The Guardians of the Galaxy return in Volume 3, a brilliant final outing and the first MCU film you might think twice before bringing an 8-year-old to. Here’s our review…
For a trilogy focused on a ragtag bunch of misfits, it’s pretty appropriate that the final outing of Star-Lord and Co. would centre on the raggiest, taggiest misfit of all of them. Director James Gunn has made no secret of the fact that he sees Rocket (Raccoon) as the emotional core of the Guardians’ filmography, and in Guardians Of The Galaxy: Volume 3 he leans into that philosophy with gusto.
Not long into the film, you see, Rocket finds himself in a spot of bother. Hunted down by golden super-boy Adam Warlock (Will Poulter), soon our favourite not-a-raccoon is fighting for his life. It’s up to the rest of the Guardians to save him by tracking down his creator, the villainous High Evolutionary (a brilliantly creepy Chukwudi Iwuji) and put a stop to his biologically dubious schemes.
Already touted as the final piece of Gunn’s Guardians trilogy, this last instalment has a lot of loose ends to tie up. There are a bunch of characters, for a start, and they’ve all got to end their journeys somewhere. Meanwhile, Disney hired Sylvester Stallone to play a Ravager captain all the way back in 2017 – they should probably use him again for something. And what on Earth happened to Peter Quill’s grandpa?
For that reason, Volume 3 is the first Marvel flick in a while to almost completely do away with the goings on of the wider MCU – and it’s absolutely to the film’s benefit. As it is, it still has a lot of plot to cram in, and there are moments where it seems Gunn has bitten off more than he can chew.
But no-one handles tonal whiplash quite like the writer of Scooby Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed, and Gunn uses that cred to fill Volume 3 with an Avengers: Endgame-level impressive amount of stuff. As well as more or less tying up the Guardians’ respective plot threads, he finds room for a surprising amount of body horror, disturbing, robot-animal hybrids, and the MCU’s first f-bomb. He’s certainly been busy.
If you think that sounds a little more like The Suicide Squad than Guardians of the Galaxy, then you’d be right. In fact, tonally Volume 3 might be Gunn’s darkest blockbuster film to date – there are still jokes, but characters really go through the emotional ringer before they can tell them. Rocket’s story, told through flashbacks throughout, is genuinely quite upsetting, and one excellently choreographed fight scene in particular would surely earn the film a 15-rating in the UK had they not swapped some red goo for a more tasteful green. It’s certainly the scariest film in the MCU by some margin.
Beyond the surface-level grime, though, is where Volume 3 really shines. The surprisingly mature script remains laser-focussed on character throughout, and though at 2 hours and 29 minutes it is a tad on the long side, the result does feel suitably epic in scale.
Most importantly, this is a superhero movie which remembers, in a way not really seen since last year’s The Batman, to make its characters properly heroic. The Guardians might not be perfect, but they are fundamentally good people – a trait shown off in ways it’s difficult not to find moving.
Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume 3 is, like its central bunch of misfits, a bit messy. But despite its surprising violence and genuinely dark tone, behind its bitter shell lies a heart of absolute gold. If this really is Gunn’s last film for Marvel Studios, it’s a hell of a swan song, and the MCU is much poorer for it. For its titular Guardians, meanwhile, their last outing is a ride to remember.
Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume 3 is in cinemas now.
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