adam Warlock, a character whom I am certain is only in this film because he was hinted at in the end credit scene of Vol. 2. Otherwise, he could have been left out and nothing of value would have been lost.
The comedy in this movie proves to be real hit-and-miss. Normally, in a much better-paced movie, I would love seeing the characters spend two to three minutes struggling to get a car door open; but with this movie dragging on with its two-and-a-half-hour runtime, these minutes feel like hours–painful hours! Some of the jokes are funny, as is the witty banter, but with how horribly this movie is paced, they don’t do much other than pad out an otherwise padded-out film.
Finally, the tone. Most Marvel movies, especially the Guardians films, do an excellent job balancing out serious, often dark subject matter with lighthearted comedy and melodrama. This movie aspires to accomplish such a feat by addressing dark subject matter like animal experimentation, eugenics, and fascism. Unfortunately, with how uneven the tone is balanced in this movie, it often feels like it’s switching back and forth between Spaceballs and Schindler’s List.
I wanted to love this movie. I really did. The Guardians are my favorite of the Marvel movies. And with how lackluster the other films in the MCU have been since Endgame, I was holding out for this film to exceed expectations and shine brightly. To my credit, it did shine, but not as a firework display like in the ending of Vol. 2, but moreover as the explosion of an atomic bomb–and the destruction was my remaining faith in the MCU. Needless to say, I think I’m going to be taking a break from Marvel movies from here on out.