ELLY GRIMM • Leader & Times
Back in 2014, fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) were introduced to a ragtag group of misfits dubbed as the Guardians of the Galaxy and since then, the group has enjoyed a big role throughout the MCU. The group’s most recent (and final) outing came with last week’s “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3,” which follows the Guardians as they embark on possibly their most important mission: to protect Rocket Raccoon (voice of Bradley Cooper) from the High Evolutionary (Chukwudi Iwuji).
To start off, “Vol. 3” is definitely the Guardians’ most emotional outing yet in the MCU (which I know might raise some eyebrows given the events of “Avengers: Infinity War” and “Avengers: Endgame”), but for me, this movie was truly a rollercoaster and made me feel just about every emotion under the sun throughout the entire 150-minute runtime.
The movie’s cast also does a great job throughout. Rocket Raccoon's backstory (which was only VERY briefly alluded to in Vol. 1) is finally revealed, and it was even more heartbreaking than I could ever have imagined. “Vol. 3” is definitely Rocket’s story and I would consider it Bradley Cooper’s best performance in the role because it gives a great exploration into his arc. I’ve enjoyed Cooper as Rocket in the “Guardians” films and other MCU appearances, but this is definitely the outing that lets him shine. If anyone had told me almost 10 years ago that I would be this invested in the backstory of a CGI/comic book raccoon, I wouldn’t have believed it. Chukwudi Iwuji is also absolutely outstanding in the villainous role of the High Evolutionary and makes him a complete megalomaniac (perhaps he sought inspiration from other demagogues throughout history?) and gives him absolutely NO redeeming qualities, which is actually kind of refreshing since a lot of modern villains have been given some form of a redemption arc. During the movie’s later scenes that dive deeper into just how awful he is, my primary thought was “I HOPE ONLY BAD THINGS HAPPEN TO YOU FROM HERE ON OUT,” a wish which I was mostly granted.
With this being primarily an ensemble movie, everyone gets a chance to shine and have a bit of an arc. Chris Pratt continues a good run as Peter Quill/Star-Lord and is able to show his more comedic/lovable idiot side as well as his more dramatic side when it’s called for, and he’s been able to maintain that with EVERY appearance, which I definitely admire. Zoë Saldaña also does a great job as a different Gamora than we’re used to (if you’ve seen “Avengers: Infinity War” and “Avengers: Endgame,” you’ll understand what I mean), and it’s interesting to have seen her go from being an assassin with a definite moral code to Guardian all the way back to psycho assassin. She’s done a great job in all of her portrayals, and seeing that evolution (or devolution, depending on your viewpoint) has been really cool. The only casting complaint I have about the movie is with Will Poulter as the sort-of co-villain Adam Warlock. His performance was good, but I think my main problem with him is how he was given basically no arc in the movie besides just showing up and glowing/blowing something up. I’ve said this before, but if you’re going to have a character show up, GIVE THEM SOMETHING TO DO.
“Vol. 3” definitely hits home the overall “Guardians of the Galaxy” theme of family and how sometimes family can be more about who you choose than who you share blood with, which I’ve really enjoyed seeing play out. Something else I picked up on (and I’m not entirely sure if this was intentional) is how the movie can also be an allegory about leaving an abusive situation and/or facing someone who was abusive in the past. With that in mind, there are a few scenes (particularly ones that show Rocket’s backstory) that could be triggering for those who have survived such situations, so that is something to keep in mind.
The overall production values throughout the movie (special effects, etc.) are really high and I could tell there was definitely a lot of effort put forth with “Vol. 3.” “Vol. 3” also continues the Marvel trend of AMAZING hallway fight scenes, and the one featured in this movie, which is set to the Beastie Boys song “No Sleep till Brooklyn” is pure eye candy and VERY visually stunning. As much as I liked the movie, however, I would definitely have shaved off about 15 to 20 minutes off of the runtime, because there were definitely a few scenes here and there that could have been shaved down or cut altogether. I feel like cutting down on the runtime would also have helped even out the tone of the movie, because there were a few parts where things felt a little uneven and there wasn’t a clear idea of how things should go.
Overall, I enjoyed “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” and would give it a B-plus grade. The movie is an absolute rollercoaster of emotions, and everyone in the cast does an amazing job throughout, particularly Bradley Cooper as Rocket Raccoon (especially during the scenes that reveal his backstory) and Chukwudi Iwuji as the villainous High Evolutionary. There was also clearly a ton of effort put into this outing of the Guardians, which is understandable since this is the group’s final outing. However, there were definitely a few things that could have been tightened up that could have helped with the runtime and overall tone of the movie. If you’re a fan of any of the other “Guardians” films, there’s a good chance you’ll enjoy “Vol. 3.”