Guardians of the Galaxy 3 Review

The formula for a perfect Marvel movie is Fun Characters + Cool Visuals + Relentless Animal Cruelty.

Guardians of the Galaxy 3

I won’t even attempt to hide my general apathy/borderline disdain toward Marvel. Look, a few are really fun, some are up their own ass, and every single one is too long. The ones I tend to like are tightly plotted and/or have a silly tone and don’t attempt to take on more dramatic weight than they can handle. As of late, most Marvel movies are made for people who will only see one film a year as it attempts to jam-pack each offering with action, comedy, and drama in equal measure. Fuck that shit. If I want to watch a drama, I’ll vibe on some Paul Schrader or Luca Guadagnino digs. For comedy, I’ll go to Tim RobinsonDonald Glover, or prestige TV in general. For action, I’ll see a John Wick movie or even a Marvel picture. I don’t need these fucking messy, aim-to-please-everyone, one-size-fits-all flavor-free monstrosities dragged up to look like legitimate artistic expression. And at two and a half to, sometimes, three fucking hours, it’s just way too much. Mercy! Please show me mercy, Mr. Feige.

Let’s put a pin in this rant about Marvel movies as a whole and focus on the particular film at hand – James Gunn‘s not-so-triumphant return to Marvel, Guardians of the Galaxy 3. The makings of a fun 100-minute action picture loom somewhere in this 150-minute depressing monolith. The movie mainly focuses on the tragic backstory of the cute little foul-mouthed raccoon, Rocket, who is sadly reflecting on his life up to this point when the film begins. If his sad little CGI raccoon face doesn’t sell how low he is, the fact he’s listening to Radiohead‘s Creep does the trick. Half of the movie takes place in an extended flashback that shows a boring evil scientist stock character (Chukwudi Iwuji, putting in far more effort than this one-dimensional role requires) experimenting on animals to create the perfect being. This includes a lot of tough-to-watch animal cruelty, which harshes the pre-established vibe that the Guardians movies established close to a decade ago. It’s also a cheap and lazy trick to deploy in order to squeeze empathy out of your viewers. Most everyone will be depressed watching cute little animals be tortured and terrorized, so fuck you James Gunn, for not having a more original idea. It’s actually amazing how much of the runtime consists of animal cruelty. So much so, in fact, that Guardians 3 feels like a massive “fuck you, Marvel” trolling sesh by Gunn before high-tailing it over to DC. Hilarious. He’s a real Andy Kaufman, folks!

The rest of the movie is sporadically fun but mostly aimless. Dave Bautista remains the MVP of the series by a mile, and his scenes with Pom Klementieff‘s Mantis almost make you forget how lackluster this whole thing is. They bring back Zoe Saldaña‘s Gamora for seemingly no reason at all. It’s incredible how little they do with her or her dynamic with that loser Chris Pratt. Both this and Avatar 2 really wasted her time, which is a shame because she’s a phenomenal talent. The central conflict in Guardians 3 involving Rocket and the evil scientist is lame. The movie briefly comes alive when the gang visits a planet of animal people, and there’s more tongue-in-cheek humor vs. laborious plot mechanizations. It’s a shame how short that lasts until we’re thrust back into a movie that alternates between depressing and underwhelming material, sometimes even a vicious combination of the two.

The best thing about this movie that saved it from approaching ‘D’ territory in my book is the fantastic visuals. This movie looks consistently excellent, from the production design to the costumes and gorgeous cinematography. Sometimes it feels like Guardians 3 is just trying to be a “vibes” movie, but that’s impossible for a film so reliant on story and plot, like every Marvel movie. I’d be happier if Gunn delivered a tight 90 that was just the gang bullshitting and randomly going from situation to situation in a very loose, Dazed and Confused type of way that retained all these gorgeous visuals. Think a Marvel movie that felt like Licorice Pizza, but way shorter and without an A-plot surrounding a 28-year-old woman trying to bang a child. That would be pretty good. Grade: C- (In Theaters)


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