By Jack McLaughlin
“Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” is the third and final film in the trilogy that began with writer/director James Gunn’s remarkable additions to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).
Gunn’s first two movies are shining examples of films in the MCU done right. There’s a distinct vision and both are filled to the brim with exciting action and strong emotion.
I’m glad to report that the third entry joins the ranks of the other two and serves as a proper conclusion to this story, though it’s not without its flaws.
In this newest installment, our favorite group of intergalactic misfits led by Star Lord (Chris Pratt) have to protect fellow member Rocket (Bradley Cooper), who is being hunted down by his creator, The High Evolutionary (Chukwudi Iwuji).
Right from the start, it is obvious that this is going to be a departure from what viewers have come to expect from these characters. The film has a much darker tone throughout, which was surprising given the lightheartedness typical of the MCU.
With a darker tone comes a lot more disturbing moments. This is the first time I’ve seen an MCU entry that I think may not be for everyone. Viewers who are expecting a fairly light flick with not too much emotion are going to be shocked with the sheer amount of unsettling sequences.
However, this change of tone pays off - especially in the MCU, where a common complaint is how similar the entries feel.
The two-and-a-half hour runtime also felt remarkably breezy. There aren’t many dull moments and each scene shares significance that propels the story forward.
Unfortunately, it feels like the film tries to include too much and it gets way too crowded. The character Adam Warlock (Will Poulter) is the key example of this.
His character was teased in the last film as a huge threat to the team, but his inclusion here feels pointless and not much would have changed if he wasn’t in it.
Instead, the villain we see the most is The High Evolutionary. While he isn’t as interesting or threatening as the last film’s villain, Ego, he is able to get interesting scenes especially when interacting with Rocket.
I think if the film didn’t try to do two villains, the story would feel much clearer and more time could have been spent building the relationship between Rocket and The High Evolutionary, which would have allowed for their conflict to be even more impactful.
The rest of the Guardians are about the same as they were in the last film. Not too much has changed in the group dynamic with the exception of Star Lord and his relationship with Gamora (Zoe Saldana). The exploration of their relationship here was not nearly as in-depth as it should have been, especially with how dramatically it changed in “Avengers: Endgame.”
The biggest flaw of the movie is that at many points it feels as though it’s being held back because it is part of a larger series. There are so many moments that would have played out much differently if it were in another movie, but it almost never takes any of the risks it establishes, which is disappointing.
Keeping in theme with the last two films, a terrific assortment of music is chosen to accompany important scenes. This may be the best soundtrack in the trilogy, with so many amazing choices for songs that elevate certain moments dramatically.
Also keeping up with the previous installments, the film has an amazing visual style. There are so many interestingly shot scenes that are perfectly accompanied by a vibrant color palette.
Despite its shortcomings, “Guardians Vol. 3” is a significant send-off for Gunn. With writer/director James Gunn leaving Marvel Studios to make films at DC, this film feels like the end of an amazing era for the MCU that it may never reach again.
B+: A satisfying end to the trilogy