For many moviegoers, Marvel is as good as it gets. The very hushed rumor of a new Marvel release pulls at the corners of the their mouths, forcing an uncontrollably insane Joker-like smile onto their faces. Despite the feeling being largely lost on me — and avowed comic-book film hater — there is one franchise within the Marvel universe that will still plant my ass in a movie theater seat: Guardians of the Galaxy.
The first Guardians film was ground-breakingly fun. The second, while filled with dazzling eye candy, was abysmal. So, what would franchise fans get for the third, and final (the film is reported to be the last in the franchise) film?
Settling into my seat, I witnessed an overly excited young boy and his father hurry up the stairs carrying pizza, popcorn, and sodas as they searched for their seats in the row behind me. Watching the young lad skip, I lowered my guard and remembered that Marvel movies weren’t made me. No, they were made for excitable whipper snappers like this.
Anyway, the movie. “Guardians of the Galaxy Volume Three” (see trailer) picks up with our ramshackle gang eeking out an existence on the roving planet Knowhere, that is until an invincible golden stranger attacks and attempts to kidnap the foul-mouthed raccoon, Rocket. Though he fails, Rocket is seriously wounded and the gang must spend the next two hours of screen time attempting to save his life.
What follows is the misfit band traipsing around the galaxy to acquire the key that could save their friend — interspersed with corny, yet quasi-interesting flashbacks of Rocket’s origin story. Turns out, some dude called the High Evolutionary has spent decades attempting to create the perfect beings and society, and Rocket was a vital part of that quest. Now, the weirdo needs his furry test subject back in order to take the next step in his dastardly-ish plan. Yeah, a bit underwhelming, I know.
As always, director James Gunn fills the screen with brilliant splashes of color and oodles of fast-paced action sequences. Nary a scene is wasted, either having been filled with laser blasts, drop-kicks, and well-placed (if occasionally overdone) comic relief or serving as an outlet for yet another radio hit from the 80’s or 90’s. Unfortunately, the latter feels far more forced in “Volume 3” than it did in the first two films, with nearly every major scene change starting with Quill and friends literally pressing play on a new song before marching into battle. [Unsolicited Note: Kudos to Gunn for using “I Will Dare” by The Replacements for the the closing credits.]
Unfortunately, as referenced above, “Volume 3” is a little light on plot, though not all Marvel films can be expected to be about the threat to all known existence. It also has one of the least interesting and least intimidating villains at the helm since Whiplash in “Iron Man 2.” Chukwudi Iwuji plays the High Evolutionary as if he went to the Leonardo Dicaprio School of Acting. When in doubt, yell your lines at top volume. For fuck’s sake.
Villain and plot issues aside, the film does a nice job of moving viewers through the story arc effectively, the 2.5-hour film feeling much shorter than it really is. Additionally, the cast remains the jewel of all Marvel properties, with Chris Pratt (Peter Quill), Dave Bautista (Drax the Destroyer), Karen Gillan (Nebula), and Pom Klementieff (Mantis) all stealing their scenes and eliciting laughs. It’s a shame this group of characters and actors may never be together on the big screen again, but all things must come to an end, right?
As the film approached the closing credits, I was waiting for the emotional — perhaps heart-achingly so — end to the Guardians’ legacy. While it closed a few loops and assuredly watered a few die-hard fans’ eyes, it left me wanting a more impactful bon voyage. If this truly was the end of the “Guardians” franchise, it felt more like a rushed whimper than a passionate goodbye.
But like I said, this movie was not meant for me. It was meant for that excited young moviegoer I’d witnessed enter the theater hours earlier. Or at least it would’ve been had he not decided that, with just 15 minutes left in the film, it was time to vomit* a good portion of the pizza and popcorn he had consumed before being rushed out of the theater by his father. A fair review of “Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3”? Of course not, but who am I to judge. Puke away, young man. Puke away.
*It should be noted that this reviewer, at the ripe old age of 8, vomited in a middle of a theater viewing of the 1982 film “Savannah Smiles” starring precocious newcomer Drew Barrymore. I apologize for nothing.