Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3 review: An adventure full of heart and humour

The final instalment of the decade-long franchise takes Peter Quill and the gang on their most emotional journey yet

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 will be released on May 4 in the UAE. From left, Pom Klementieff as Mantis, Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel), Chris Pratt as Peter Quill, Dave Bautista as Drax and Karen Gillan as Nebula. AP
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There are a lot of superhero films — some, such as director Martin Scorsese, might argue too many. And most are often positioned as “the greatest superhero film” made.

While such a bold statement will always spark an impassioned debate, it would be challenging to find anyone who doesn't agree that director and writer James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy trilogy has been one of the most refreshing, hilarious and entertaining superhero franchises to date.

Which is why the last instalment, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3, was bittersweet.

Warning: this review contains spoilers

The film is a testament to Gunn’s singular vision where action, comedy and emotional storylines meet powerful music for a gripping cinematic experience.

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly how Gunn’s cacophony of cultural references creates such a specific and yet widely understood style of storytelling. It is simultaneously rich yet easy to digest.

Unlike the previous films, the Guardians aren’t facing off one ominous villain whose plan is to eradicate half of all life in the universe.

This time the threat is much more personal.

The film’s villain, played by Chukwudi Iwuji, is the High Evolutionary — a delusional, narcissistic geneticist obsessed with creating a perfect world. He sends one of his creations, the gold-skinned Adam Warlock (Will Poulter), to attack the Guardians of the Galaxy in their home at Knowhere.

Specifically, the High Evolutionary wants to kidnap Rocket (Bradley Cooper) for unknown reasons. And while he fails, the wise-cracking raccoon’s life hangs in the balance.

This prompts the remaining Guardians to proceed on an epic quest to save the life of their comrade and friend.

Quill, also known as Star-Lord, played wonderfully by Chris Pratt, is also facing his own heartache. For him and the rest of the Guardians to save one of their own, they must team up with Gamora (Zoe Saldana). The green-skinned powerful fighter is the love of Quill’s life who, due to events in the previous films, now has no memory of their time together.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3

Director: James Gunn

Stars: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper

Rating: 4/5

Then there's Groot (Vin Diesel), a tree that utters the same three lines throughout the films but somehow adds an emotional depth to how the group interacts.

Mantis (Pom Klementieff) is an innocent but ultimately wise empath who can control other people’s emotions through touch, but is confused about her place in the world.

Dave Bautista plays Drax, a massive blue warrior with an equally big heart who doesn’t usually think things through. His comedic timing, loyalty and haunting past makes him one of the most beloved characters in the film.

Nebula (Karen Gillan), the unstoppable antihero turned protagonist, demands perfection and is continuing to evolve.

From the first scene, the power of the story is in the strong bonds between this unlikely group of misfits. They have become a surrogate family to one another and in this film audiences see them dealing with their own past traumas while working together to unravel the mystery of Rocket’s past and save his life.

As they travel through space to face off with a number of strange aliens, the film’s pace is fast, jam-packed with flashbacks to Rocket’s childhood, with rapid-fire action sequences and visual effects.

Gunn’s imagination pairs with production designer Beth Mickle’s talent for bringing life to a variety of alien life forms and adding “humanising” emotional detail to CGI characters.

It’s odd that Disney, which owns the rights to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, hasn’t applied this same CGI character creation to the characters in their live action films. The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast and most recently The Little Mermaid have all been criticised online for the poor quality of their CGI characters.

On the other hand, at times the action was a little chaotic and messy. The bold colour palate was also in some parts overwhelming, feeling like a blur of shapes and designs. And at slightly more than two hours the film was too long — almost all the action scenes could have done with a cleaner edit.

The flashbacks to a Rocket’s childhood were well placed and gave enough information to help people understand his character more thoroughly. However, many elements of the emotional storyline were predictable and felt spoon-fed to audiences who are much smarter than Gunn seems to assume.

It’s a shame that elements of the emotional plot are so cheesy when the comedy in the film is delivered with sophistication.

While the film did a great job at driving home the idea of unexpected friendships — conveying deep and transformative story arcs, and on many fronts broke stereotypes of the genre — there was one lazy trope that was surprising.

Iwuji’s performance as the High Evolutionary was brilliant. However, Gunn’s choice to have the villain marked with scars was incredibly unimaginative. This visual shorthand to indicate that a character is evil is outdated, especially through the rather animated way it appears in several ways in the film.

On the whole, however, Gunn has delivered to audiences what they expected and always loved about the Guardians of the Galaxy universe: an adventure full of heart, humour and friendship. Most importantly though, what Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3 achieves is ultimately a satisfying finale to a story of unforgettable characters.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 will be released in the UAE on May 4.

Updated: May 01, 2023, 2:03 PM
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3

Director: James Gunn

Stars: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper

Rating: 4/5