Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 3 Review By Anupama Chopra

Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 3 released in Indian cinemas on May 5
Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 3 Review By Anupama Chopra

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is both likeable and exhausting, and therein lies the rub.

This is the 32nd film in the MCU. We are now in phase 5 and for me at least, superhero fatigue is at an all-time high. Like everyone else, I cheered loudly in Spider-Man: No Way Home but eleven years after the first Avengers film, it’s becoming harder and harder to muster enthusiasm for spandex, inter-galactic wars and eye-glazing VFX battles. The Guardians movies have always been the outliers. Despite the underwhelming Vol. 2 in 2017, director James Gunn has created a singular band of eccentric misfits who inject a shot of buoyancy and joy into the superhero genre. The tag line of this film is: Once More with Feeling. And that’s pretty much what it is.

Vol. 3 is an ending of sorts. Like Taika Waititi and the Thor films, Gunn brought a whiff of audacity to the industrial filmmaking of the MCU. The Guardians trilogy gives us several memorable characters along with a streak of sentimentality, humor and dollops of absurdity. Which is a potent combination. This film comes with its own backstory – Disney fired Gunn from the project in July 2018 when his controversial Twitter posts resurfaced but by March 2019, the studio backtracked and reinstated him. This is Gunn’s last Guardians film. After this he takes charge at DC Studios.

This sense of goodbye gives the film emotional weight. It’s obvious that Gunn has great affection for these characters and he is able to harness their prickly chemistry into something solidly entertaining – but he doesn’t manage to do it consistently enough. Vol. 3 begins with Rocket, the genetically engineered raccoon, suffering a terrible injury. The crew has only 48 hours before his heart gives out. The villain of the piece is a psychopath called The High Evolutionary who dreams of creating a perfect world. In one scene, he says to one of his minions: There is no God. That’s why I stepped in. Rocket is one of his mutant creations and now The High Evolutionary wants him back.

The narrative alternates between the Guardians’ attempts to save Rocket and flashbacks to what Rocket endured at the hands of The High Evolutionary. It’s these flashbacks that give the film heart. There are genuinely unsettling scenes of animal torture and manipulative but moving scenes of friendship. In his quest for perfection, The High Evolutionary breaks and remakes living things. His consistent failure only underlines the beauty of imperfection and imbues the film with an undercurrent of sadness. If nothing else, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is an effective cautionary tale against genetic engineering and the perils of tampering with nature.

These somber notes are mashed up with that signature Guardian silliness, grandiose action sequences and far too much bloat. There are massive set-pieces that eventually culminate in the money shot in which several Guardians work together to slaughter the bad guys or walk together in slow motion. Some of these moments and a few scenes with Rocket deliver that requisite popcorn-movie high. But the plot is overstuffed – did we really need Will Poulter’s golden-hued Adam Warlock character or time spent on Kraglin the space pirate and his overstretched warring with Cosmo, a telekinetic space dog? All of which take the length to a punishing 149 minutes, around the same length as Avengers: Infinity War. The storytelling soars and dips.

The imaginative visuals will help you tide over some of the soft spots - The High Evolutionary lives in this fantastically fleshy planet which is also somehow a spaceship called The Orgoscope. When the Guardians first land here, it’s like they are stepping on someone’s brain. It’s wonderfully squishy and gooey. There’s also a fake earth which is distinctly creepy with several ugly-cute hybrid creatures who have been made by The High Evolutionary. I have to say it’s a relief to have a villain in a comic-book movie who isn’t interested in conquering the world.

What might also get you through are the characters who, over the three films, have developed a lived-in camaraderie. Dave Bautista is funny and charming as Drax the Destroyer. As is Chris Pratt as the dim but loyal Star-Lord Peter Quill. Both Karen Gillan as the crotchety Nebula and Pom Klementieff as the empath Mantis do well. We also have Zoe Saldana as Gamora who of course died in Avengers: Infinity War but is now back, playing an alternate-timeline version of herself. If you ask me to explain how this can be, I will quote Peter who declares: I’m not some fricking Infinity Stone scientist. But I think the most fun was had by Chukwudi Iwuji who chews up the scenery as the crazyball High Evolutionary. He also gets to wear the most fun clothes. Props also to Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel for their voice work for Rocket and Groot.

One of the most endearing elements of the world Gunn created is Quill’s mixtape. In this edition, songs by Beastie Boys, Bruce Springsteen and Alice Cooper help to infuse vibrancy.

Also, an interesting factoid – According to Deadline, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 has set a world record for the most make-up appliances used in a single film with more than 23,000 prosthetics used across more than 1000 actors.

Which is impressive but it’s not enough. This film and this genre need much more anarchy. Perhaps Gunn will be able to bring that in his next avatar at DC.

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